Skip to Main Content

The Carlsen Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship California State University, Sacramento

Support Page Content

Entrepreneurs Made at Sac State

Dale Carlsen

Dale Carlsen headshot

Dale Carlsen, who earned his degree in Business Administration, is most well-known for founding Sleep Train, the West Coast’s largest mattress retailer, just one year after having graduated from Sacramento State. Over the next 29 years, Dale grew the business into a multi-branded company with more than 300 stores in 6 states with over 1,600 employees.

In 2014, Sleep Train merged with Mattress Firm Holding Corporation, a national, publicly-traded company. Today, Dale focuses his energy on projects that support the things he’s passionate about — helping foster children and helping entrepreneurs.

Dale serves as the chair of the Carlsen Center's Advisory Board.

Made At Sac State

The Carlsen Center's benefactor, Dale Carlsen, is not the only successful entrepreneur that attended Sac State. Here are some other successful entrepreneurs #MadeAtSacState:

Beatriz Aurelio-Saguin

Beatriz Aurelio SaguinBeatriz Aurelio-Saguin graduated in 2016 with a degree in Psychology. Her interest in food started as a child. She is the co-founder of Tuk Tuk Box, a subscription-based company delivering curated Southeast Asian food.

While at Sac State, Beatriz was involved with the Full Circle Project which supports Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students through their college experience and offers opportunities to engage in community service, both on and off-campus. As a result, she was able to learn more about her heritage.

After graduating from Sac State, Beatriz earned her master’s in public health from the University of San Francisco. She has worked in childhood trauma prevention for Dignity Health and has been a health educator at Sac State.

Both Beatriz and her co-founder, Christy Innouvong-Thorton, had worked with Courageous Kitchen, a food education nonprofit for at-risk students and families in Bangkok, Thailand. They recognized the opportunity to foster social change and inspire cross-cultural change by teaching cooking and job skills.

When the pandemic hit, they pivoted to create a subscription food service, Tuk Tuk Box. They team with small business owners and local farmers to share recipes and ingredients. They continue to support Courageous Kitchen as their charity partner. Beatriz hopes that the boxes will introduce the diverse flavors and foods of Southeast Asia and begin to bridge the disparities in their communities.

Ryan Coogler

Ryan Coogler headshot

Ryan Coogler is an award-winning film director, producer and screenwriter. At Sac State, he majored in finance and took as many film classes as he could, while playing on the football team. After graduating from Sacramento State University, he attended USC Film School, where he made a few short films. His first feature film, Fruitvale Station won awards at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. He has also won many accolades for Creed, the seventh film in the Rocky series, and the Marvel film, Black Panther, which broke numerous box office records as the highest-grossing film of 2018 and was nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards. Ryan is a successful, creative entrepreneur, Made At Sac State.

Cate Dyer

Cate DyerCate Dyer is passionate about accelerating research on disease and thus the pace of prevention and cure.

In 2010, armed with $9,000 and a vision, Ms. Dyer founded StemExpress. To shorten the time it takes for new treatment technologies to reach patients, StemExpress procures samples at researcher request and isolates cells using specialized protocols and cutting-edge lab technology.

Today, top research universities, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals around the world rely on StemExpress for samples with the purity, quality and viability they need. Cate’s dedication to saving lives–one cell at a time--is fueling regenerative medicine and translational research that will positively impact the lives of millions.

Payam Fardanesh

Payam Fardanesh is the founder, VP Sales & Innovation at Silk Road Soda and VP Sales & Innovation at Go Girl Energy Drink. His story is about hard work, cultivating skills, risk-taking and a passion to keep moving forward.

At the age of 10, Payam emigrated with his family from Iran to the U.S., two years into the Iran-Iraq War. His family started their new life in Woodland, CA. Later they moved to Natomas. He attended Sacramento State and, with one semester left to complete his degree in accounting, he was a passenger in a drunk-driving accident. After recovering, he completed his degree one year later. He worked for the State of CA, but was unhappy.

On the advice of an uncle, he reached out to Oracle and got a job in accounts receivable. He handled large accounts, collecting $50 - $100 million each quarter. The sales team then offered him an opportunity in sales. Newly married and with a baby, he accepted the career move to Boston. After 18 months, he and his family moved back to the Sacramento area, where he continued to work in sales. A friend had started a software company and Fardenesh bought in. In just two years, the company had grown and eventually was acquired by Hill International, a construction consulting firm. He continued to work at the firm as the vice president of sales, while earning his MBA at Sacramento State.

