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Odalis Martinez-Up and Coming Entrepreneur

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

Odalis Martinez came to the Lab, and into our lives, in the fall of 2017 two years after coming to ICC from Venezuela on a volleyball scholarship. She used to speak of a desire to return someday to “fix” her country. Anyone who knew Odalis at ICC will agree that she might do just that. In the meantime, she works on her dream to someday become a business owner. 

To America With $170 and No English 

Because I did not speak any English, I struggled from the very beginning with school and making friends. I had to work two and sometimes three times harder to keep up with my grades since I had to translate everything from English to Spanish and Spanish to English. I experienced culture shock, homesickness, and it was hard for me to adapt to the teaching system. I performed poorly in my volleyball season and lost my volleyball scholarship. My parents were already in debt back home because we did not have money to pay my flight ticket nor to cover the other expenses. I came with only $170 in my pocket that I borrowed from two people back home. I felt a lot of pressure, stress, and anxiety for not knowing how to pay for school and that my parents were freaking out in Venezuela. Even though my parents had no money, I could not qualify for Financial Aid nor ask for a loan as an International student. 

Despite the storm that was going through my life, I continued pushing through my classes and ended my first semester with the highest GPA on the volleyball team. I received the Presidential Scholarship and an ICC Foundation Scholarship that helped me pay for part of my tuition. To bridge the gap, I cleaned the gym and washed the team's uniforms as a work study. I also washed cars, tutored, cleaned houses, and baby-sat among other things when someone would give me the chance. 

In my second semester, I received an invitation to join Phi Theta Kappa, the largest International Honor Society for two-year colleges. My first year at our PTK chapter at ICC, I served as the Chair of Activities and then became Vice-President. 

Discovering Fab Lab ICC 

In the fall of 2017, I saw a flier about Fab Lab ICC hiring. I had heard great things about the Fab Lab and how you could build things on your own in there. Even though I had a nice job at the school library and had a wonderful boss, I just felt that working for the Fab Lab would be a dream job. I ran to the Fab Lab to ask to for an opportunity to work. I met with Tim Haynes, the manager and he asked me if I took Accounting classes. Tim proceeded to introduce me to Jim Correll, the Director and ultimate boss. As soon as I met Jim I said "Oh! You are the guy from the newspaper, you are famous." Jim laughed and said "thank you! Wow, do you read the newspaper?” I said "yes, I do sometimes, is that bad?" He replied "well, that’s just impressive because most people your age don’t read the newspaper anymore." I replied "well, I am different!" He said "yes, I can see that." The conversation continued and there I was, a new member of the Fab Lab team. 

“My very first week, I noticed things the Fab Lab could improve on. I was not shy and shared my opinions with Jim and Tim. They looked excited about my desire to help the Lab improve and gave me freedom to make things and listened to my ideas. I learned a lot of things while working there but what impacted me the most was to be around the Lab team and especially Jim. He empowers and guides people to go and follow their dreams. Jim became a mentor and a role model to me. 

A Change In Mindset 

“In the spring 2018, I took the Entrepreneurial Mindset class that Jim facilitates. This class is based on the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program and a guidebook “Who Owns the Ice House?”. The program includes video content about entrepreneurship. We had area guest speakers who have their own businesses. They shared about how they got started, the challenges and rewards that come with owning a business. This class showed me there is not always a need for big capital to start a business. Several speakers including the ones from the videos started little by little. I learned that we have to get out of our comfort zone and take the risk when opportunities come knocking at our door. My dream and goal is to have my own business within the next ten years and as with the speakers from this class, I am starting little by little and on my way to building my dream. 

“My PTK chapter encouraged me to run for National office but to be honest, I was scared. I freaked out when I knew that would mean attending a rally, competing against the smartest and sharpest college students in the Nation, and being interviewed in front of more than 600 people. There was also the possibility of giving a speech in front of more than 2,000 people at an International Conference. I talked to Jim, and my chapter members but I still was not sure about running.  The same week when I went to the Entrepreneurial Mindset class, I heard that yes, great opportunities might be scary, but they might come only once. Furthermore, we have the choice to pass or to enter the door of opportunity. I honestly thought that this night’s lesson was speaking directly to me. After that, I decided to live with no fear of opportunities and ran for International President of PTK. My life definitely changed with all the lessons and learning I received from the Entrepreneurial Mindset class. I highly recommend the class to students and non-students and all the community of Independence and the surrounding area. 

Odalis will graduate from Mississippi State University this spring. The next “Mindset” class starts January 15. 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu or Twitter @jimcorrellks. Archive columns and podcast at jimcorrell.com. 

Cutline: Odalis Martinez soon after she came to Fab Lab ICC as a work study. 

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