This story is part of a series about CYstarters, Iowa State’s startup accelerator that helps students become entrepreneurs.
AMES, Iowa – Srdjan Pavelic is aiming for mid-October to have a viable product ready for market. Based on what the recent Iowa State University graduate accomplished in the CYstarters program this summer, reaching that goal should not be a problem.
“If there was one word I’d use to sum up this summer, it would be growth,” Pavelic said.
Rebranding his startup, Aloha 21st Century Boomboxes, developing a marketing strategy and establishing relationships with key supply chain partners are significant parts of that growth, but Pavelic also credits CYstarters for growing his confidence as an entrepreneur. The progress he’s made would not be possible without the support of mentors and fellow entrepreneurs he’s met through CYstarters, he said.
“For me, the greatest resource has been having a network of people I feel open with, to express myself and not be afraid to get out of my shell,” Pavelic said. “The last component I really needed to make this product was the confidence to sell the vision I’m trying to bring to life.”
Pavelic’s vision grew out of his love for music, which helped him make friends as a child after his family moved to Iowa from Bosnia. Frustrated with Bluetooth speakers and sound bars that failed to connect or just quit working, Pavelic developed the concept for the boom box as part of a class project at Iowa State. It has evolved to take advantage of the latest wireless technology and give users the flexibility to connect and play from multiple devices, he said.
CYstarters is a 10-week accelerator (coordinated through ISU’s Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship) that provides financial support, professional resources and educational workshops for startups. Diana Wright, CYstarters director, says the program is a starting point for entrepreneurs to launch their product or business. Along the way they build confidence, create lasting relationships and take advantage of the freedom for self-exploration.
Success often depends on the relationships students develop, which help advance their startup through the different stages, Wright said. To foster those relationships, Wright organizes networking events with Drake University’s accelerator program, arranges tours of local startups and encourages students to pitch at Startup Ames and One Million Cups. By the end of the 10 weeks, startups have a network of resources at their disposal.
“We really stress the importance of connecting with other people in the entrepreneur community and relying on their intellectual know-how. Those connections are valuable in growing a business,” Wright said. “We also want students to recognize that value, so they are appreciative of the time and knowledge they receive.”
Wright invites startups to continue scheduling monthly accountability sessions even after the program ends, to help stay on track. She also provides a list of resources in the Iowa State and Ames community – ISU Startup Factory, Small Business Development Center, CyBIZ Lab – as well as at the state level for startups to utilize. Members of the 2018 cohort will make their final presentations during a public reception at 10 a.m. on Aug. 1.
Building on connections
Pavelic is hopeful the connections he’s made this summer will lead him to investors. The CYstarters networking opportunities already helped him find a technical cofounder to help optimize the internal components of the boom box. He also met with Ames Seed Capital (Ames Economic Development Commission) while pitching his product at a Startup Ames “First Shot” event, and hopes to work with that organization in the future as he looks at other avenues for growing his business.
Wright says most startups come to CYstarters unaware of the opportunities and resources available to them, as well as the extent of the entrepreneur community in and around Ames. Pavelic agrees.
“I’ve always thought of myself as an entrepreneur, but I really didn’t know how to connect with other entrepreneurs,” Pavelic said. “The networking events are a great way to bring people together to get feedback and help with growth.”