Eric Smith ’12 sees himself as a bridge-builder between institutions such as the UA — with its vast technological promise — and businesses or governments hoping to collaborate. His official title is business development manager for Tucson-based tech company Aztera. Among other things, Aztera’s staff of mechanical, electrical, and software engineers creates prototypes for tech entrepreneurs and top national companies. 

When Cassandra Weinman ’11 graduated with a journalism degree, she knew she wanted to help make the world a better place. And she has — not through words, but through clothes. Brand Together, the Los Angeles nonprofit Weinman created with friends, takes what she calls “a luxury twist on the Goodwill business model” by gathering donations of high-end clothing and accessories — think Gucci handbags and Prada skirts — and selling them to raise funds for charities.

It is used by millions of people and hundreds of thousands of organizations across the globe, from Fortune 500 firms to freelance creatives who sell their wares on Etsy.

Basecamp, launched by Jason Fried ’99, started as a way for his team to manage projects for his company, 37Signals.

As clients noticed how easy it was to use, “a lightbulb went off,” says Fried, and 37Signals decided to put Basecamp on the market. It is now one of the top project management programs worldwide. 

One afternoon, Dominic Johnson ’98 and his wife, Kristel Johnson ’00, watched a beat-up ice cream truck rumble through their neighborhood. “And I said to Kristel, sort of kidding, that if someone could build a non-creepy ice cream truck, they’d have a business,” Dominic Johnson recalls. 

The idea stuck. “I kept brainstorming, and that’s when I came up with the concept of an old-fashioned ice cream truck — one that was the complete opposite of an ugly ice cream van.”

Shannon Sartin ’09 is the kind of multitasker who can take care of business and help society at the same time. Sartin is vice president of federal operations for AudioEye, a Tucson-based cloud-service company for website owners and publishers. She also is the owner of Scraps on Scraps, an innovative nonprofit that provides residential pickup for food and green waste throughout metro Tucson. 

When it comes to recycling with a military flavor, few do it better than Jen Crane ’05 and her husband Eli. They’re the founders of Bottle Breacher, a company that sells bottle openers made from refinished .50-caliber ammunition. 

Eli Crane, a former Navy SEAL, got the idea for the Bottle Breacher when his brother, Gabe — a Marine who flew SuperCobra helicopters — brought him a similar product he found in the Philippines. “Eli looked at it,” Jen Crane recalls, “and realized that it was very cool, but it could be made a lot better.” 

When Kysha Mounia ’98 and her sister D’Anna moved west to Arizona, they were dismayed to find that the kind of rich African-American culture they had grown up with in Gary, Indiana, was all too rare.

So the women, both entertainment-industry professionals, began thinking about ways to build connections between young African-Americans and their heritage. 

The result is Quiztory, a brainy black-history multimedia app cleverly disguised as a trivia game for teens.

It started with an ad on Craigslist from a campus-area restaurant that wanted an elaborate and artistic chalkboard menu. Ashley White ’09 responded and spent the next couple of weeks with chalk in her hand. Word of her talent spread — and she’s been busy ever since. 

Of course, the concept for her hand-lettering and illustration company, Modern Aquarian, had been building for years. “I’ve always drawn, since I was a kid,” she says. 

“I love making art for other people.” 

Remove the top of one tomato plant and graft it to the root of another and what do you get? A stronger, more resistant tomato plant that yields great-tasting fruit. 

Try the Lemon Boy or Early Girl tomatoes created by Grafted Growers, a local Tucson startup owned by alumni entrepreneurs. These grafted tomatoes produce a yellow-colored tomato with a sweet and tangy taste or a flavorful red tomato perfect for sandwiches and salads. 


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