He and a friend had been experimenting with flavors for a line of sodas that became Silk Road Soda. Based on his recall of a drink that his grandmother used to make, the development took a lot of trial and error. He and his one employee would drive around town and sell directly to restaurants and grocery stores. He learned a great deal about flavor preferences from his customer discovery. The sodas offer pure flavor and are preservative-free. As the products were endorsed by local chefs and featured on, he knew he needed to scale and began reaching out to investors.

In 2020, there was a merger with Go Girl which resulted in the creation of Go Roads LLC.

Sister Libby Fernandez

SIster Libby Martinez

A Sister of Mercy since 1990, Sister Libby Fernandez graduated from Sac State with a Masters in Social Work. A former Executive Director of Loaves & Fishes, Sister Libby is the founder of Mercy Pedalers. She is one of Sacramento's most dedicated advocates for the city's homeless.

Mercy Pedalers serves the hungry and impoverished on the street, with squads of volunteers on bicyles and tricycles. They are packed with hot coffee, nutritional bars, cream, sugar and lots of hygiene items, from shampoo to hand sanitizer to toothbrushes and toothpaste. Her mission is to make a personal connection, building a sense of trust with the homeless. She would like Mercy Pedalers to expand to different neighborhoods and even other cities.

Nicholas Haystings

Nicholas Haystings

Nicholas Haystings, Sac State ’16 Mechanical Engineering grad and an environmental engineer by trade, now considers himself to be a “social engineer.” His mission is to engineer a better community by training the next generation of engineers and scientists that come from underserved areas.

Haystings created SquareRoot Academy, a non-profit that teaches science, technology, engineering and math to kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn. His educational program is accessible to the students who need it most, at no cost to them. His intention is to to get the students to think about a future in academics and industry, thereby changing the trajectory of their lives.

Tony Gutierrez

Tony Gutierrez is the CEO/Founder of Artic Fox Shaved Snow and Desserts in Rancho Cordova, CA. Tony Gutierrez Co-founded with his wife, they wanted to offer an healthy alternative for desserts. Their intention was to create a family-friendly dessert shop that offered high quality products and service. Artic Fox offers shaved ice with freshly pureed fruit. They also offer freshly brewed teas, using a specially engineered tea-spresso machine that brews with high pressure at the perfect temperature. This results in a naturally sweet, rich tasting tea. They also feature other specialty desserts and fruit puree beverages.

Tony graduated from Sac State with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

Shadi Khattab

headshot of Shadi Khattab

Shadi Khattab is the CEO of Onit Coffee and the COO of Precision M.D.

Shadi Khattab, a 25-year-old immigrant from the war-torn country of Syria decided to manifest his dream to build the next major coffee franchise in the greater Sacramento area. After falling in love with the human to human interaction of another major coffee franchise in Sacramento, Shadi set out to build a beautifully diverse company culture. He wanted to create that human to human interaction with customers and treat them like family.

Although the pandemic almost derailed his plan, his coffee truck, based in Elk Grove, has become a success. Additionally, Shadi is very motivated to give back to the community and has collaborated and donated to several nonprofit organizations including the Sacramento Food Bank, Sacramento Street Medicine and My Sister's House.

Shadi is also the COO of Precision MD Cosmetic Surgery Center, one of the top cosmetic centers in the greater Sacramento area with over 80 plus services. Ranging from fat reduction, beauty enhancement, recovery, and men's/women's health procedures.

Shadi leverages his social media platform of Instagram followers to "drive" people to Onit Coffee, which is a local minority-owned local business that is Sacramento proud and their motto is "impacting lives one cup at a time."

Paul Lau

Paul Lau

Paul Lau ’84 (Electrical Engineering) was at Sacramento State preparing for dental school, but he also knew how to code. That knowledge landed him an internship in 1982 with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, which provides electricity to the region.

That internship changed the course of his career.

Having already decided against dentistry, Lau was inspired to switch his major to Electrical Engineering.

Now, 38 years after walking through SMUD’s door as an intern, he has been named its chief executive officer. He officially took the reins of the community-owned utility on Oct. 3.

Over the course of nearly four decades, Lau has served in several capacities at SMUD, including assistant general manager of Customer, Distribution and Technology; assistant general manager of Power Supply and Grid Operations; and most recently as chief grid strategy and operations officer.

As CEO, he will lead the nation’s sixth-largest community-owned electric utility, which provides power for Sacramento County and parts of Placer and Yolo counties. #MadeAtSacState full article

-- Jonathan Morales, University Communications

Doug Lipp

Doug Lipp

Doug Lipp (MA in International Business Communications), president of G. Douglas Lipp & Associates is a consultant, speaker, author and former head of training at Disney University. After leaving Disney, he co-founded the Intercultural Relations Institute (IRI), a global consulting business with C. Clarke.

