Entrepreneurship and FIRST

I’ve noticed a strong correlation between people who are actively involved with FIRST and entrepreneurship. In other words, the percentage of my FIRST friends who have a “side gig” is significantly higher than my non-FIRST friends that do.

This makes complete sense for many reasons. FIRST itself is very entrepreneurial in nature, and breeds many of the skills that entrepreneurs require in both students and mentors alike. The people who are involved with FIRST are generally very passionate, high achieving, and motivated - again all positive traits for an entrepreneur.

I would love to learn more about entrepreneurs in the FIRST community. If you have a side gig, or know a somebody with one, it would be awesome to hear about it! Or maybe your side gig has turned into your primary source of income, that would be awesome too! For anybody who is interested in starting their own company, this would be a great place to ask any questions you might have.

I hear @Ryan_Dognaux is pretty thrifty in his spare time… @Andy_Baker and @Greg_Needel both have companies that some of you might have heard of…

What are some other examples from the FIRST community and what is their story?


Not that I want to speak for someone else, but I highly highly recommend that everyone check out and follow @shelbyrosebakingco on Instagram and Redirecting...

She has THE coolest decorated cookies of various FRC teams, and the instagram is a joy to follow.

Like…how freaking cool is that???

Personally, I have a small side business for photography that has died down quite a bit due to everything in 2020, which is why all my recent photos are just my dog…

I’ve shot some small weddings, engagements, etc.

Instagram: @rastogi.shots


Aren’t you forgetting your school for kids who want to do robots good and do other stuff good to?


Thanks for bringing this up, Ryan. I love being an entrepreneur. It’s difficult, but thrilling.

I agree that there is a direct correlation between being on a FIRST team and running a small business. Both are challenges with too much to do and not enough resources.

Another program that I’ve been involved with as a board member, sponsor, and parent is the CEO program, operated by Midland Institute. We started a CEO class here in Kokomo back in 2014, and it has been great for our local students and community (Kokomo CEO).

If anyone has questions for me regarding entrepreneurship and the creation and development of AndyMark, please ask.

Andy Baker
Co-founder and president
AndyMark, Inc.


Something that has been niggling away at me for a while now, and something that I view as a barrier of entry for when starting a small business, is how do you source manufacturers/suppliers? Seeing @Ryan_Dognaux develop the thrifty bot over the last year has been amazing. How did he or others find who is manufacturing their parts?

Manufacturing in house is awesome if you can, but not always the most viable option.


At a Coaches and Mentors Workshop hosted by two of the local powerhouse teams several years ago, a group of students were talking about their experiences and the amount of time (and how little sleep they got) and the dedication they put into the program.

I told them that their work ethic and “do what it takes” attitudes were what I saw when working at several successful (post) start-up companies. They just need to continue building their skills and a good idea :slight_smile:

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@PatrickW and Swerve Drive Specialties

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I can think of at least 2 correlations.

  1. Many FIRST’ers are over-achievers. Not because of FIRST, but because of who they are. They might be more likely to take on the challenges of being an entrepreneur.

  2. Coopertition: You get used to cooperating and competing, so you might be more likely to think, “Hey, if I can do this, maybe someone else will benefit from my experience/ability.”


I’d guess an important factor is that FRC teaches people how to work together as as team on a technical challenge, the more experience you have with going into an unknown and figuring out and implementing a solution, the easier it is to do in “real life”.

Embark which is one of the leaders in autonomous trucking was founded by Alex Rodrigues, who is a Team 4334 alum, as well as a former mentor for Team 1114. There are a lot of articles out there on Alex, but this one from Forbes sticks out. FIRST folks may know him better as one of the lead mentor designers of 1114’s infamous “harpoons” in 2015.

If you want to hear other stories of FIRST alums who founded their own companies, you should take a look at this recent episode of FIRST Canada LIVE! where we had a panel discussion with 5 alums/volunteers who started their own companies. These include:

@Jonathan_Norris, 610 alum, FIRST Canada VC, co-founder of Taplytics.
Mike Yan, 610 alum, co-founder of Heliolytics.
Pat Martinson, FIRST Canada Head Ref, co-founder of Clearpath Robotics.
Karen Lee, 771 alum, FIRST Canada FTA, founder of Glou Beauty.
Celeste Nantel, 1360 alum, FIRST Canada GA, co-founder of Acrylic Design.

The episode is a really cool listen as you hear the stories of all these founders include some of the struggles they’ve faced along the way. Definitely recommended for any FIRSTer interested in entrepreneurship.


I was thinking about that episode when I was reading the first post in this thread.

Several of the alumni from teams in the Houston area (and at least one mentor) have gone on to work in start-ups, some started by them.

Those interested in entrepreneurship might enjoy the “How I Built This” podcast. If I recall correctly, Karen, one of the alums in the video linked by @Karthik mentioned it.

I’m very surprised no one brought up Innovation FIRST (IFI) yet.
This article by JVN tells its story neatly:


Alex and Embark are in the news again. This time for the tune of 5.2 billion dollars!


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