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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Students utilize startup business programs in Davis

Students who are interested in starting a business and don’t know where to begin or how to execute their plans can seek help from various startup business programs in the City of Davis.

Davis Roots, a nonprofit business accelerator, assists new businesses in gaining connections and meeting investors around the City of Davis. Their only requirement for the application process is that the business must come from Davis.

“For the ones [businesses] we see potential in after they apply, we do not provide funding off the bat. We give them office space as well as access to lawyers and marketing professionals,” said general manager at Davis Roots Alex Rossbach. “We help them build their business and connect them with investors from this area — the Bay Area. We also help them learn — what to do, what not to do, how to connect to venture capitalists, how to get their foot in the door.”

Keyan Kousha, a 2012 UC Davis computer science graduate, and his partner, Jason Wang, also a computer science graduate, started a social review utility called Stuffrage after they graduated.

“Our website is a mix of social networking and a review site. We want to make it easy to find reviews and recommendations from friends. The reviews on the site can be of anything, not limited to location or product,” Kousha said. “We think all reviews should be in one place with a familiar format. I’ve been disappointed by reviews from Yelp and Amazon, so then I go to my friends for reviews. This site is for friendly, honest reviews from people you can trust.”

Kousha and Wang will be seeking the assistance of Davis Roots with their social review website.

“We will be pitching our idea to Davis Roots. For the future we hope to become more popular and change how people review as well as improve user confidence online with the help of Davis Roots,” Kousha said.

Davis Roots said that they commonly receive social networking pitches.

“Many who come to us are computer science people but do not have business experience and don’t know how to sell themselves,” Rossbach said. “They need a good delivering team, so we help them develop this team and help them pitch their product.”

The Progressive Business Exchange (PBE) also has the potential to aid student startups.

Bob Bockwinkel, a sponsoring member and residential real estate agent with Lyon Real Estate, said the PBE is a network of business people in Davis who come together to share ideas and marketing strategies, to gain connections and to socialize.

To join the group, a membership fee is required. However, Bockwinkel said that non-members or students looking for an opportunity are free to join the meetings.

“We have not set up a program for student startup businesses specifically, but we do it spontaneously. Non-member students have dropped in before and are always welcome to come to our meetings if [they] are looking for more connections,” Bockwinkel said. “You simply should come early, introduce yourself and tell us what you do — talk about your passions or possible business idea.”

The PBE meets from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays of each month, except for December, where they meet only the first Wednesday of the month. To be a sponsoring member, the dues are $105 per quarter and $10 per lunch.

Some students choose to begin on their own. A second-year student, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a partner of SmokeDavis.com, an online smoke shop and sex toy store.

“We sell smoke accessories, sex toys and party equipment on our site and offer delivery services. One of the reasons it’s all online is because we were concerned about customer anonymity,” the student said. “Some customers might not feel particularly comfortable browsing an actual store for some of our products, namely the sex toys, so we thought it was important to offer an online alternative to potentially make people feel more comfortable.”

The student said that the company began because they saw a market in Davis for their product.

“I just see a market for this kind of product in our town. It’s not fair to just have one shop monopolize the local market and be able to overcharge customers,” she said.

Though students who start on their own may not have initially utilized programs such as Davis Roots or PBE, they can still access these programs if they are looking to gain experience.

Bockwinkel said the goal of their meetings is to promote businesses and build connections.

“We find and meet people who have similar needs and wants, and get to bond. It is a mix of business and friendship. There is a sense of community and camaraderie while also promoting businesses,” Bockwinkel said.

MELISSA GAHERTY can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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