Supporting Entrepreneurship Amidst a Global Pandemic

antrepreneur center students and jaune odombrown

On November 8, 2004, Jaune Odombrown joined the U.S. Marine Corps. While he knew that his military service would bring countless challenges and immeasurable hardships, he didn’t know that it would also open the door to his entrepreneurial success.

During his military service, Jaune saw an opportunity to create a system to improve the strategic plans, deployment, and personnel management of his battalion. He officially delivered the system in 2011, and it was formally approved for full military use in 2012. Speaking on his development of the system, Jaune recalls, “I focused on creating not knowing that I was being an entrepreneur. At that time, I didn’t know what entrepreneurship was or what it was about.” It was only when his commander pulled him aside and explained the concept of entrepreneurship that Jaune started to understand that he could have a future as an entrepreneur.

After leaving the Marine Corps in 2012, Jaune immediately began studying entrepreneurship, learning about the process of turning an idea into a successful business. He would quickly put his knowledge to work as he launched his first business, Music Express Productions, where he would sell self-composed piano music for others to sample. 

Jaune would go on to launch two more businesses. Rock the Base (RTB) brought live musical entertainment to military installations across the country. In addition to organizing and managing musical performances, Jaune expanded RTB to create special programming to help veterans find their footing after leaving the military. Focusing on helping veterans access (J)ob opportunities, (U)niversity education, (M)edical assistance, and (P)roperty ownership, the JUMP program was born. This shift in RTB from entertainment to “edutainment” sparked a new passion in Jaune—one that centered around helping others fulfill their full potential.

With all his success, Jaune saw entrepreneurship as the opportunity that so many were looking for. In 2017, he launched Smartpreneur, which creates entrepreneur development centers where anyone can learn about the process of becoming an entrepreneur, accessing resources, and launching a business.

As he was about to move ahead with Smartpreneur, Jaune was offered an opportunity to manage the UCI ANTrepreneur Center. With a mission to encourage innovative and entrepreneurial thinking, provide resources and education to burgeoning entrepreneurs, and offer opportunities for networking and mentorship, the ANTrepreneur Center aligned with what Jaune wanted to do most.

Speaking of his decision to oversee the management of the center, he explains:

UCI wanted to grow itself over the next hundred years to be a school that’s really focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, and research. This commitment was inspiring, and I knew that the center needed to play a key role in developing that mentality. It needed to offer core skills and opportunities to join the entrepreneurship process. And that’s what led me to basically doing what I’m doing now.

In his new role at the ANTrepreneur Center, Jaune has the opportunity to give what he lacked at the outset of his entrepreneurial journey—guidance. “My family comes from multiple places. You know they’re hard-working people. But they weren’t entrepreneurs, so I had no family dynamic that could reassure me that the steps that I was taking were legit,” he recalls, “No one was giving me that kind of knowledge; a lot of those lessons were trial and error.” 

While Jaune does believe that it’s important for people to experiment on their own and discover what entrepreneurship means for them, he emphasizes how important it is to have direction, especially at the beginning of the entrepreneurship journey. 

As the whole world grapples with the rapid changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, advice and guidance is something that we could all use a little more of. To help entrepreneurs make the most of this time, Jaune offers some of this best advice on moving forward and being productive.

Tip 1: Use this time to learn more about entrepreneurship

For early-stage entrepreneurs, Jaune recommends, “Take this time to really sit there and do more about learning.” He encourages students to learn more about entrepreneurship and ask themselves “What am I good at? What do I like? What could I be great at? How can I master those skills?”  Answering these early questions can lead to new ideas, help you narrow your focus, and help you build a plan towards starting something you truly care about.

Tip 2: Watch how the epidemic is affecting jobs in your target industry

Jaune also points out that entrepreneurs who haven’t started building a business have a good opportunity to see how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the industries they are interested in. “The economy is changing, and some jobs are not going to be available anymore in the future,” he explains, “New remote positions will be designed, and this will have effects across all industries.” These changes may affect your future business plans, so it’s important to remain vigilant and adjust your strategies accordingly.

Tip 3: Don’t be afraid to connect and grow your network

With most people stuck at home due to shelter-at-home policies, Jaune states that now is the time to expand your professional network. “Early-stage entrepreneurs should really take the time to reach out to people they have never thought they could connect with.” He encourages, “Everyone’s at home now and everyone’s on the computer, so reaching out should not be so hard.” While he acknowledges that reaching out via LinkedIn and other channels might seem intimidating, it is a smart strategy for expanding your network.

 Tip 4: Don’t make excuses and stop procrastinating

According to Jaune, one of the biggest challenges of the COVID-19 crisis is that many entrepreneurs are worried about taking risks and moving forward with their business ventures. However, Jaune emphasizes, “You cannot forget how to start. Stop procrastinating and being complacent.” Rather than making excuses and allowing external factors to interfere with your plans, you should be proactive and find other ways to further your progress. For Jaune, this always returns to education and research: “Go learn about how you can take what you do or like, and do more research on that.”

Tip 5: Learn from the epidemic and translate this into your future business model

Finally, for entrepreneurs who are further along in the process and currently building their companies, Jaune advises watching how other businesses are responding to the pandemic and learning from their responses. He explains, “This is the time to learn more about how an pandemic can impact the economy and how that affects your industry so that you can build a better, more sustainable business model in the future.” He recommends watching large corporations because “they’re going to learn from this situation; the things that they did not have ready, they will have ready next time.”

From the battlefield to the corporate world of business to UCI’s campus, Jaune’s entrepreneurial spirit has always propelled him forward. Now, armed with years of experience, Jaune is looking to pass along his expertise. “I’m hoping to offer some value for the students. That’s pretty much what this is all about—trying to inspire students to be the highest, truest expression of themselves.”

To connect with Jaune or learn more about the services and resources offered by the ANTrepreneur Center, email Jaune at jodombro@uci.edu or visit the ANTrepreneur Center website here. You can also schedule an appointment by emailing the UCI ANTrepreneur Center at antrepreneur@uci.edu or filling out this form.