College of Business

eMonth Brings Entrepreneurship to Chico State


Koichi Matsumoto pitches his business concept Golden Milestone Co.

CSU, Chico’s Center for Entrepreneurship has officially dubbed April “eMonth” in celebration of an entire month of events dedicated to entrepreneurship. Every week featured panels of successful entrepreneurs sharing the secrets of their achievements in a variety of fields, from a local artisan tea company to a real estate firm and automobile company. eMonth also featured the Center’s highly anticipated Pitch Party, the end-of-semester business concept competition in which students competed all year in order to qualify.

eMonth 2017 hosted local and international entrepreneurs on the Chico State campus to give students the opportunity to meet real business owners. Nearly 1,000 students flocked to the events for the opportunity to network and hear their success stories.

Local entrepreneurs Sarah Adams, CEO and founder of Chico Chai; Arielle Danan, founder and owner of Beber Fresh Almondmilk; and Angelina Brittain-Rasmussen, co-owner and co-founder of Live Life Juice Co., hosted a panel and tasting experience for students in Colusa Hall.

Local entrepreneurs Arielle Danan, Sarah Adams, and Angelina Brittain-Rasmussen host a panel during eMonth to discuss their entrepreneurial success for their perspective businesses.

Left to right: Sarah Adams, Arielle Danan, and Angelina Brittain-Rasmussen host a panel during eMonth.

"It was an awesome experience to have such Chico staples come in and talk about their personal stories and success,” said Kyle Raphael, a finance student and member of the Center for Entrepreneurship. “Everyone in Chico knows them, and it’s empowering to see successful entrepreneurs locally. They taught me that as an entrepreneur, you should follow your passions. You don't always have to be a big-shot in Silicon Valley to be a successful entrepreneur. You can make a business out of the things you do for your own family at home."

The three food-based business owners shared their expertise and what made them such a success in Chico and the surrounding areas. Chico Chai has grown a name for itself all over Northern California, working to get its popular spicy chai into local coffee shops and grocery stores in the North State. Beber Fresh Almondmilk hit the spotlight in a Forbes article just last year, proving Chico can be a surprisingly exceptional place to start a business.

“Over the years, a number of our students have gone on to start businesses in and around Chico. In fact, it’s my belief there has never been a better time to launch a business in Chico,” said Peter Straus, the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.

eMonth also included highly successful Noelle Sadler, vice president of marketing at Sadler spoke about her experiences as a top executive in many companies throughout her career, including MAC Cosmetics. 

"It was great hearing her story and how she got to where she is today. I think it's an important lesson to tell students that their careers after college might not look or go the way they plan it to be, but to not be discouraged by it and to keep at it," said Anthony Medo, a business information systems major.

Other speakers included Katie Simmons, president and CEO of the Chico Chamber of Commerce; Fei Sun, entrepreneur; Alex Marshall, artist and owner of Alex Marshall Studios in Corning; and Melissa Ortiz, chief operations officer at Evolve Performance Group and local farmer at River Vista Farms in Colusa. 

Competitors Preston Linderman, Brian Coehoorn, Dane Lewis, David Chalem, Amelie Heller, Connor Clancy, Koichi Matsumoto, Scott Stone, Carissa Hicks and Center for Entrepreneurship Director Peter Straus (left to right) after they presented their best business concepts to a multitude of guest judges for a chance to win prizes during the Center for Entrepreneurship Pitch Party event on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer)

Competitors in the 2017 Chico State Pitch Party.

eMonth also featured the Center for Entrepreneurship’s Pitch Party, which brought approximately 50 alumni guests and friends of Chico State to act as judges during the “mocktail style” event. Nine students competed entrepreneurial ideas with a wide range of business concepts, from a mobile application called “Smart Nap” designed to wake you from your nap with study questions; a more efficient built-in bike lock; and a more efficient racecar seat designed to save lives in the dangerous sport of sprint car racing.  

The students had five minutes to present their pitches initially, but they also had the chance over the next hour to talk to judges one-on-one to further convince them that their business concepts were worth investment. Judges were given a sum of $1,500 in CFE “pitch money” to split their vote if they so chose, and audience members were given $100 to make their vote as well. The event played out similarly to a science fair project, with competitors bringing in a sales team, samples, and some even a brochure or booth with more information regarding their product.

Judges Rich Gitelson (left) and Rabbi Sara Abrams (right) talk with Carissa Hicks (center) who pitches SmartNap as competitors are challenged to present their best business concepts to a multitude of guest judges for a chance to win prizes during the Center for Entrepreneurship Pitch Party event on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer)

Student Carissa Hicks (center) discusses her business concept Smart Nap with judges during the Pitch Party. 

Entrepreneurship student and longtime business concept competitor Koichi Matsumoto walked away with the first-place prize of $500 and a chance to win at the Future Four competition held at Sacramento State. Matsumoto’s winning business concept was Golden Milestone Co., a dorm-like living community primarily aimed at Asian exchange students in Northern California. This living community would make it exceptionally easy for exchange students to feel comfortable in a new environment and network with each other to enhance a sense of community.

Entrepreneurship student Connor Clancy and management student Amelie Heller won a second first-place prize with their concept SERO, a natural restorative, with David Chalem (management) in close second place with his concept PLUR Technologies, a company that designs bracelets with a QR code to help network at large festivals and raves. Dane Lewis (management) won third place with his concept for a shark-resistant wetsuit designed to erase the fear of open-ocean swimming.

“The Pitch Party is the highlight of eMonth, because it accurately mimics an investor forum. Students get the chance to hone their pitch and some of our most successful alumni get  an opportunity to directly interact with very motivated students; so it’s a terrific experience for all involved, ” said Straus, beaming with pride for his students immediately after the event.

The Center for Entrepreneurship is dedicated to helping all Chico State students pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations through coaching, competitions, networking, and so much more. Visit its website at or visit Glenn 221 to get started turning your ideas into reality. 

Kelsey Horne
College of Business

Glenn Hall

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Persons with disabilities who need accommodations or have questions about physical access may call the program sponsoring the event or call Accessibility Resource Center at 530-898-5959.