In 1993, he founded G. Douglas Lipp & Associates, a consultant firm that provides leadership, change management, customer service and global competitiveness services. He has authored eight books, including Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal and Customer-Centric Employees.

Doug has traveled internationally as a keynote speaker and is proud to have been Made At Sac State.

Dave Lucchetti

Dave Lucchetti hesdshot

Dave Lucchetti graduated from Sacramento State in 1967 with a degree in physical education, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2016. Dave is the President and CEO of Pacific Coast Building Products, a privately-held, family-owned company based locally (in Rancho Cordova) with operations in 70+ locations in North America, from Hawaii to Canada and points in between.

Under Dave's leadership, Pacific Coast Building Products, Inc. is among the nation's largest privately held firms. Additionally, Dave is one of Sacramento's leading philanthropists. He led many fundraising campaigns, including serving as honorary co-chair of Sierra Adoption Services and the Jesuit High School capital campaigns. The family pledged $18 million in 2005 to establish the Anderson Lucchetti Women's and Children's Center at the Sutter Medical Center.

Dave serves on the Carlsen Center Advisory Board.

Michael Lynch

Michael LynchMichael Lynch credits his support system with helping him earn two college degrees. He earned a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Humboldt State and was then accepted into Sacramento State's Capitol Fellows program. He then enrolled in the University's Masters in Public Policy Administration program. He felt that the faculty both pushed and supported him. He built relationships that allowed him to join with fellow alum, Michael Casper ‘10 (Communication Studies), in co-founding Improve Your Tomorrow, a non-profit that works to improve the college attendance of young men of color by providing academic support, college exposure, mentorship, workshops and internships.

The results are impressive. Improve Your Tomorrow has a 100% high school graduation rate and 89% of its alums are accepted to a 4-year college or university. And, in 2017, Improve Your Tomorrow and Sacramento State launched a partnership called IYT U aimed at increasing the number of black and Latino men who graduate on time and are prepared to enter the workforce.

Garry Maisel

Garry Maisel hesdshot

Garry Maisel graduated Sac State with a degree in finance and economics. Garry is President and CEO of Western Health Advantage (WHA) and his commitment to community is evident in his every action. As President, Garry has provided leadership at WHA from its start-up in 1996 to current recorded annual revenue of more than $800 million. WHA focuses on improving healthcare access and affordability and is known for developing innovative programs to expand coverage to the uninsured.

Garry serves on the Carlsen Center's Advisory Board.

Sandy Malaney

Sandy MalaneyUpon graduating with a degree in business from California State University, Sacramento, Sandy Malaney accepted a sales position from Lanier Business Products and became a top producer in outside sales. Later she joined Checkpoint Systems, selling security systems to retail companies. Malaney gained valuable information about the retail sector that would eventually lead her to her next career at a startup called Retail Technologies, Inc. (RTI) in 1990.

As vice president of sales and marketing, Malaney focused on sales, brand marketing, and expanding product line. When RTI eliminated its sales division to focus solely on software development, Sandy and her husband Mick opened a software distributorship that included selling and supporting RTI’s point of sale and inventory management solution — Retail Pro. Their family dog, Molly, an Old English Sheep Dog, inspired the business name: Big Hairy Dog.

Celebrating 27 years of success, Big Hairy Dog continues to expand in the retail market place, while providing an award-winning help desk to customers worldwide.

Pat McClain

Pat McClain headshot

Pat McClain is a co-Founder and Senior Partner at Allworth Financial, a financial planning and investment advisory firm with over 11,000 clients nationwide. He is a nationwide speaker at financial conferences and industry seminars.

Pat has co-hosted Money Matters, one of the longest-running financial radio programs in the country, for more than 20 years. Pat was named to Barron's list of the top 100 independent wealth advisors in America five times.

Dorian Ivan Medina

Dorian Ivan MedinaDorian Ivan Medina is the Owner/Founder of BLK BOX Mobile Fitness, a fitness business designed to bring fitness to you. Dorian graduated from Sacramento State in 2015 and was a former student-athlete and proud member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. Sports and Fitness were always a big part of his life and he knew that he wanted to pursue a career in one of those industries growing up. Dorian graduated from the Kinesiology program and found Crossfit about a month before graduation.

From 2016-2018 Dorian became homeless and slept on gym floors, in his car, on his friends couches, because of his desire to make Crossfit a career. During that time he was also able to compete at local fitness competitions to demonstrate his fitness and his pursuit of fitness competitions. In 2018 he was hired full-time to run a Crossfit gym where he learned more about sales, marketing, coaching, personal training, and running a business. In 2020 he founded BLK BOX Mobile Fitness serving the Sacramento community.

