International Entrepreneurial Scholars: Stein Retzlaff ’16 and Erich Roepke ’16.
April 20, 2016
Erich and Stein recently arrived back home to Squaw Valley after two and half weeks in the Brazilian Amazon. While in the Amazon, they successfully broadcasted three live Skype feeds via Ice Axe Foundation to thousands of students around the world. The duo also completed the first ever Facebook Live event from on the Rio Negro via Global Green’s platform. Read more about their adventures in Tahoe Quarterly.
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A zest for adventure, the desire to advance the common good and the resources of the Center for Entrepreneurship have merged to launch Lewis & Clark’s first International Entrepreneurial Scholars, Stein Retzlaff, ’16 and Erich Roepke, ’16.
Roommates, teammates and friends, Stein and Erich bonded as first year students over shared interests including skiing and entrepreneurship. Their first entrepreneurial venture utilized technology and sweat equity. With classmates and the help of the C for E, they used Google Maps to locate stockpiles of discarded irrigation pipe on the edges of farm fields. They negotiated removal with farmers, and physically hauled the metal away to Portland where they could get the highest scrap price. With the help of the C for E’s Mentor Connections program, they found an alumnus who communicated spot pricing. They turned a profit, and Intrepid Resource Management (IRM) was born.
Stein and Erich gained experience, improved technique and expanded their business to take on more complex jobs. They took Entrepreneurial Innovation classes and learned more about business modeling and how to go from a good idea to an executed project. Erich noted, “the Lewis & Clark C for E Lab was our second home. We worked, planned, ate, even slept there at times. IRM’s close access to Lewis & Clark’s staff was what fueled our growth and made the most daunting aspects of a startup seem manageable.”
On a January 2016 ski trip they struck up a conversation with polar guide Doug Stoup, who told them about tons of discarded metal in Antarctica. Their curiosity piqued, they returned to the Center for Entrepreneurship to determine how to utilize their strengths to solve this environmental problem. Professor Amelia Wilcox, Acting Academic Director of the Center sat down with them several times to help them flesh out their ideas. She states “Our Center is not one size fits all. The beauty of the program is that we can provide input and resources across many planes. From brainstorming to execution, from inspirational talks to networking lunches, from professors in the classroom to targeted individuals in the business community, we meet students where they are.” Before the semester was done, Erich and Stein found themselves in a warehouse in Chile, planning their first venture to the island. Stein reports, “when we showed up at the doorstep of our Antarctic contacts in Chile, they immediately knew we were passionate about this project and that we were going to do everything in our power to make it a reality.”
In concert with the Career Center headed up by Director Rocky Campbell, Stein and Erich are reaching out to the professional community to hone their pitch and obtain advertising sponsors. Chrys Hutchings, Employer Relations in the Career Center, views it this way: “We recognize that most summer internships and entry level jobs are found via networking. We view helping the students learn to build their own network as an essential part of their education. The Career Center creates multiple opportunities for small group conversations based on shared interests. We also provide students with individual introductions to the professional community.” She added, “It is a natural extension to apply these methods to the needs of the Center for Entrepreneurship. I have followed Stein and Erich’s progress over the past two years and have enjoyed introducing them to contacts who can help them strategize about obtaining sponsors. Through the Career Center they have connected with private equity advisors, the CMO of a $500M shoe company, the filmmaker of a television show shot in the North Pole, a graphic designer, and, of course, accountants and business people. Everyone comes away impressed by these two young men and eager to help them meet their goals.” Erich followed, “the Career Center has put us in contact with some strategically placed friends and L & C alumni who have been invaluable to our progress. These connections have directly helped our cause. They have engaged their networks to find solutions for our venture.” He adds, “Lewis & Clark has laid an excellent foundation for countless students in the liberal arts. The Center for Entrepreneurship adds instrumental value to that education.”
Lewis & Clark is in the unique position of being in a world class city teeming with entrepreneurial spirit and successful professionals who are generous with their time. IRM has used the College’s contacts in Portland and beyond to help them evolve into a non-profit organization with plans to identify waste in remote regions, raise awareness and funds, and restore areas to pristine condition. Their first target? King George Island in Antarctica.
Erich and Stein are on target to exceed $1M in sponsorship to travel to Antarctica in January 2017 and break the world record for skiing from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole. This expedition will serve as the first phase of their project to bring global awareness to discarded waste on King George Island. Amelia Wilcox smiled, “I cannot wait to call them in a few years and ask them to help our next batch of entrepreneurship students. They follow in a long line of Lewis & Clark alumni helping the next generation of students achieve their goals.” Stein’s reply, “generosity and reciprocity have been and will remain crucial to our story. We have experienced those values in every relationship along the way, and are excited to share our story and advice with the next generation of Lewis & Clark entrepreneurs.”