Jared Schoepf, Founder of SafeSIPP
College: Arizona State University
College Venture: SafeSIPP, LLC
Current Venture: SafeSIPP, LLC
Year in College Founded: Junior Year (2012)
Years out of College
2 years (2 years into grad school, PhD in Chemical Engineering)
One word that best describes your experience as an entrepreneur in college: Empowering
My favorite class was Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS). I liked it so much that I now teach one of the subjects at ASU. The class forms teams of 4 engineering students and has them working on a social solution to help people. They are paired with a community partner such as a professor or non-profit worker. They prototype solutions and the class provides them with $300 to build and test. If their solution is successful, additional funding is available to fulfill the project. Projects range from solar hot water heaters, devices to aid people with disabilities such as sight and hearing, as well as vertical gardens to maximize vegetable production in developing countries.
My least favorite class is English. I prefer making powerpoint presentations to explain my ideas rather than lengthy papers.
Why bother with entrepreneurship?
After learning that nearly one billion people do not have access to clean water, I was determined to develop a solution. After finding a community partner in South Africa, my team and I wanted the people in a rural community near Bergnek, Limpopo, South Africa to have the same basic amenities as us. I quickly realized the severity of the problem and wanted to find a solution that was sustainable for both the people in the community and for us to continue supporting these people. Ultimately starting a company was the best solution.
Tell us about your college venture, and where you are on it/what became of it?
SafeSIPP started three years ago as just an idea in our heads. After writing the idea down and creating a business plan, we won grant money to begin prototyping. With our first prototype we won a business competition that allowed us access to mentors that strengthened our business plan while we tested our product design. After purifying thousands of gallons of water, and immensely testing the SafeSIPP product for the past two years, we have developed a product that takes lake and river water and produces water comparable to tap water. We have been piloting the product and are launching sales to begin helping people across the world have access to clean water for the first time.
SafeSIPP is concluding our pilot which tested the effectiveness of the device. We extensively tested the device to make sure it would pass our most strenuous of requirements and after years of testing we have successful done just that. We strive to provide the best transportation and water purification product on the market as we want to rid waterborne illness across the globe from drinking contaminated water.
Where was your favorite place to do work on campus?
My favorite place on campus to work is a conference room with a large white board to work out problems and keep my ideas organized.
What’s one way students can start today?
I believe the best way to start is think of something you are extremely passionate about and trying to figure out how you can do it better than the competition. Are you passionate about snowboarding, skate board, or running? Think of what you wished you had in those activities and then survey your friends and see if there is a market for your ideas. Try to ask as many people as possible and if it seems people like it begin prototyping.
What’s your best tip for entrepreneurs still in college?
My best tip for entrepreneurs in college are to find professors who are entrepreneurs themselves. Always ask advice and surround yourself with like minded people.
When did you found your company and with how many others?
We founded our company in 2012, three years ago with four people total.
How do you manage your week?
I love being busy so my weeks are jam packed. I use Asana to keep track of my tasks and google calendar to keep track of my meetings. My week is broken into my research for grad school, my business, and my free time. I work hard to make sure that when it is the end of the day or weekend, I can relax and prepare for next week. The toughest part of managing a week is making sure you do not get burned out. You should be having fun running a business, it should not run you.
After three years I have learned that decisions do not always have to be made immediately. At times it seems you have to decide that second. I have learned that decisions can wait a few days which allows you to ask mentors and fully digest the decision so you make the best decision. I also learned that generally if you make a bad decision you can typically fix it. Many people forget this and stress out about making a bad decision. Being creative and working as a team, you can get through any situation.
What advice would you offer student entrepreneurs soon to graduate college?
It seems obvious but for any student entrepreneur soon graduating, I recommend you have a strong team and plan for when you graduate. If your business is pre-revenue, or you make just enough profit to pay the bills it will be tough. With a degree, founders will not stay long if they are not making enough money, so I highly recommend you have a clear vision for your team and a plan so people do not give up right before your business is an overwhelming success. In college people will stick through the tough times but after graduating, it is harder to keep people as they can now enter industry easily with their degree.
What resources do you recommend others take advantage of?
I highly recommend taking advantage of business grants offered through the university. Winning business grants not only validates your idea but also provides you access to mentors and other entrepreneurial minded students.
If you have not won a grant, then I recommend tracking down other entrepreneurial students. Entrepreneurs typically enjoy helping people and want others to be successful, so do not hesitate to reach out for their help and advice.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I value sleep as I am the most productive after a full night of rest. I aim for 7 hours every night. Some nights I only get a few hours of sleep, but I have gotten significantly better at planning my weeks and delegating tasks to my team to prevent that.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see Elon Musk answer these same questions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I have ever received is to always test the market. You may think you have the best idea, but unfortunately everyone else might disagree. Create a simple survey that gauges people interest of the idea or product and whether or not they would be willing to pay for it. If people are interested and are willing to pay then you might be on to something. Additionally these surveys of 25 to 50 people provide the data that give you an edge in a business plan competition.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
I recommend three books to every entrepreneur:
Slicing the Pie: Funding Your Company Without Funds
By Mike Moyer
This books provides an amazing strategy for dividing equity in your business. Many people split the company evenly but later regret this strategy as co-founders quit and move on.
“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries
This book greatly helps you prototype and test ideas. It aids in testing your product in the market saving you both time and money.
Traction by Gino Wickman
Traction helps you create a strong team and provides the leadership tools and documents to keep track of your progress as you grow as a business.
I believe all three books should be a requirement of every entrepreneur.
Lastly, my number one recommendation is to just do it. Build and test your idea. Too many people allow the unknowns to prevent them from pursuing their dreams. College is the best time to test these ideas while you are surrounding by like-minded thinkers.