This story is part of a series featuring each of the fourteen startups in the CYstarters 2022 summer cohort. Each student has the opportunity to focus on their startup or business idea while receiving $6,500 or up to $13,000 (per team), along with mentorship, accountability, and educational sessions on how to build a business.
By Samantha Dilocker, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship
Education: Senior majoring in entrepreneurship with a minor in apparel merchandising and design
Currently working on: Stratus Throws, which provides throwing shoes made by throwers, for throwers.
Have you always seen yourself starting something?
Yes, always. When I was a kid, I started having flat feet problems. My first idea was to make insoles that felt like stepping on clouds. Like, Ultraboosts, kind of like that. That was when I was like six or seven. Innovation and entrepreneurship have always been on my mind.
When did you start working on Stratus Throws, and who or what inspired you?
It’s been a concept in my mind since my sophomore year of high school, but I started working on it officially about a year ago, in the fall of 2021, for a class project. The throwing community as a whole inspired me. Track and field, I love the community, the field, and the athletes. They inspired me to come up with the idea, but Brian Tapp told me to apply for CYstarters and really give it a shot, so that’s who inspired me to take it this far.
What excites you about being an entrepreneur?
The success, the money, the creativity, the drive. Just the way that you can take your own product and bring it to market and just have full control over what goes down and happens. Seeing your imprint on the world, seeing somebody else wearing your clothing, your shoes, eating the food from your restaurant, things like that. It’s yours; it’s your mark. You’re not just working for someone else; you’re doing your thing.
What is your biggest goal for your business?
My biggest goal right now, if I am being honest, is to get more people to believe in the same vision as mine. A lot of times, even when I talk to mentors, people say, “Ahh, it’s too small of a market, it’s not gonna work. But you can figure some stuff out on the way, figure out the process, and start something else later.” I just want to get more people on board. It’s exciting! I’ve seen somebody make a million dollars off of gloving on Shark Tank, ya know? It’s a capitalistic society. You can make money off of anything. I just want to get more people on board with the vision and the idea.
What has been your biggest challenge thus far, and how have you overcome it?
That’s really been my biggest challenge, getting people on board. The biggest challenge is beyond me. It’s the sport of track and field as a whole. As appreciated as it is around the world, it’s the second biggest sport in the world, but it’s not appreciated in America, where we have the best entertainment economy when it comes to getting paid. Things like the hammer throw, people have never seen before because nobody shows it on TV. But I haven’t met a person yet who I’ve shown it to who hasn’t been like, ‘What in the world is this? How come I’ve never seen this? This is so cool.” Nobody isn’t interested, it’s just not shown, but that’s beyond me. The biggest challenge is to get throwing shown on TV. The best thrower in history, Ryan Crouser, he’s in the prime of his life. It’s like watching Lebron James in his prime. Nobody knows who he is. Or they barely know, or they only know of him. That’s the biggest challenge, bringing light to the community. Having more companies by throwers for throwers can help to combat this issue. Bringing style back to track and field. Helping to show the personalities of athletes in track and field. You can see that in the other sports, and that’s what brings the entertainment, people wanna see it. Noah Lyles was the fifth faster two-hundred-meter runner in history. He would dye his hair white, like Goku’s Ultra Instinct, because he was in final form. People love that. Like, Usain Bolt doing the dab before it was “the dab.” People love that personality. We have to allow people to see the personalities of track and field athletes before we can make any real change.
How has entrepreneurship at Iowa State impacted you?
This is an interesting question. The funny thing about entrepreneurship at Iowa State, especially the major, is that you’ve got to pick your classes wisely. Although they’re all great, there are some classes where you just read case study after case study on people who’ve succeeded. Which can be useful but are incredibly boring and not fun. Then there are some classes you take, and you can spend the entire semester working on your own business. If you choose your classes wisely, you can bring a product to market with just classes alone if you choose the right courses. Luckily enough, I was blessed enough to choose the right courses. I’ve had so many good classes and met a lot of really good people. I’ve had a wonderful experience, but it can be very easy to fall into the trap of a very bad experience. One of my best classes was in the College of Human Sciences. That’s where this whole idea came from.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student?
You gotta have a plan. You gotta know how to execute your plan. You can’t come in here willy-nilly. If you have your plan, you stick to it. Your plan will shift, of course, but as long as you have an end goal, you’re good. They tell you all the time it’s okay not to know what you want to do when you’re a freshman and to switch your major and change things up, but you will find yourself behind very quickly. You gotta know what you wanna do.
How can we support Stratus Throws?
Support the track and field community. Come out to track meets, watch throwers, watch events. They’re probably some of the most interesting events you’ll ever see, I guarantee you. Stay in tune with your local track team, high school, college, whatever. Come out and support, support, support. That’s the biggest way you can help the track community. Stratus Throws grows with the track community. The biggest issue is a small market; well, the only way the market grows is if kids want to throw or run track. I come from Texas. Texas football is one of the nation’s most competitive high school football programs. Not everybody makes it, even in high school. There are a lot of big, athletic kids that just don’t make it but would be phenomenal throwers. Some kids did make it, technically. I wasn’t the best athlete in high school, not by a long shot. I went to a 6A Division 2 school. That’s the biggest division there is. That’s where they spend sixty million dollars on a high school football field. I was nowhere near the best athlete, yet I went D1 for throwing because where I wasn’t great on the football field, I was wonderful on the track. There are so many athletes like that. Had they gone for track, they could almost be in the Olympics right now but chose to settle for D2 or D3 football. For what reason? They could’ve gone D1 track and field and been at nationals right now, but there’s just not as much emphasis on track and field. It’s a secondary sport for most kids. The waste of talent is unimaginable. So just support, support, support. Seriously, track and field could change some people’s lives. There are so many good athletes that are just wasted on not taking the sport seriously.