11 questions with MS in Entrepreneurship student Zachary Dodds

We asked current Foster students to tell us why they chose Foster, what they like to do for fun, and to share advice with potential applicants. Meet Master of Science in Entrepreneurship student Zachary Dodds.

Zach with his prototypes

Zach with his candle prototypes

1) Where are you from?

I’m 4th generation Arizonan, raised in Scottsdale, AZ, and have been living in the Seattle area for over 4 years.

2) What did you do before entering this program?

A patchwork of things! I graduated from Arizona State with a degree in biomedical engineering with a focus on prosthetic hands. After graduation, I pursued a career in music, playing in garage-rock and singer-songwriter projects. During that time, I subsidized my income doing remote contract work for Google and Facebook. At 28 years old, I felt I’d given music my best shot, failed, and needed to move on. I decided to keep the entrepreneurial spirit going, moved to the Northwest, and started a couple small businesses in the sticker and automation spaces. Five years later, the businesses have supported me, affirmed my love of constant trouble-shooting, and allowed me the luxury to go skateboarding in the middle of my weekdays.

3) Did you have any entrepreneurship experience before entering this program?

Yes, it included my years in the music business and founding two small B2C companies. My experiences have been scrappy and lean with an “all hands on deck” ethos. I’ve never had large budgets to work with, so I’ve had to learn most aspects of business myself.

4) Tell us why you are excited to be a part of the second cohort for the MS ENTRE degree program?

I love that UW has invented a program that’s a mash-up of an MBA and an accelerator with something to prove! It’s a golden era for entrepreneurship in Seattle right now, and I count myself lucky to be here in this space and time. Previously, being a solo entrepreneur was lonely and I didn’t have the feedback I needed to make better decisions, so I’m excited to be surrounded by my cohort and faculty at UW. We throw ideas back and forth, support each other, and some members of the first cohort have been generous enough to help coach us through this year.

5) What are your thoughts on the entrepreneurship scene in Seattle?

From what I’ve seen, it’s a little more risk averse, so hype will only get you so far. Your ideas need to withstand trial by fire and also have data to further validate them. It’s a city of engineers, so innovation is king while trendiness is more of an afterthought. It’s a metropolitan city where most everyone is pressed for time, but if you have a great idea and are actively passionate about it, they will go out of their way to help support you. Overall, there is a true kindness and feeling of community.

6) What connections are you hoping to make while in the program?

I came into the program wanting to connect with Maveron, angel investors, founders of consumer product companies, licensing experts (especially Funko), and most of all, mentors. We’re in our second quarter, and all the mentioned connections have been made or are an e-mail away when needed. The program has also recently connected me with pro-bono patent attorneys; a huge help since I was not expecting to patent anything for my new business, happened to invent something, and have very little budget for attorney’s fees. A huge part of the program’s value is fast-tracking you into the local entrepreneurial community!

7) Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

In five years, when I’m 38 years old, I would love to have started the process of purchasing a home with my partner on one of the Northwest islands, have a workshop with a handful of employees and robots helping me run my candle business (what I’m currently working on in the program), and to have the finances and time to be more of service to friends and family who are scattered around the globe; fly out to help them move, sit with them at doctor’s appointments, be with them to mourn their losses and celebrate their triumphs.

8) What skills and/or knowledge are you looking to develop?

I particularly want to sharpen my skills in finance, accounting, logistics, and leadership.

9) What do you like to do for fun?

I have a lot of fun doing the entrepreneurial thing, and I also have fun gardening, skateboarding, playing pinball, doing the same hikes throughout the year so I can see them change with the seasons, discovering new music and art, eating pizza, and hanging out with my partner and best-friend, Elise.
Zach eating pizza


10) What’s been your favorite part of the program so far?

The faculty. I previously never had professors who were at such a high level of intelligence and had the ability to teach so effectively. They’re a team of superstars.

11) What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about applying to the MS ENTRE degree program?

If you have a business with traction, ask yourself how important is it to hit exponential growth this year vs next year. If it is truly time sensitive, I’d opt for an accelerator like Y Combinator, Techstars, or the Foster Accelerator at UW where you can devote 100% of your time to growth and focus on only learning what you need for your specific business at this specific time. My experience is that the MS ENTRE program is geared for those who want to prepare for a lifetime of starting new ventures and want both a broad and deep understanding of early-stage businesses that can be applied across industries. It’s about taking a little extra time now to execute faster in the long run. Previous to this program, I did my best to fill gaps in my knowledge by reading books, articles, or taking online courses like those offered through Stanford. There wasn’t a strong feedback loop from that process though. Engaging with professors and the cohort on a daily basis has exposed even more gaps in my knowledge, and we work to eliminate those vulnerabilities at least 5x faster than I was able to on my own. Regarding the culture of the program, be assured that it’s a great place to be! Ours is a healthy, supportive, diverse, creative, and joyful environment with a strong work ethic! 🙂

Learn more about the Master of Science in Entrepreneurship program

This post is part of a series where we ask current students to answer 11 questions about their experience at Foster. Explore the 11 questions tag for more interviews.

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