The Garage x SESP

The Garage is a community and physical space for every Northwestern student interested in entrepreneurship to learn, iterate, and grow. We offer students resources, programming, and mentorship designed to help build the skills and entrepreneurial mindset they need to succeed in any industry.

Students from across the University bring a wide range of diverse academic and personal experiences that enrich the entrepreneurial environment at The Garage through exposure to new ideas, ways of thinking and skill sets.

Since opening in 2015, SESP students have been steadfast members of The Garage community, complementing their classroom learning with building and leading their own organizations. For example, Lucas Philips, SESP ’19 + co-founder of Brewbike participated in programs at The Garage all four years of undergrad, and found early success through school support, opening his first pop-up coffee shop on campus in Annenberg Hall. Matt Zients, SESP ’20 co-founded a nonprofit startup called Connect & Care while participating in programs such as Residency and X-Factor at The Garage. 

In spring 2021, there are 9 SESP students participating in programs at The Garage, working on projects ranging from Buff’d, the second place overall winner at VentureCat, Northwestern’s annual student startup competition, to RollCall, a startup providing transparency and accountability for mail-in and absentee voters. Below are a few student stories.

Joshua Breite, SESP ’22

Joshua has participated in Residency and most recently, the summer 2020 Wildfire Pre-accelerator program and received $10,000 to work full-time on Induction Learning.

Major: Learning and Organizational Change

Project / Company: Induction Learning is a platform offering an intuitive and authentic test preparation experience allowing users to replicate the test and receive personalized analyses on performance, empowering them to improve their scores. 

  • “Participating in Wildfire gave us the opportunity to expand and grow our business, but also be more connected to The Garage community. As everything can feel disconnected while we’re remote, The Garage has continued to support the community and offer mentorship.”

Anastacia Chineme, SESP ’22

Anastacia has participated in Residency at The Garage, and was one of the inaugural participants of the Activate program during its summer 2020 pilot. Activate is an 8-week immersive learning experience with the goal of making entrepreneurship more inclusive and accessible to Black Northwestern students.

Major: Learning and Organizational Change, Political Science

Project / Company: Crown Care is a platform that aims to provide a sense of community and education for curly haired individuals.

  • “Prior to participating in Activate, I wasn’t particularly confident in my entrepreneurial capability due to not having a tech, coding, or STEM background. However, Activate taught me more than anything that an entrepreneur isn’t a certain type of person with a certain skillset. It taught me that entrepreneurship is more of a mindset, one that may be applied to any career path.”

Caleb Holland, SESP ’21

Caleb is passionate about building businesses with a focus on social impact and social justice. He participated in the summer 2020 Wildfire Pre-accelerator program, winning second place and the audience favorite award at the end-of-program Demo Day, taking home $4,000. Caleb is also a participant in The Garage’s Residency program and offers peer-to-peer mentoring through Office Hours.

Major: Learning and Organizational Change

Project / Company: Innovestments is a real estate investment company that empowers everyday people to become ethical real estate investors.

  • “The amount of support I’ve received through The Garage is amazing. I’ve been able to grow into a stronger entrepreneur and person and have met some of the best people of my Northwestern career.”

Haley Hooper, SESP ’23

Haley participated in the fall 2020 cohort of X-Factor, The Garage’s revolutionary leadership development program for student founders. She has also participated in the Tinker program. During the summer of 2020, she interned for Quicken Loans on the Backbone Technology team as a User Experience Associate.

Major: Learning and Organizational Change, Business Institutions, and Design

Project / Company: HHPearls is a successful online jewelry venture, and Haley is also currently developing an e-commerce and networking app. 

  • “The X-Factor program was an incredibly enriching experience. Through the Hogan Leadership assessment, my strengths and weaknesses were identified. By analyzing these characteristics, I was able to heighten my self-awareness and grow tremendously as a leader. I am so grateful for this program.”

Austin Pager, SESP ’22

At The Garage, Austin has participated in Residency and the summer 2020 Wildfire Pre-accelerator program and took home the grand prize at the end-of-program Demo Day, winning $4,000. Austin and his co-founder, Spencer Levitt ’22 pitched at VentureCat, Northwestern’s annual student startup competition, beating many graduate teams and winning second place overall and $59,000 in non-dilutive capital.

Major: Learning and Organizational Change

Project / Company: Buffd is a mobile app that pulls game data and provides gameplay reports to fuel banter with friends.

  • “My experience at Northwestern has been closely tied to my time at The Garage. The access to mentors and like-minded student entrepreneurs that have been made possible through the Residency program in addition to the Wildfire pre-accelerator, which have pushed my startup and entrepreneurial journey to the next level.”

Drew Wandizilak, SESP ’22

Drew is participating in the Residency program at The Garage. He spent three years as an Associate at the venture firm Basecamp Fund, investing in and supporting early-stage entrepreneurs. He is also the former director of Northwestern’s student entrepreneurship club, EPIC’s program called Sprout, where he led an immersion trip to San Francisco for students looking for a career in tech and/or startups. 

Major: Learning and Organizational Change
Minor: Entrepreneurship

Project / Company: RollCall is providing transparency and accountability for mail-in and absentee voters.

  • “I truly fell in love with Northwestern when I learned about what The Garage had to offer, from mentors and programming to a passionate community of innovators. It was members of this community that spoke with me early in my undergraduate journey that ultimately led me to transfer into SESP freshman year. I now use my experiences in SESP and The Garage to better myself outside of the classroom, whether it is supporting small business owners or being an entrepreneur myself.”

The Garage x SESP News

Camryn Smith, SESP ’23 selected as Little Joe Ventures Fellow

Lucas Philips, SESP ’19 featured on How I Got Here Podcast, Episode 2

Connor Regan, SESP ’16 featured on How I Got Here Podcast, Episode 1

Olivia Hernandez, SESP ’21 talks arts + entrepreneurship

Josh Breite, SESP ’22 shares his experience in Wildfire

Student Spotlight: Matt Zients, SESP ’20

Brewbike, founded by Lucas Philips, SESP ’19, raises $2M


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