When he is not busy connecting North Bay startups with executives, investors, and local leaders, Zachary Kushel, founder of the North Bay’s first regional venture capital fund, often can be found meeting with Barowsky School of Business (BSB) students such as Augustus Muse ’24.
Kushel is founder and managing partner of Marin Sonoma Impact Ventures (MSIV), a recently launched social enterprise focused on establishing the North Bay as a robust entrepreneurial hub.
BSB is one of MSIV’s community partners, and Kushel has been an active and engaged member of the BSB community since being introduced to the school 30 months ago by Daniel Cassidy, BSB’s dean for academic programs and external relations. The two previously worked together at the Marin startup company Glassdoor.
Kushel is a board advisor to BSB’s Françoise O Lepage Center for Global Innovation, which combines classroom learning with hands-on practice so that students can gain skills and experiences to be successful in an entrepreneurial environment. The Lepage Center fits well with MSIV’s focus, and one of the goals of the MOU between BSB and MSIV is to establish a talent pipeline between Dominican students and the startup community.
Augustus already has met with Kushel at several networking events sponsored by both the Lepage Center and the BSB’s Mizel Executive Forum. Last November, Kushel fielded questions from a panel of students – including Augustus – and shared anecdotes from his own experience as an entrepreneur, providing insight and advice for Dominican’s aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs.
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At the recent Lepage Business Ideas Competition, in which student teams pitched business ideas to a panel of judges, Kushel worked with Augustus and his teammates.
“Zach mentored our team and gave us advice on our business idea of Equitable Eco Electrics, which would provide a conversion service to replace people's cars' gasoline engines with electric motors,” Augustus says.
“The best advice he gave us was to make sure that we had a solid backbone of profit for the company, and to start small and then scale up as we gain confidence and revenue,” Augustus says. “He told us it is best to start small and prove that you can do a good job and provide a service that people will want, and then once you know for a fact that you have something that’s viable, scale the business up.”
This month Augustus attended MSIV’s inaugural North Bay NEXT conference, at which some 300 company founders and business leaders from across Marin and Sonoma convened on the Dominican campus.
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These are just the types of hands-on experiences that led Augustus to Dominican. It was his counselor at Sebastopol's Analy High School who initially suggested Dominican would be a good fit for Augustus, who already had a strong interest in community work.
During his freshman year, Augustus worked at Ritter Center, a San Rafael nonprofit organization focused on preventing homelessness and improving the health and well-being of individuals and families living in poverty in Marin County. Through his coursework in Dominican’s Service-Learning program, Augustus developed community while learning about issues of inequity in Marin County.
This summer, Augustus will spend his summer interning at the Marin County Public Defender’s office, an opportunity that arose as a result of connections made during a Service-Learning placement in the Public Defender’s office.
Augustus, who is studying for a degree in business administration with a dual concentration in management and global business and a triple minor in leadership, global innovation & entrepreneurship, and community action & social change, appreciates the connections he has made as part of his Dominican experience.
“The networking events organized by the business school are great because we network with professionals across many fields, giving us a preview of different career paths we may choose and insight into the industries,” Augustus says.
Once he earns his undergraduate degree, Augustus plans to enroll in BSB’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in the Business Analytics program. He looks forward to more opportunities to meet with and learn from local business leaders.
Kushel, meanwhile, plans to continue his work helping to shape and grow the Lepage Center, facilitating introductions between BSB faculty and the startup community, and introducing students to community entrepreneurs through campus events and programs.
“Our MOU describes a mutually supportive relationship where MSIV and the Barowsky School will collaborate on making company introductions, setting up a talent pipeline, and strengthening the Lepage Center,” Kushel says.
“Today’s startups are tomorrow’s economic growth engines, and MSIV’s growing entrepreneurial community supports local job creation and aims to usher in the next generation of economic prosperity for the North Bay.”