Incubating Entrepreneurs

During his four years at Westmont, Eric Loper ’00 saw the world. He went on Europe Semester, traveled to Asia for a summer business program with Professor Roy Millender, and played rugby in New Zealand and South Africa with Westmont’s club team. But after graduating, he settled down to work for a high-tech business incubator in Santa Barbara.

“Traveling was an incredibly rich part of my Westmont experience,” he says. “Getting to know other cultures and actually working as an intern in China taught me so much.”

Explaining American business practices to Chinese employees of Alcoa presented an interesting challenge. “We had to help them understand our culture and why it was important to implement practices like health and safety standards,” he explains. “We also taught them informal English greetings and conversation and described what to look for when interviewing people.”

That experience was so valuable, he sought another internship during his senior year. Economics and business Professor Millender referred him to Dennis Cagan, an entrepreneur and high-tech veteran who was starting Santa Barbara Technology Incubator LLC. Eric worked on a consulting project with him and two potential employees of the new firm, the director of Web marketing and the director of operations. He also did an internship with the Central Coast Venture Forum, which brings entrepreneurs and venture capitalists together.

A few months after graduating, Eric was working for the newly established SBTi full time as an analyst. The only full-service high-tech business incubator in the tri-county area, SBTi provides office space, technical and business development support, advice and connections to start-ups.

“I have the coolest job,” Eric says. “I found something challenging and dynamic enough that puts me at the outer limit of my comfort zone and capabilities. I love it!”

His duties include evaluating business plans as they come in and meeting with companies that SBTi may be interested in funding. He researches the applicants and spends time getting to know them. Once the incubator makes an investment in a company, he provides support and advice to the entrepreneurs as they attempt to get the new enterprise going.

“This is a great opportunity to work with A+ people,” Eric says. “I am learning so much and building my skills.”

Eventually, he plans to go to a top-10 business school and earn an M.B.A. But not yet — he says he is still growing.

When he’s not working, Eric likes to play rugby, a passion he developed at Westmont. He joined the college’s club team just to travel to New Zealand, but he got hooked on the sport. It’s also given him an opportunity to do short-term missions work with Sports for Christ Action South Africa. He spent six weeks putting on sports clinics for kids in South Africa, sharing his faith in Christ in many settings, including public schools.

For now, he senses God leading him into the business world, possibly into a long-term career with entrepreneurs.

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