A steppingstone to startup success

Maverick entrepreneurs get winning boost from Deep Dive workshops

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022 • Linsey Retcofsky : Contact

Zuriel Lopez (left) and Luz Lopez" _languageinserted="true
Zuriel Lopez (left) and Luz Lopez

For emerging entrepreneurs at The University of Texas at Arlington, the Deep Dive program offered by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Innovation (CEEI) in partnership with TechFW offers a steppingstone to success.

Deep Dive, a series of entrepreneurial workshops led by Hayden Blackburn, executive director of TechFW, is an eight-week accelerator program designed to give student entrepreneurs the boost they need to transform their ideas into profitable businesses. Each week, participants receive hands-on training on topics ranging from customer discovery and business models to financial forecasting and pitch development.

“Deep Dive isn’t just a crash course in how to start a business,” Blackburn said. “It’s a program that gives young entrepreneurs real tools they can use as they build their ideas and bring them to market. They are building their business acumen, skills and a foundation in entrepreneurship.”

The program is a requirement for any individual or team advancing from phase one to phase two of MavPitch, a business pitch competition hosted by the Maverick Entrepreneur Program and Award Fund in partnership with the UTA College of Business and the College of Engineering.

According to this year’s MavPitch winners, the extra time spent in the classroom was worth it. Zuriel Lopez, junior information systems major, pitched his idea for the WeWant app, an ice cream truck locator that establishes direct communication between ice cream truck drivers and their customer base. The idea won Lopez a MavPitch grand prize of $25,000.

Lopez, who is himself an ice cream truck driver, said techniques that he learned in the Deep Dive workshops helped increase his ice cream sales by 17%.

“The Deep Dive teachers were amazing. We learned a lot, but still had a lot of fun,” Lopez said. “Without the Deep Dive program, I wouldn’t have won the funding to support my business.”

During Deep Dive, Luz Lopez, (’22 BFA, Art) received practical advice that helped her complete the paperwork she needed to license her company. Vicious Creatures is an online shop 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 a grand prize of $25,000 in the MavPitch competition. She said the one-on-one mentorship she received in Deep Dive helped her overcome insecurities about being the only female entrepreneur in the program.

“It was intimidating at first to be the only woman in the program,” Lopez said, “but the CEEI leaders helped me a lot and scheduled meetings with me to go over my business plan.”

Xoriunstance Brown, CEEI operations director, said that while Deep Dive offers many resources, the students’ success is a testament to their determination and self-motivation.

“The Deep Dive program is a safe space where students can learn and address challenges as they practice for real-world business scenarios,” Brown said. “We provide the tools they need to succeed, but they are the ones who are doing the work. I am continually impressed by their initiative and ingenuity.”

The CEEI, led by Brown and Matt Clark, faculty director and assistant professor of practice in the Department of Art and Art History, fosters a supportive atmosphere for UTA students, scholars and researchers as they drive to innovate, commercialize new technologies and pioneer new companies that will impact North Texas communities and the global economy. The center, located at the northeast edge of campus, hosts UTA’s Blackstone LaunchPad, a collaborative network of mentors and resources for emerging entrepreneurs.