Mark Otero

Mark Otero

Mark Otero earned a B.S. in Computer Science and developed a successful social gaming company, Klicknation, that he eventually sold to video giant Electronic Arts. He became general manager of EA's BioWare Studios in Sacramento and San Francisco.

As an entrepreneur and game fanatic, he has become an expert in the field of social applications, virtual goods and free gaming. He has been credited with bringing technology to the region.

Subsequently, he became the managing partner and co-founder of Alice Capital. Mark named his Sacramento-based hedge fund Alice Capital because, like Alice in Wonderland, the markets can be scary and magical.

Steve Pleau

Steve Pleau headshot

Steve Pleau, who received his degree in Business Administration from Sacramento State, is the Founder and President of Future Automotive Group, a three-generation company that has grown from one downtown dealership started by his father, Eugene.

He started working for the family business in 1969 in the finance and insurance department then worked his way up to a general management position. In 1981, he branched off and opened his own dealership, Future Ford of Roseville. That dealership has since expanded into Future Automotive Group, an award-winning business empire that is comprised of nine dealerships, 13 franchises and two commercial service centers throughout Northern California. In 2011, the business expanded into Montana with one dealership.

Steve serves on the Carlsen Center's Advisory Board.

Anthony Romano

Anthony RomanoAnthony Romano is CEO of CREtelligent. In his role as CEO, his purpose is to evangelize the vision, raise and deploy capital, spread the ethos, and set the pace.

CREtelligent opened its doors more than six-years-ago as eScreenLogic, a Commercial Real Estate (CRE) environmental due diligence firm focused on desktop, RSRA, Phase I, and Phase II site inspections and reporting for commercial lenders and brokers. The company and market demand have grown quickly for a “one-stop” CRE due diligence platform that offers more than environmental expertise and services. As a result, CREtelligent has expanded to offer not only full-service Environmental Reporting but also Valuation, Property Condition, Flood (Natural Hazard), and a number of other tech-enabled services on their Radius Platform.

Anthony joined the CREtelligent team in December 2018 to lead business strategy and execution. He has been in executive and leadership roles at CoreLogic (NYSE: GLGX) and First American Financial (NYSE: FAF) where he was the Chief Revenue Officer for FAF’s Mortgage Solutions Division.

Prior to that, Anthony was a co-founder of CustomerLink Systems, a vertically integrated CRM platform service eventually acquired by Demand Force. He holds a business degree in management and economics from Sacramento State University.

Tamaira "Miss Tee" Sandifer

Tamaira "Miss Tee SandiferAs President of Studio T Urban Dance Academy & Founder of The California's Day of Dance, Tamaira “Miss Tee” Sandifer’s heartbeat is to champion the development of every child she can to build confidence, character & a conquering spirit that believes anything in possible.

Her passionate advocacy for the arts has taken her to the State Capitol where she partners with local and national civic leaders to bring arts-inspired, socially and culturally relevant incentives to the academic day. She works closely with Assembly members to ensure the arts are available, even in communities that are starved for programs. She created the idea of The California National Day of Dance to highlight the diversity and the power of unity through creativity.

Studio T produces Hollywood’s most sought after young dancers including THE 2016 winner of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, 2018 World of Dance stars, members of the Jabbawakeez Her graduates currently travel the world with artists and celebrities that include: Justin Beiber, Jennifer Lopez, Selena Gomez, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Usher, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Ellen & More. You’ll see her graduates on the stages of MTV Music Awards, Nick Choice Awards, BET Awards & more.

As an entrepreneur, educator, speaker & innovator her message is simple, serve, give from the heart, love hard, and DANCE!

Brent "Trayce" Sands

Brent "Trayce" sandsBrent "Trayce" Sands created Impound Comics. Sands was born and raised in Sacramento and #MadeAtSacState.

Impound Comics is a series based in Sacramento and all about the journey of a "Anthony Impound Endsley," a struggling MMA fighter and single father who develops superpowers. Sands was inspired by another Black superhero, Spawn, and later, Black Panther.

Sands had applied to obtain a kiosk in the DoCo (Downtown Commons) area, but, appreciating the concept of a Sacramento superhero, DoCo and the City of Sacramento offered him the opportunity for a store.

The store in DoCo has the comic series and other "Impound" merchandise, including coloring books for the younger set. For more about this creative entrepreneur, check out this article by Jonathan Morales.

