An entrepreneur. A mentor. A U.S. Marine combat veteran. All are integral aspects of the personal experience of Cal State Fullerton entrepreneurship grad Chad Armstrong ’17.
Earlier this month, Center for Entrepreneurship Director John Bradley Jackson named Armstrong as coordinator, a role supporting all aspects of the Cal State Fullerton entrepreneurship program, including the Startup Incubator and consulting initiatives.
“I believe that entrepreneurship is good for people and good for society. I want to see everyone be an entrepreneur. That doesn’t mean everyone has to build a trillion-dollar company. Even an individual bringing in 100 bucks each month on a side hustle is going to be a better person because of the experience. The challenges of entrepreneurship help individuals to grow. And strong people make strong communities,” says Armstrong.
In his new role at the self-funded center, Armstrong is focused on revenue generation for the center, as well as expanding the center’s reach and impact.
“My first mission is to find more efficient ways to convey the value we deliver to potential clients. I want every semester to be oversubscribed for consulting projects and incubator,” he says. “When we’ve improved the efficiency of our revenue generation, it will free us up to do more promotion of the work our students or former students are doing. Success in entrepreneurship takes time, and I want to be a resource for our students and alumni as long as it takes for them to find success.”
Lessons Learned in the Marine Corps
During the Iraq War, Armstrong served three combat tours. It was one of the most impactful experiences of his life.
“The Marine Corps is one of the finest organizations that has ever existed. I’m grateful when people say thank you for your service, but it always makes me a little uncomfortable. To be sure, the Marine Corps was difficult, but in the end, it wasn’t a sacrifice; I gained more than I gave up. I’ll forever be grateful to the Corps and the lessons it taught me,” he says.
“One important lesson that the Marine Corps taught me comes to mind right now – adapt and overcome. In startups, just as in the Marine Corps, flexibility and perseverance are required for long-term success,” he says.
Advice for Aspiring Startups
“I’ve always been an entrepreneur, ever since I was a little kid with a Kool Aid stand. CSUF Entrepreneurship taught me two valuable skills that I didn’t have before – how to pencil test an idea, and how to take smarter risks. I have my next side hustle in mind, but right now, I’m focused on serving CSUF students through the Center for Entrepreneurship,” says Armstrong.
Interested in starting your own business?
Armstrong says the most important step is determining product/market fit.
He asks: “Have you created a product so good and found a market that loves it so much that customers are pulling it out of your hands? Are they willing to wait for you to build more when you run out? Are they willing to pay a premium for it?”
The second most important step actually comes before the first – product/founder fit.
“A startup will take a significant amount of time from other areas of your life ‒ family, friends, recreation, etc. A startup founder should be interested, curious and ultimately proud of the work they’re doing,” he says. “People get paid in three ways ‒ money, meaning and mastery. To be sustainable, your startup journey must pay you in some way now for the sacrifices you’re making. For most, money will come later. Meaning and mastery are under the founder’s control now. There will be many times when you’re not loving your startup journey. Realizing that you were doing something you loved comes later, when you’re looking back at what you accomplished. Prioritize building and constantly improving a product that solves an interesting problem in an area you’re curious about and in a way that you’re proud of. This gives you the energy and drive to power through the hard times.”
If you attain product/market fit but not product/founder fit, you might be successful, but you won’t be fulfilled, says Armstrong.
“Life is short, choose both success and happiness,” he advises.
For More on Entrepreneurship
For more on the Center for Entrepreneurship, which supports business startup education for students and the broader Orange County community, visit them online or at SGMH 3280.