UCF student entrepreneurs take art into their own hands
Unlike most college students who see college as a time to study and party, some students are using their time to explore and cultivate creativity.
Since the launch of the Blackstone LaunchPad at UCF, many students have received help to facilitate their entrepreneurial ventures.
Although there are some students who walk into the UCF Starter Lab with ideas brimming the innovative pool in their brains, others walk in unsure of where their entrepreneurial aspirations may lead to.
From garden to UCF
Hae Yuan Chang, a junior environmental science major, decided she wanted to provide healthier food options for students after being frustrated by the limited vegan and vegetarian options on campus.
"I've had experiences where I would be on campus for a long time and I would have to eat some of the options we have on campus that was suitable for vegetarians, and it made me really groggy and not want to do anything, like not want to go to class," she said.
Inspired by the vegetarian Hare Krishna buffet offered at the University of Florida, Chang wants to introduce students to fresher-quality ingredients that will have similar flavors of a student's acquired tastes.
"I definitely want to incorporate ethnic dishes such as curry and stir-fry. I want to prove that vegan food isn't just salad," she said.
Chang is currently working on her company with the help from UCF's Startup Community. She is also testing out the flavors of her menu with her six roommates at the Peanut Butter Palace, a sustainable student co-op.
Learning how to completely adjust to a vegetarian diet by cooking and gardening with her vegan and vegetarian roommates, Chang hopes to teach students that it's really easy to become environmentally aware and it can be beneficial.
Growing your own food lowers food costs and promotes healthy eating, she said.
Chang plans to set up a vegetarian food stand on campus, with the possible name "The Beet Bar."
Molding a hobby
While developing an app for students to track the night life in Orlando, Cedric Lopez, a senior entrepreneurship major, accidentally stumbled into leather designing.
"One day I decided to make a wallet for myself. Then I decided to make a laptop cover and posted it online. I got a surprising response from friends, and the orders started coming in," Lopez said. "So I had a hard decision to make; keep working on this app or invest all my time into leather working."
He decided to brand his products with the help of Blackstone.
Previously wanting to become an architect, he uses the same creative process he learned to incorporate into his designing.
"I could see the silhouette of a building, or a feature of that building, and be inspired to make something out of leather," he said.
Lopez hand stitches and uses exotic leather for the wallets, bags and key chains he crafts, which makes for better-quality products to distinguish his brand.
Abandoning one idea for another has proved to be a challenge for Lopez, but he plans to maintain his brand through perseverance.
"I have learned to just get there and start something. You are going to make mistakes, but that is when you learn what not to do. Fail fast and fail early," he said.
Turning his uncertainty into a brand, Brandon Nightingale, a senior history and writing and rhetoric major, launched his first mixtape Flight n Friends in April after receiving encouragement and mentoring from Blackstone.
"Literally three months ago, I wasn't sure if I could do it, but I just released the project," Nightingale said.
He utilized a community of music artists, designers and producers from UCF and his hometown, Jacksonville, to help with his first music venture.
Nightingale said he hopes his mixtape resonates with the UCF community even after he graduates.
"I think people will get the message to bring people together through music because people are moved through music," he said.
Nightingale recently started performing at local clubs in Orlando and Jacksonville, and he is working on his second project, which will not have as many featured artists.
"Music is something I've always dreamed about. I just had to be told I could do it," he said.
Shanae Hardy is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaeH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.