For aspiring entrepreneurs from the University of Texas at Arlington, the Deep Dive program offered by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Innovation (CEEI) in cooperation with TechFW is a stepping stone to success.
Deep Dive, a series of entrepreneurial workshops led by Hayden Blackburn, Executive Director of TechFW, is an eight-week acceleration program designed to give student entrepreneurs the boost they need to turn their ideas into profitable businesses. Each week, attendees receive hands-on training on topics ranging from discovering customers and business models to financial forecasting and proposal development.
“Deep Dive is not just a crash course on how to start a business,” said Blackburn. “It’s a program that gives young entrepreneurs real tools they can use to build their ideas and bring them to market. They are building their entrepreneurship, skills and entrepreneurial foundation.”
The program is required for any individual or team moving from Phase One to Phase Two of MavPitch, a business presentation competition hosted by the Maverick Entrepreneur Program and Award Fund in partnership with UTA College of Business and College of Engineering.
According to this year’s MavPitch winners, the extra time spent in the classroom was worth it. Zuriel Lopez, a junior information systems specialist, presented his idea for the WeWant app, an ice cream truck locator that enables direct communication between ice cream truck drivers and their customer base. The idea earned Lopez the MavPitch grand prize of $25,000.
Lopez, himself an ice cream truck driver, said the techniques he learned at the Deep Dive workshop helped him increase his ice cream sales by 17%.
“The Deep Dive teachers were amazing. We learned a lot but still had a lot of fun,” said Lopez. “Without Deep Dive, I wouldn’t be able to raise funds to support my business.”
During Deep Dive, Luz Lopez (’22 BFA, Art) received practical advice that helped her complete the paperwork needed to obtain a license for her company. Vicious Creatures is an online store where Lopez sells original K-Pop and rock music designs printed on gender-neutral clothing.
After studying the fundamentals of successful startups, Lopez advanced to win the $25,000 grand prize at MavPitch. She said the one-on-one mentoring she received at Deep Dive helped her overcome the insecurities of being the only female entrepreneur on the show.
“Being the only female on the show was intimidating at first,” said Lopez, “but the CEEI leaders were very helpful and scheduled meetings with me to discuss my business plan.”
Xoriunstance Brown, CEEI’s director of operations, said that while Deep Dive offers many resources, the success of the students is a testament to their determination and motivation.
“The Deep Dive program is a safe space where students can learn and challenge themselves while practicing in real business scenarios,” said Brown. “We provide the tools they need to succeed, but they do the work. I am constantly impressed by their initiative and ingenuity.”
CEEI, led by Brown and Matt Clark, Department Director and Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History, fosters a supportive atmosphere for UTA students, scholars and researchers as they strive to innovate, commercialize new technologies and pioneer new businesses that will have an impact on Northern Northern communities Texas and the world economy. Located at the northeast end of campus, the hub is home to UTA’s Blackstone LaunchPad, a collaborative network of mentors and resources for budding entrepreneurs.