Category Archives: General

Entrepreneur-in-Residence Mentors Students with Big Ideas

Ventures are open to everyone, not only business majors

When a student or professor in Sacred Heart University’s community has a brilliant idea for a new product or service but doesn’t know how to turn the thought into a plan, it’s time to see Richard Guha, SHU’s entrepreneur-in-residence. Even while most University business and classes are being conducted online during the pandemic, Guha is still available to mentor inspired Pioneers.

Richard Guha Over the last 28 years of Guha’s distinguished 45-year career, he has engaged with startups as founder, board member, CEO, mentor and investor. Several of the startups in which he has been involved have had multi-million-dollar exits—meaning the business was acquired or, rarely, it issued an initial public stock offering—and one currently has a $1 billion valuation.

“When classes are in session on campus, I walk around and chat with students,” Guha said. “As I develop a rapport with them, they gain the courage to ask questions and talk to me about ideas that have been floating around in their heads.” Without the current ability to chat informally with students, he’s reminding them that they can still reach out to him during this time.

Guha’s mission as SHU’s entrepreneur-in-residence has three components. The first is encouragement of students’ curiosity about new ideas and possibilities. “I want them to come to me even if they are just curious about being an entrepreneur. You can even come talk if you don’t have any ideas but want to find out what’s involved in being an entrepreneur,” Guha said.

The second component is guidance. Guha teaches students how to execute the next steps for pursuing their venture. He guides them through negotiating the legal structure and finding a lawyer who will work with them for free or inexpensively, setting up their books, developing a plan or product road map, marketing their business and hiring the right people when the time comes. “I won’t do the work for them, but I help them do it themselves. If there is something they cannot do, I help them find someone who can work with them.”

Third, Guha helps introduce his clients to those in the industry who may be able to help with investments and business set-up to get them on their way.

Entrepreneurship is not only for business majors. “Whatever your degree is, you can apply it to being entrepreneurial,” said Guha. All experience is relevant. “Don’t think that your life has to be linear. Just because you want to do something different than what you’ve done so far, doesn’t mean that you don’t have the experience to make it work.”

Don’t let a fear of failure get in your way, he advised. “I’ve mentored students who went off and did something entrepreneurial for a year or two after college, and either it failed, or they lost interest. When they joined a large corporation, they went into a higher-level position than they would have straight out of university.” Corporations value the experience gained from being an entrepreneur, even if one fails. “There is nothing wrong with trial and error. As an entrepreneur, you are the CEO, the chief innovator and the chief marketing officer. The things you learn are more relevant than you realize.”

People with entrepreneurial spirit are excellent assets to the innovation within companies—often called intrapreneuring—because they come up with new ideas for new businesses within the corporation. Nonprofit organizations also offer opportunities for entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs.

Wilder Rumpf ’20, who carried a double major in finance and economics at Sacred Heart, consulted with Guha for over a year while forming FinTron, a broker-dealer business currently developing a banking and investing app for people between the ages of 18 and 39. “FinTron has gone on to raise more than a half a million dollars in just under a year,” said Rumpf, noting that he also owes special thanks to Professor Mark Ritter and late Professor John Gerlach.

“Richard is a wonderful mentor with an endless Rolodex of connections. He provided me with industry insight, connections to resources and a friendly face during some tough times I’ve faced as a founder,” said Rumpf, who plans to launch FinTron this summer.

“Richard has given me great advice on what direction to take with my business endeavors and what I can do to proceed,” said Caitlin Golynker ’23, a business management and finance major at Sacred Heart. “He possesses connections in various fields that can help your idea progress and give you the ability to collect more information on your idea.”

Tobi Aminu ’20, who graduated with a degree in finance and plans to continue his education in Sacred Heart’s MBA program, has spent a great amount of time with Guha preparing business plans for his venture. “I feel like a sponge whenever I speak with Mr. Guha,” said Aminu. “His wisdom is endless and I know I will benefit from this opportunity.”

“The Sacred Heart community is lucky to have someone with Richard’s depth of business acumen and experience, who is available to help create the entrepreneurs of tomorrow,” said Martha Crawford, dean of the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology. “Anyone with an inkling of an idea should spend some time talking to Richard. He’s an invaluable resource to our students and faculty.”

Guha also often serves as a judge and mentor for startup weekends, much like Techstars and Sacred Heart’s virtual startup weekends. Participants often contact Guha after the weekend is over, seeking advice on how to move their business plan forward.

The goal of the entrepreneur-in-residence program is to produce Sacred Heart alumni with an entrepreneurial frame of mind who believe there are no boundaries to what they can accomplish.

Anyone from Sacred Heart can reach out to Guha at Richard@guha.us at any time, even if it’s just to talk about what entrepreneurship entails.

Lunch & Learn: Get Unstuck – Own Your Career

Wednesday, June 10 | 18:00 – 19:00 pm (GMT +2)

You have identified that it’s time to take responsibility and add value to your career. Taking ownership of your career will involve some short-term effort, but can quickly evolve into an exciting opportunity on your own terms. This session will offer up some great insights to help you build a new framework for your career.

