Student Success

Kate Lynn


Associate & Platform Manager at 46 Venture Capital 

Bachelor of Finance

Before joining 46VC, Kate worked at Wefunder, an equity crowdfunding platform, where she led their expansion to Northwest Arkansas and Tulsa. Prior to that, she was Venture Intern at Rejoicy, a Bentonville-based e-commerce startup.

One thing I really loved about the Venture Intern Program and just Northwest Arkansas is the entrepreneurial community in general and how tight knit it was. I remember even during my internship I was able to connect with so many different founders and entrepreneurial support organizations. I met many of these people when I was an intern, and now I get to still see them at events and collaborate with them often. It was really great to start building that relationship so early.” 

“There's nothing better than learning by doing and the exposure that I was able to get working right alongside the cofounders of the  Rejoicy team was really awesome. I definitely learned how to take initiative and become more comfortable in these ambiguous environments. I learned how to pivot and fail quickly.” 

“I think you get out what you put into it. My biggest encouragement is just to really lean in and try to go to as many of the events as possible. Try to connect and build a deep relationship with the team that you're working with and your supervisor, but also take advantage of connecting with the others at your company and within Venture Intern Program. It was great to build that network early on as well. Other biggest thing is to be curious, ask good questions and take initiative.” 

Wenjie Zhu


Product Manager of Global Sourcing Optimization at Walmart

Bachelor of Architecture

"Through the Venture Intern Program, McMillon Innovation Studio, and Office Hours, I have learned all good things start small. OEI not only taught us about entrepreneurial frameworks, but provided hands-on training. The experience that I gained from OEI has been so valuable and helped me to know what I really want to do. Now changing the world doesn't seem so unattainable."

Toma Tomonari


Technical Product Manager at Ox

Bachelor of Computer Science

Originally from Japan, Toma came to US to study computer science and during his junior year he joined McMillon Innovation Studio followed by OEI Student Advisory Board.

I would say entrepreneurship is about being comfortable with the unknowns. I found the problem I wanted to solve, and during senior year I started to work on my own entrepreneurial project. Initially I was doing the project by myself, and I invited other members to join the team, help further develop the idea, and prepare for pitch competitions. I didn’t know much about business plan or pitch competitions, but I received help from multiple OEI mentors who helped us identify the problem, navigate uncertainties, and prepare the pitch.”

Toma’s team won $10,000 in Small Business Division at the Arkansas Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition.

“Every single thing that I did [during these programs], helped me form holistic view and understanding of design thinking and startups. As a product manager, we always have to think about the user persona, what do they do, what do they know, how do they struggle, what do they struggle with, what's the challenge and how do we solve that. At Ox, I realized, design thinking is huge in product management. Typically, people get a product manager position after advanced degrees, but I was able to get it right after graduation due to the many projects I worked at the Studio. I learned a lot from the Studio, like effectively working with teams, keeping everyone motivated, and building good relationships.

RyLeigh Werner


Pathfinders Program Manager & Founder of Thrive Tutoring

Bachelor of Supply Chain Management and Economics

“One of the things about OEI is that they allow you to do what you would like, as long as you take that initiative. They allow freedom for creativity and building your own kind of path.” 

After participating in McMillon Innovation Studio and the Student Advisory Board, Ryleigh created her own Pathfinders Program through OEI. Pathfinders is 10-week program that builds innovative leadership skills through activity-based training. 

My inspiration for Pathfinders was engaging with students at a younger age to get them to know about OEI and the opportunities that we have. The way that I structure the program is based off my experience in leadership roles, so trying to instill the values, the mindset, and the skills that you need to really flourish in leadership. The greatest thing about OEI is being surrounded by diverse people and I brought that into the Pathfinders motto: we welcome the curious, the motivated, and the visionary.” 

Driven by passion help students, Ryleigh also started Thrive Tutoring for students at the University of Arkansas.  

“I worked for local tutoring businesses, but I needed more flexibility in terms of what I could do. I had over 1000 hours of experience in tutoring and knew I could provide better value for students and other tutors. As an entrepreneur you get to build everything yourself. So, if you want to have a social impact with your company, you can. If you feel like something's not working and you should do something differently, you can do that. I just think that the limitations are really just yourself, and that can be a very scary thing. But it can also be very empowering to know that you can achieve these things, and that it really only comes down to you.” 

Smit Patel


Medical Student at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering

“It’s totally changed my perspective being in the McMillon Innovation Studio and surrounded by people at the Brewer Hub. I used to think entrepreneurs were big billionaires. When I thought of entrepreneurs, Mark Zuckerberg came to mind; Bill Gates came to mind. I couldn’t be that. But actually it’s wrong to think that way because whenever you see a problem, that’s an opportunity to innovate. So an entrepreneur is anyone and everyone who sees a problem and does something about it. As simple as that.”