The Story of 7 Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Three months ago, North Dakota State University’s Renaissance Hall was filled with aspiring entrepreneurs (including myself), ready to take a leap outside their comfort zone.

A leap into a world of the unknown.

A world full of unfamiliarity, failure, hard work, and even a little bit of success here and there.

The world of an entrepreneur.

As part of the Nice Leap program, put on by The Nice Center, a handful of NDSU students, faculty, and community members each founded an idea or project and planned to make it a reality over the next few months.

We aspiring entrepreneurs worked extremely hard on these projects with eager anticipation for the culmination of the program: the day when we would share how our leaps had gone.

Last Monday that day finally arrived.

Storytelling Night

Monday, November 16th, was Storytelling Night.

The night when seven of the leapers (Nice Leap participants) joined together to share the stories of their leap with friends, family, and each other.

A rush of fevered excitement ran through me as I awaited the start of the event.

Dane Johnson, programs manager at The Nice Center, started the night off by reflecting on the mission of the program, which is to inspire people to create something that lives at the intersection of their passion and a need in the world and then introduced the first leaper.

Dr. Ganapathy Mahalingam – Helping other aspiring entrepreneurs

first aspiring entrepreneur

The first one to tell his story was Dr. Mahalingam, and he had quite an amazing story to tell.

Born in India, he embarked on quite a journey to get where he is today, as a Professor of Architecture at NDSU. 

This journey was full of what he likes to call “bridges.”

Bridges that carried him across vast oceans, and over numerous challenges.

And as Dr. Mahalingam wisely pointed out in his story, just as you can use bridges to get across, you can also use them to go back and bring people across.

That’s why, for his leap, he started the “Advanced Architectural Design Studio,” a course teaching innovation, global trade, entrepreneurship, and the economic system of free markets to aspiring entrepreneurs who are passionate about architecture.

Furthermore, he used the bridges he built to connect these students with cohorts from the CARE School of Architecture in India.

Dr. Mahalingam started the night with a fascinating story.

Click here to learn more.

Shane Corbett – The Rational Student

Up next was another compelling story.

Well, at least I hope it was because I was the storyteller.

I’m Shane, a freshman at NDSU, and for as long as I can remember I have had a goal to graduate from college completely debt-free.

I worked extremely hard in high school to make my goal a possibility, and during that time I kept it all to myself.

second aspiring entrepreneur

However, last summer I realized how lucky I was that my parents taught me financial literacy, and I realized that not every student has that same luxury.

That’s why I started The Rational Student, a guide to a debt-free college graduation.

I hoped to inform and inspire students to do the same thing I am and take control of their financial future.

My story included lots of ups and downs, but it’s a long way from being over.

Follow TheRationalStudent 

Instagram: shane_corbett

Facebook: therationalstudent

LinkedIn: Shane Corbett

Tanaya Hopkins – Bakers With T Podcast

The next of the aspiring entrepreneurs to speak was Tanaya.

Tanaya is full of passion.third aspiring entrepreneur

Three of her most prominent passions are baking, entrepreneurship, and podcasts, which all perfectly collided when she decided to start a baking podcast interviewing small bakery owners as her leap.

She came up with the clever name Bakers With T (T as in Tanaya).

Through this experience, she learned a ton, made remarkable connections, and has an awesome podcast to show for her work.

Check out her pilot episode here and listen to her fascinating conversation with Nida, a retired bakery owner, and current bakery blogger.

Furthermore, you can check out the awesome intro music for her podcast.

Seriously, I could not stop grooving to it!

Click here to check out my podcast.

Instagram: tanayah_101


Josie Mohror – Beyond a Podcast

The podcast bug also got a bite of our next leaper, Josie.

Like so many of us, Josie had a desire to share her opinions with the world.

As a smart, thoughtful, and insightful person, there was a lot of potential in sharing her opinions, yet as she journeyed through her leap process, things started to shift in her mind.

Her idea of what was most important for society started to change.

She realized that while sharing her opinions would be amazing, she had an opportunity to help solve a pressing problem in society: the inability to have healthy discussions on controversial issues.

fourth aspiring entrepreneur

From that realization, Beyond a Podcast was born.

This innovative podcast’s goal is to bring people together and have productive conversations about controversial topics.

Don’t miss the first episode by following it on Twitter here!

Zoe Bundy – Job Shadowing Platform

Like Dr. Mahalingam, Zoe has a passion for helping other aspiring entrepreneurs and students who are ready to take on the workforce.

As a high school student herself, Zoe found it outrageous that so many students go into the workforce or commit to a college major without ever participating in a job shadow experience.

How can kids possibly decide what they want to do in life without experiencing the workforce first?

fifth aspiring entrepreneur

She found that the problem wasn’t the demand of students who wanted to job shadow or the supply of workplaces who would host students.

No, the problem was simply connecting them!

From this realization, Zoe decided to create a job shadow platform to connect students and businesses.

It has been a long process that has taken a lot of work, and there is still a long way to go, but Zoe is confident that she can make this happen.

Email her at with questions, ideas, or collaboration opportunities.

Zach Johnson – Sleep Help Diffuser

Let me say this, if I was rich I would give Zach millions of dollars for this idea.

Zach wanted to solve a problem that has plagued every one of us at one time or another, which is having trouble sleeping.sixth aspiring entrepreneur

Not only did Zach want to create a device to help people go to sleep, but also to help them wake up energized and excited for the day.

After lots of research and brainstorming, he finally got an idea he loved.

He wanted to create a diffuser that would help you fall asleep better and wake up with more energy.

We’ve all seen the essential oils diffuser wave that has swept out culture, and Zach thought he could use this to help people sleep.

When the person wants to sleep, it would diffuse sleep-inducing oils and aromas, and then through a timer, it would start diffusing caffeine oil a few minutes before the person wants to wake up.

Like Zoe, he still has a long way to go to make this leap a reality, but with an idea like that, I don’t doubt him for a second.

Email him at with questions, ideas, or collaboration opportunities.

Isaac Flynn – A Journal by Students and for Students

Over the course of his college education, Isaac has learned the unbelievable importance of journaling.

Its effects on mental well-being are amazing, and Isaac realized that mental well-being is one area many college students struggle in.

That’s where he got the idea of a journal for students and by students.

He wanted to create a journal specifically for college students that would lead them to better mental health and teach them about all the benefits of journaling.

He received an overwhelming amount of user feedback and went back and forth on many ideas for the specifics of his journal.

Currently, he has narrowed down the ideas and is moving forward towards the creation of his journal.

Email him at or call 651-308-0894 with questions, ideas, or collaboration opportunities.

Closing Thoughts

The Fall 2020 Nice Leap program was not for the faint of heart.

This was for aspiring entrepreneurs who dared to try something new, who pushed themselves to learn and create.

This was for people who truly wanted to bring something great to the world.

If this sounds like you, click here to sign up for the Nice Leap Spring 2021 cohort, and take a leap into a world of excitement and innovation.

Posted on November 22nd, 2020 by Shane Corbett in Events