This week’s fourth Wednesday Webinar in the Lunch & Learn series, sponsored by The Center for Career and Professional Development, features Rudy Favard ’15, Erica Lucca ’11, Courtney Perlee ’10, and Maureen Mackey and Meg Sahagian of Mackey Staffing as they focus on ways to own your career, how to move forward, and identifying when it’s time to say goodbye.

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Lunch & Learn: Marketing Yourself for Career Success

Wednesday, June 3 | 18:00 – 19:00 pm (GMT +2)

Navigating your professional career can be challenging especially in times of uncertainty. Do not stop working on your career action plan because of our ‘new normal’. This session will help ignite your star power to design a marketing strategy for you to pivot and stand out.

This week’s third Wednesday Webinar in the Lunch & Learn series, sponsored by The Center for Career and Professional Development, will feature Taylor Anastasio ’15, Juliana Fetherman ’18, ’19, Nicole Gittleman ’15, and Chuck Marcelin ’13 as they share their insights on the methods and benefits of effectively marketing yourself, crafting your pitch, and how to stay positive and encouraged during these challenging times.

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Virtual Startup Weekend Sparks Entrepreneurship Near and Far

Participants from around the globe ‘build’ companies in 54 hours

Sacred Heart University hosted the first virtual Techstars Startup Weekend in April, a 54-hour event with 25 participants from around the globe developing business ideas from concept through a final company presentation.

Originally, the event was scheduled to take place on Sacred Heart’s West Campus in March at its Jack Welch College of Business & Technology. The pandemic and need for social distancing changed that, so the event was moved online. The virtual nature of the weekend enabled entrepreneurially minded individuals from around the United States, Bangladesh, Peru, Nigeria and the Ukraine to participate.

I’ve been a Startup Weekend facilitator since 2014 and have traveled to support events across the U.S. and beyond. The largest accomplishment and question proved with this virtual event was that an online program is capable of producing the same spectacular results as an in-person event.

-Chris Chang, Project Manager of Techstars.

Thirteen ideas were pitched at SHU, ultimately breaking out into seven teams to work with mentors and develop companies. Those teams and projects were:

  • No Surface Left Behind—a UV light-based disinfection technology and tracking system for use in K-12 classrooms
  • Level5—a gamified mobile/web platform that would encourage users to support local businesses
  • iVOTE—a platform that would provide political accountability.
  • Tashua Financials—a Generation Z-run proprietary education and trading firm
  • Virtual Science Labs—digital systems like virtual reality and augmented reality that enable virtual learning in classrooms
  • Travel Booster—a way for users to upgrade hotel, flight and car rentals for a monthly subscription fee
  • EQ—a learning studio and consulting agency that would provide targeted emotional intelligence training

After company presentations on April 19, the judges awarded No Surface Left Behind first place, Tashua Financial second place and Level5 third place.

“I’ve been aware of Startup Weekend for a long time,” said Brian Romansky, group leader of the winning No Surface Left Behind. “The commitment of tying up your whole weekend was always a bit of a hurdle, but doing it virtually seemed like a great opportunity.”

“Having the time and the intense effort around it helped shape an idea from a vague notion that I’ve had in the back of my mind to something actionable and specific,” Romansky said. “I have reached out to a personal contact to see if there could be funding for such a system.”

Despite the late hours and hard work, Romansky said he would highly recommend this event to others. “The energy and focus are invigorating. It’s refreshing, and it renews one’s interest in innovation,” he said.

“Entrepreneurship will be more important than ever to our business graduates in the coming years. This pandemic is causing so much economic destruction, and it is natural to feel sad about that,” said Martha Crawford, dean of Sacred Heart University’s Jack Welch College of Business & Technology. “But as business people, we must also recognize that this destruction will translate into new business opportunities for the savvy entrepreneur. At the Welch College of Business & Technology, we are partnering with TechStars to give students and young entrepreneurs the opportunity to hone their skills. This first online startup weekend was a great success.”

Sacred Heart and Techstars plan to conduct more Startup Weekends during the shutdown. “There will be another one later this month,” said Crawford. “We hope that even more budding entrepreneurs will participate. Join us! Become a Pioneer!”

Register here for the next Startup Weekend on May 29-31

Register here for the next Startup Weekend on May 29-31.

Lunch & Learn: How to Effectively Manage Your Job Search During Challenging Times

Wednesday, May 27 | 18:00 – 19:00 pm (GMT +2)

In uncertain and rapidly evolving times like these, professionals can feel at a loss as to how to move forward in their job search efforts, communication, and networking. Any job search can leave you feeling down, but being patient with the job search process is vital to maintaining your emotional well-being to be successful in landing a new position.

Mia James ’13 and Melissa Poli ’15 will focus this week’s Wednesday Webinar, sponsored by The Center for Career and Professional Development, on how to keep you moving forward productively with your job search including: the importance of a well-written resume, the importance of showcasing your strengths and passion with clarity to stand out to the right hiring manager, how to best handle the job search process now, and job search strategies and networking.

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