U2Ci colleagues who earned their MBAs at CSUEB are (l-r): Roderick Mariano, Calvin Fan, Nandana Hazarike and Jenerro Lockhart.
Four Cal State East Bay alumni are living out their dreams with their recently started marketing company, United to Connect International, and hoping to contribute to the CSUEB campus community on their journey to success.
“We want to give this image that we are all about giving back to the university,” said U2Ci Chief Operational Officer Calvin Fan ‘11. “It is from CSUEB professors that we received our education that enabled us to start U2Ci, and we want to encourage current students that anything is possible.”
Along with Fan, cofounders Jenerro Lockhart, Roderick Mariano and Nandana Hazarike are graduates from the first full-time MBA class of 2011 who began their self-funded marketing company while still enrolled at CSUEB.
The team’s mentor, CSUEB marketing Professor Norman Smothers, speaks highly of the group and said he sees great promise for their future in the marketing business.
“I admire their initiative,” said Smothers. “These four are a rare exception that makes us faculty smile.”
The founders of U2Ci pride themselves on providing marketing, branding, strategic planning and concept evaluation services to small and midsize businesses nationwide.
“We have a very diverse team with members from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds much like the representation of the diversity that CSUEB has,” said U2Ci Chief Executive Officer Jenerro Lockhart. “This has given us great dynamics when evaluating and brainstorming ideas and concepts.”
Smothers says the team’s diversity sets them apart from other marketing companies and provides them an edge over their competition.
“The diversity of skills, background and culture has helped them be successful,” said Smothers. “They are the poster children for the assertion that diversity is powerful.”
In their efforts to give back to the university, the marketing team invests time in guiding students of the CSUEB Entrepreneurship Association.
U2Ci has teamed up with the Entrepreneurship Association in reaching out to the broader community and providing their services where needed.
“We are heavily involved with the Entrepreneurship Association on campus,” said Lockhart. “Through this we have recently proposed plans to contribute to the enhancement of downtown Hayward by offering marketing assistance to struggling businesses.”
In hopes of revitalizing the downtown area, U2ci has plans to discuss a possible outreach program with alumnus Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney.
“We see quite a few empty storefronts in the downtown area,” said Mariano, U2Ci chief financial officer. “We hope that our services can fill some of those empty locations.”
Since their start in October 2010, the marketing team has provided their services to a spectrum of companies in the food, retail and healthcare industries. The marketing’s team clients range from New York-based ACC Construction to mom and pop shops around the Bay Area.
Despite the poor state of the economy, U2Ci has managed to stay afloat.
“We are surviving,” said Mariano. “Our business is continuing to grow because of word of mouth. “
Members of the self-funded marketing company pride themselves on the close relationships they form with clients. U2Ci customizes client portfolios and marketing plans to meet each client’s specific needs.
“We try to take a more personal approach,” said Lockhart. “We’re not like the traditional marketing companies. We strategically plan so as (our clients) grow, we grow with them.”
In their future endeavors the U2Ci team has plans to hire CSUEB student interns who have a passion for marketing.
Based in Oakland, U2Ci is growing steadily and seeking out new clients.
“We want to be on that multi-million dollar company level,” said Lockhart. “We’re excited for what the future holds.”