Inventing a product or service may seem daunting to most young entrepreneurs, but for Raleigh Dewan, a SMU student studying marketing and creative writing, tackling a new business venture is viewed simply. This SMU senior has closely worked with the Incubator@SMU, a business workspace on campus committed to nurturing early-stage companies through fellowship and education.
Students with their own business ideas and similar determination as Dewan attended the Incubator’s Big iDeas competition, which grants winners training and funding, on September 23 to pitch their ideas.
Raleigh Dewan, 21, pitches the Sister Shaq Tea Company to investors at the 2021 Big iDeas Business Plan competition. (Credit: SMU website)
Dewan’s business ideas are sparked by a story, a scenario he or someone he knows experienced. Whether that was watching his grandmother with Parkinson’s struggle to simply eat a meal or desiring a more sufficient way to find on-campus resources, Dewan has leaped at the opportunities to produce unique and impactful solutions. Those straightforward ideas has sprouted to multiple complex businesses including Sister Shaq Tea Company, SteadiSpoon, Collegiora, and Mustang Parking.
“My genuine intention in what I do is never fueled by generating money, but rather I view a problem as an opportunity for me to locate a solution through a narrative story,” Dewan said. “The products I construct have narratives that arose with conflicts and a character motivation which I then confronted to find a happy ending.”
The Incubator@SMU acts as a ladder for students who are interested entrepreneurship and want a workspace to form ideas with SMU faculty, staff, students, and alumni. When introduced to the Incubator, Dewan was able to collaborate with industry leaders to curate his products with the guidance of experienced professionals.
“The Incubator has been very critical to the businesses’ successes as they helped navigate me with not only how to do it, but who to learn from,” Dewan said. “I have been introduced to the amazing ‘whos’ through this system that had confidence in my ideas when I sometimes did not even believe in myself.”
Students working in the Incubator located in the Expressway Tower on the East Campus. (Credit: Incubator@SMU)
Tenacious mentors coach young entrepreneurs through programs and collaboration in the Incubator while also connecting them to large funds. Students are able to attend boot camps, pitch to investors, work in the office, and listen to workshops to further spread experiential knowledge.
“The Incubator has allowed me to be inspired by the members garnering enormous growth in their companies and millions of dollars generated,” said Camille McCallum, assistant director of the Incubator. “Yet, these people are incredibly humble and to work with them is so enriching”.
This space has served as a catalyst for Dewan’s diverse group of inventions, which stemmed from a desire to address personal situations he faced. From growing up on movie sets, to suffering near full paralyzation, to publications in the Harvard Business Review, he has lived a lifetime as just a senior in college.
Entrepreneurs like Dewan succeed through finding stability in taking authentic experiential adversities and forming them into tangible answers and the Incubator@SMU assists those ambitions.
“SMU’s position to be a leader in the Dallas ecosystem through the Incubator is exceptional,” said Carlos Martinez, professor of entrepreneurship and Incubator mentor. “We are living up to that by creating new programs for students to engage in entrepreneurship and make an impact bigger than themselves.”