As a teenager in Germany, Markus Biegel (Class of ’08, B.A. Marketing and International Relations) was always looking for ways to make extra money. Today the Los Angeles resident is a very successful “serial entrepreneur,” owning his own business consulting company and investing in several startups. On the pathway to his success, Biegel earned two bachelor’s degrees at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), where he served as vice president of Associated Students Inc., sat on the board of directors for the Loker Student Union and was involved in the CSUDH student chapter of the American Marketing Association.
Biegel’s education did not end at CSUDH; he continued on to receive two master’s degrees at CSU Long Beach, earning him a grand total of five college degrees, including his associate’s degree from Los Angeles Harbor College. His commitment to hard work continued as he formed his consulting company after graduation.
Though he clearly has a busy schedule, Biegel gladly spoke with Dateline Dominguez, sharing his experience and some tips for future entrepreneurs.
DD: When did you know you wanted to own your own business (let alone several)?
MB: I think I always had a desire to run my own business, but I did not get serious about it until my senior year at CSUDH when I co-founded a tech startup (LeadLink LLC) with two fellow undergraduate students. I graduated in May 2008 looking at a very gloomy job market owning 30 percent of a tech startup that was pre-revenue. I decided to escape to Europe for two months, soaking up the sun, visiting family and friends, while figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I came to the conclusion that I needed to do something that 1) makes me happy, 2) that I am really good at, and 3) that I can quickly profit on. So I launched a business consulting firm focusing primarily on improving the operations of small businesses.
DD: How many [companies] have you had since?
MB: In 2009, I started doing a lot of equity consulting in which I exchanged my time and expertise for a small ownership percentage in a company, which is how I gained equity in over a dozen companies. Perhaps most notable, was my involvement with Unified People, a fashion brand that has been worn by over 100 celebrities, featured in over 50 publications, distributed internationally and even participated in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Madrid, Spain.
DD: What are you current business ventures?
MB: I am currently the chief executive officer of NeedMediaNow, which is a hybrid digital media company that combines a digital media-publishing firm with a digital consulting firm. In short, we own and operate websites while offering a portfolio of digital services to clients. In March 2014, I became the chief operating officer at Benni Barker, a dog designer brand that manufactures premium dog bow ties, which had a successful launch of its e-commerce website back in June. For the past year I have also been a partner in a tech startup that is currently in stealth mode but has exciting things planned for the first quarter of 2015.
DD: There’s a quote from you on one of your web sites, ‘Take a risk. If it fails at least you have a good story to tell. If it works you have an even better story to tell.’ Have you taken a risk that failed? What did you learn from it?
MB: I have taken plenty of risks that failed. Here are some of my key lessons for entrepreneurs:
- Don’t trust blindly a charming stranger or a friend when it comes to business. Always verify until you have built up professional trust.
- Don’t make personal loans to friends, make it a gift. Don’t make business loans to friends, make it an investment if the business deserves it. Tell them why if the business doesn’t deserve it.
- You must develop the habit to want to continuously improve yourself and your business. This requires humbly reflecting on one’s weaknesses regularly.
- The first time is always the scariest. Document everything and stay organized about it. Sooner or later you will be in a lawsuit. If you are the person with all the documents you are probably not the bad guy.
DD: Speaking of learning, what attracted you to CSU Dominguez Hills and how did your time here prepare you for your career?
MB: Dominguez Hills was less impacted with students than [CSU] Long Beach, which was very important to me because I wanted to get my degree as fast as possible. I did four degrees in 7 years and even took a year off before I started my MBA. I had a great time at Dominguez Hills. I was a member of the Marketing Association, vice president of Associated Students Inc., sat on the board of directors for the Loker Student Union as well as other university committees. In those roles we dealt with some very serious problems and that perhaps gave me the added confidence I needed to go start my own business.
DD: Did you have any particular professors who influenced you?
MB: There are so many memorable and friendly professors in the College of Business Administration and Public Policy: Barbara Chrispin and Jim Katzenstein from management. John Cassidy and Ricardo Ulivi from finance. The marketing dream team comprised of Natasa Christodoulidou, Melissa St. James, Meng Zhao and Kirti Celly. Last but not least, Hamoud Salhi, the person who almost made me want to get a third degree in political science.
DD: What advice do you have for current students?
MB: First, take full advantage of what the campus has to offer to you, which goes way beyond the classroom. Get to know your professors. They know a lot of people who could potentially hire you. Get to know the administrators and let them introduce you to affluent alumni. Second, we are in Los Angeles, one of the most talented and therefore competitive places in the world. Get a job, do an internship, volunteer for a cause or start a business. Do the most you can to gain experience and stand out in this competitive market.
DD: Lastly, you are such a driven person, given the number of degrees you have, and the number of ventures you’re involved in; do you ever relax?
MB: I believe that as an entrepreneur your mind is always somewhere in the startup cloud but I try to relax as much as I can. In my initial startup years, I worked relentlessly 100 hours a week without any vacation, even jeopardizing my health, but that has changed drastically. These days I eat healthy, run almost daily, take time to play with my two dogs and try to see my friends whenever our schedules sync up. My new motto is “Be successful at life before you try to become a success in business.”