John Sercu

John SercuJohn Sercu is an experienced Chairman and CEO with a demonstrated history of building teams, accelerating growth and turnarounds. M&A philosophy is to mentor leaders and provide infrastructure to help companies scale faster. John is skilled in Sales, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Team Building, Technical Recruiting, and Software as a Service (SaaS). He earned a BS in Business from Sac State, followed by completing a Graduate Management Program from the University of Washington.

Sadie St. Lawrence

Sadie St Lawrence is the Founder and CEO of Women in Data, the #1 Community for Women in AI and Tech. Women in Data is a community of over 20,000 individuals and has representation in 17 countries and 50 cities. Sadie St. Lawrence

She has trained over 350,000 people in data science and is the course developer for the Machine Learning Certification for UC Davis.

Her work has been featured in USA Today, Dataversity, and she is the recipient of the Outstanding Service Award, 10 Most Admired Business Women to Watch in 2021, and has been listed as a Top 21 Influencer in Data.

In addition, she serves on multiple start-up boards, and is the host of the Data Bytes podcast.H2 is not to be applied. Use Section Subhead. If you should need a second headline, use H3 or start a new section.

Sadie earned a B.A. in Psychology from Sac State.

Angelo Tsakopoulos

Angelp Tsakopoulos

Angelo Tsakopoulos (BA Government, BS Business Administration) is the founder and owner of the largest real estate development firm in the Sacramento region, AKT Development.

Over the past 50 years, AKT Development has developed over 60,000 homes and is the largest land development company in Northern CA. He is also a philanthropist that has made lasting contributions to the educational and regional community.

Leslie Valdivia

Leslie Valdivia

Leslie Vladivia, class of 2014, majored in public relations. Following graduation, she worked at nonprofits, government offices and PR agencies, pitching many stories to the news media.

After recognizing an opportunity to develop a cosmetics company that would effectively target Latinx women. In 2017, Leslie partnered with her friend, Joanna Rosario, to found Vive Cosmetics. They insure that their products reflect the Latinx culture, which includes brightly colored packaging. Makeup items have names such as "Lupita," "Mija," and "Spanglish."

Vive Cosmetics hires Latinx models that represent the diversity in the Latin culture. Leslie is a great example of a conscious female entrepreneur Made At Sac State!

Jason Vu

Jason Vu is the founder of AUTHMADE, a men's clothing line that has grown popular with several NBA teams, including the Sacramento Kings and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Read all about Jason in this Made At Sac State article by Jonathan Morales:

Like many kids, Jason Vu was into basketball – especially his hometown Sacramento Kings. jason-vu.jpg

As NBA players increasingly used their high-profile platform to show off stylish clothing and arena tunnels turned into de facto runways, however, Vu found his eyes increasingly drawn to the world of fashion.

“The player I really looked up to was Allen Iverson,” Vu said, referring to the flamboyant guard who built his Hall of Fame career mostly with the Philadelphia 76ers.

“He was just so different. He dressed differently. He brought that swagger onto the court with the arm bands and the headband, just the way that he wore his stuff to the games.”

Vu is the founder and creative director of AUTHMADE, a men’s clothing line launched in 2017 that established itself in Sacramento and beyond through collaborations with NBA teams like the Kings.

His clothing skills are largely self-taught, but Vu’s time in Sacramento State’s Master’s in Business Administration program gave him the skills to successfully run a business.

“Going to Sac State and learning about business really helped set myself up to be successful at running a company,” he said. Read full article here.

Lisa Wrightsman

Lisa WrightsmanAs a student-athlete at Sac State, Lisa Wrightsman, the soccer team offered a sense of community and connection. After graduating in 2005 with a degree in Communication Studies, Wrightsman was no longer being surrounded by the camaraderie and support of her teammates. She experienced personal struggles that resulted in addiction and homelessness. As she worked on getting sober, she competed in the 2010 Homeless World Cup. This inspired her to develop a pickup version of soccer in Sacramento.

She started with other women that she knew in recovery. Once she connected with Tiffany Fraser, also a Sac State Alum with a degree in Communication Studies, they worked together to launch a Street Soccer USA chapter in Sacramento. It is a part of a national organization that serves at-risk youth and the homeless. Wrightsman became the managing director and Fraser is the chief of staff.

The objective of Street Soccer USA is to provide a team atmosphere for fun and sport for people that would not have access to team sports. They also learn valuable life skills. About 500 people gather weekly in women’s, co-ed and youth leagues in O’Neil Park, where their facility is located.

They developed “Ladies First,” in partnership with the semi-professional team, California Storm, which provides girls ages 6-14 monthly soccer camps. They are led by an all-female staff that includes some former and current Sac State soccer players.

The experience of a team and sense of community and support is invaluable for all involved.