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CSULB student-entrepreneurs risk more than money

Business courses teach would-be tycoons that success is often made up of failures.

Alexandra Huynh, Contributing Writer

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The million-dollar idea may be an abstract concept, but for some young entrepreneurs at California State University, Long Beach, it’s a reality that hinges on diligence and dedication.

“The reason I’m here at my age is probably because I’ve made more mistakes than anybody that you know or that’s currently in school,” 32-year-old senior marketing student Alexander Gallasso said.

After parting from his nine-to-five job working retail for Sprint in 2011, Gallasso went all in on his first business venture, Battery Recycler, which started out as an idea his dad had for a 6th grade science fair project to help people collect and recycle their used batteries.

“I wasn’t going to school,” Gallasso said. “I was that a–hole that said, ‘I don’t need school, school is for suckers.’”

In the course of a year or two, he learned that he had made many mistakes, which cost him a lot of money.

“I had stocks and earnings and everything from Sprint, and I still went through with it. I probably invested $55,000 into the business,” Gallasso said.

Like many before him, Gallasso learned that starting a small business leads down a path fraught with sacrifice and uncertainty.

“I realized there was so much to running a business. I wished there had been some way to have known this before going into it,” Gallasso said.

Gallasso enrolled at CSULB after working with Michael Solt, the Dean of the College of Business Administration and Professor of Finance, on a marketing presentation.

Freshman marketing student Yavuz Yilmaz can relate to Gallasso’s feeling of uncertainty after starting an Amazon-based business. He sells products such as cables and electrical wiring online that he buys from wholesalers.

It wasn’t easy finding the right product, one that could be bought at low enough prices to be sold for an exponential return, Yilmaz said. At the moment, that magic product is an iPhone 6 case.

“Taking the risk of putting in the money was the biggest thing,” Yilmaz said. “Sometimes you put in money for a $5,000 order and you don’t know what you’re going get out of it. You just try to sell and sell and sell.”

Rather than having to learn everything the hard way, entrepreneurs can take university courses that help prepare them for the challenges that come with opening a business.

There is now legitimacy in entrepreneurial studies whereas before there wasn’t, professor of business administration at CSULB Larry Pate said.

Before 1988 only the University of Sothern California and Harvard were offering programs in entrepreneurship. Since then, virtually every school, including CSULB, offers entrepreneurship courses.

“Business schools are no longer about just helping people rise to top of corporate America,” Pate said. “It’s also about helping people with different kinds of dreams.”

These courses help students who want to venture out in creating their own business, Pate said. By knowing how to form a marketing plan and by understanding the importance of finance, students are improving their probability of success.

“Typically people don’t have a success story on their first venture,” Pat said. “They will start something and it won’t work, start something and it won’t work and finally, eventually it’ll work.”

On top of learning about marketing plans and how to start a business, entrepreneurial courses at CSULB also focus on tapping into the passion that is necessary to become a successful entrepreneur.

“We try to get people to realize that, in essence, there’s opportunity in everything,” Tate said. “The whole notion of if one door closes another will open.”

Instructors want to steel students against all the doors slammed shut on the way to success.

“We talk about failure in entrepreneur classes,” Tate said. “The question is what is failure? Michael Jordan said the reason he made so many baskets is because he missed so many baskets.”

Now that Gallasso’s business has grown, the freedom of being in control of his own life and being able to create a positive difference in the world through recycling batteries has given meaning to all the sacrifices he’s made.

“I wanted to do something that makes a difference so that when I’m old I can look back and say I helped change something in a positive way,” Gallasso said.

He credits an education that he never thought he needed for the turnaround of his business.

“I go to school because I learned that education is important,” Gallasso said. “You can learn it on your own without school, but you are going spend a sh-t ton of money.”

Gallasso says entrepreneurship requires sacrifice and dedication.

“It takes the ability to never give up,” Gallasso said. “Life’s not about how hard you hit, its about how hard you can get hit and get back up, its about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

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