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Ventures launched with support from The Malcolm Baldrige School of Business

Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Brandon Monti, entrepreneurship coordinator in The Malcolm Baldrige School of Business, is helping unleash a new generation of student entrepreneurs at Post University.

Monti, who co-founded Fresher Choice in 2018 in Rhode Island, is currently helping 18 startups incubating in the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI).

At just over three years old, CEI is itself something of a startup – one that has quickly taken off.  Housed in the lower level of Traurig Library on the University’s Country Club Road campus, it has already helped students establish their businesses.  CEI is one of a dozen entrepreneur centers on college campuses in Connecticut

“When you’re aiming to build your business, you have to work from the bottom up. Don’t overspend on fancy office space, or go crazy on marketing until you’ve identified your unmet need,” explained Monti, who practices what he preaches in his meeting with students. He holds these one-on-one meetings in a cubicle.

“I remind them that the key to a sturdy business is to establish the policies and structures that will get you from point A to B and onto C with as few errors as possible,” said Monti. That pragmatic guidance is paying off.

In 2020, Jared Zima, a management student at the University, utilized Monti and CEI to launch ReliefWax, a company whose mission is to help those affected by stress, anxiety, and nerves overcome their struggles both in their everyday lives, including while playing baseball and softball. The next year, Zima, won the 2021 Student Entrepreneur of Year award presented by the Connecticut Entrepreneur Awards.

Since establishing the CEI, Monti has worked with over 100 students hungry for guidance on starting a business. “All are passionate about entrepreneurship, but some lack an understanding of risk. They have a dream of being their own boss but have not thought about it in a strategic way,” explained Monti.

‘Brandon opened their vision to business’

It can be difficult for a student entrepreneur to make the transition from the classroom to the boardroom. This is where mentorship from the Business School faculty, course work and the CEI come into play.

“We want our students, many who are already self-motivated, to feel safe to push boundaries and make mistakes while they are in school. This is the best time to learn from trial and error,” expressed Monti.

“The work done in the Center complements the courses taught in the Business School, but the work is also about stimulating new products and services that may deliver jobs,” explained Jeremi Bauer, DBA, and the Assistant Provost for Academic Strategy and Dean of The Malcolm Baldrige School of Business.

Building off the success of Zima’s ReliefWax, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has helped the following Post University ‘studentepreneurs’ to release their innovations:

  • Cristian Vinan, a first-generation student, who is currently pursuing an MBA at the University, took his part-time side hustle as a real estate drone photographer into a full-time business to establish CT360Virtual, a one-stop real estate media company servicing the state of Connecticut. With an undergraduate degree in engineering, Vinan became interested in real estate and the photography of the home and property while looking for a multi-family home.
  • Emily Chatey Fiore of East Granby, Conn, who earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and is currently finishing up her master’s of education at the University, wrote a 24-page children’s book, Parm and Reggie’s Magical Toy, which is a tale of friendship, inclusivity and fun involving two cats. The book is available on her website. Release of her second book Parm and Reggie’s – Magical Sea Adventure is expected in a few months. Publishing her book is a dream come true for Fiore, who worked for 10 years in early childhood education.
  • Post management undergraduate student Juliana D’Alessio of Southbury established, The Pitch, a mobile kitchen, which brings the stadium feel to your home field.
  • Jhevaun Gordon of Waterbury founded Nature’s Ombre – a cold pressed and blended Juice Company.  In an effort to help his stepfather who was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer, Gordon embarked on a journey of holistic juicing. LaBonne’s grocery stores now carry the product. While not a University student, Jhevaun entered CEI by a referral from a partner who requested we work with him and his business.

According to Rob LaBonne III, of LaBonnee’s Market, which carries many local products, explained, “this product is moving pretty well. The most popular flavor according to sales appears to be the Hibiscus Cinnamon option.”

“We want the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to be a place where ‘studentpreneurs’ are challenged in a positive way to bring their ideas to market. I know that the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will be a force for good not only for our students, but the community and our University,” said Bauer.