Business owners discuss their journeys and advice for U students with start-ups

Story and gallery by ANDREA BECERRA

By making a business out of a personal interest, working will never feel like a drag. Many people have had at least one great business idea, but have never gone through with it due to fear of failure.

The majority of business-owners will admit that they have failed many times, but learning from mistakes allows a business to thrive. What do business owners have to say to people who want to start their own business?

Amber Barron, a junior at the University of Utah, is a part of a business called SHERO. SHERO first began when Barron, her classmates, and professor, saw that there was a real need for biodegradable products because there is a great amount of waste associated with feminine care. They quickly began to create a start-up business.

Barron said SHERO makes affordable biodegradable feminine hygiene products. The business name stands for Sustainable Hygiene Engineering Research and Operations, but it was initially named due to the combination of female-hero. The founders of SHERO are Jeff Bates, Alicia Dibble, Ashlea Patterson and Barron. Since then, several others have joined the team.

The average woman disposes of 6,000 pounds of feminine hygiene products over the course of her lifetime into landfills, so this is an issue they are resolving. Barron said SHERO is trying to target two groups. The first group is women who have access to feminine hygiene products but are wanting to be more sustainably minded. The second group is women who don’t have access to affordable products. SHERO will provide the pads at a discounted price.

SHERO is currently working on research and development of materials, specifically fine-tuning the super-absorbent polymer, a key component to their unique pads. Once they complete the fine-tuning, Barron said they will be sending it out for manufacturing.

The U students who are running SHERO participate in Lassonde’s mentoring program. The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute is a nationally ranked hub for student entrepreneurship and innovation at the U. The mentoring program allows students to use the space, materials and 3D printers.

The students who run SHERO participated in the “Get Seeded Monthly Milestone Funding Program” — a program that is sponsored by Zions Bank. This is a pitch event to help aspiring student entrepreneurs by receiving a grant to get a business idea off the ground. SHERO received $3,000 from this program, which Barron said helped tremendously.

Another competition that the U students participated in was called, “Bench to Bedside.” SHERO was awarded funding from that as well.

Barron always imagined that starting a business would be difficult. “There are a lot of hoops to jump through, but there is a really strong program at Lassonde,” Barron said. Her advice to University of Utah students who are wanting to start their own business is to make use of the amazing resources that are offered at Lassonde, like attending their events and activities.

Barron suggests to students that if there is a professor who has a lot of experience in the field one is interested in, feel free to pick their brain. Professors can oftentimes connect you to people who may be helpful.

Connections are very useful when you have a business. Richard Becker, a Utah business owner, shared how important networking is. “I sign up to attend as many business events in my field of interest, as I can,” Becker said. He owns the company, Rota Farms, with a long-standing tradition of growing and producing fruits with biodynamic systems that he designed and developed. Rota Farms not only controls its own fields but also third parties worldwide.

Since Becker’s interest is based on agriculture and exportation, he attends many events hosted by Utah World Trade Center.

“University of Utah students have many resources at their fingertips, that they should be using. Especially students who are starting their own business,” Becker said. He also recommends students do as much research as possible, as well as work in the field of interest first in order to learn what one should and shouldn’t do.

Bibi Paredes co-owns Rota Farms with her husband, Richard Becker. She has advice for students as well. “Working every day with your spouse or friend not only requires a lot of patience but also the ability to separate your work and personal life as much as possible,” Paredes said.

She mentions that owning a business has great ups and downs, which can cause stress at times. “It is crucial to save as much money as possible, even when the business is doing really well. Most times businesses have seasons of high profit, and others when money gets tight, so one must have funds for emergencies,” Paredes said.

Overall, Becker and Paredes say that having your own business is very rewarding, and they wouldn’t trade the experience they have had for anything. “Never let fear get in the way of pursuing your dreams and passions,” Becker said.