• Launching a Startup, Last Step for Seniors

4/6/2012

Entrepreneurship seniors James DeNino and Ramiz Fakhouri are eager to add their startup logos to the Center for Entrepreneurship’s wall of fame, where Suffolk student and alumni businesses are celebrated.

DeNino and Fakhouri are both taking an independent study course called Launching the New Venture. In order to pass the class and graduate in the spring, they each need to make significant strides toward launching a business. The task is full of unpredictable challenges, but they are receiving support from faculty, alumni, and peers. 

The decision to take the course was a “no-brainer” for DeNino. “At this point in my life, I want a lot of pressure on my back because it drives a lot of great things,” he said. DeNino has spent the last four years refining his business idea for a web-based educational tool that converts e-books into flashcards.

This semester, he is receiving mentorship from Suffolk alumnus Andy Miller (MSES ’00), who is the founder of the mobile CardStar app. “I have a lot of big ideas, and I have to be careful that I stay on track. Andy is someone I look to head me in the right direction,” DeNino said.

Professor George Moker, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, facilitated the mentorship. Moker has also helped DeNino with his project, offering feedback and answering questions at every step of the way. “Professor Moker is definitely somebody I look up to,” DeNino said.

DeNino is also consulting with Entrepreneurship students in the E-Project Opportunity capstone course, including Adam Rajchel, Jen Kriegel, Keisha Jette, Roman Kovbasniuk, Matt Ng, Jessica Katz, Alyssa Emma, and Omar Azhari. They are helping DeNino develop his business plan. Rajchel, for instance, played an important role designing the layout of Denino's product. In exchange, the students gain valuable experience working with a real-life startup.

So far, all the hard work has paid off. “This is definitely the most progress I’ve made towards actually establishing and launching a company,” said Denino, who hopes to pilot his product at his hometown high school in Glastonbury, Conn.

Fakhouri, on the other hand, has already launched several ventures, including a chain of cell phone businesses, as well as carwash, car detail, and car accessory centers. He saw the course as a win-win situation.

“I knew if I took this class, it would force me to launch my product. If I had taken the traditional capstone course instead, I wouldn’t have started launching this idea and getting it into the market. This course really forces you to step it up.” he said.

Fakhouri is working with senior finance major Charles Zigmund to develop a line of products that make it easier to store and transport Apple devices.

James DeNino and Ramiz Fakhouri

Entrepreneurship students and Pear Gear co-founders
Charles Zigumund (left) and Ramiz Fakhouri

Like DeNino, Fakhouri has benefited from his connections at Suffolk. He has been working with Sawyer Business School Professor and alumnus Steven Golden (EMBA ’86), who has brought more than 100 electronic products and services to market. Golden has also connected Fakhouri to several manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and patent attorneys.

Fakhouri has already launched a website for his business, called Pear Gear, and hopes to bring his first products to the market this summer.

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