Shaping Dreams into Reality: How Orange County Higher Education Transformed Zak Beard Student Spotlight

April 16, 2024
Zachery Beard headshot

It’s a fact of life (and business) that innovation and entrepreneurship require nurturing and incubation. For aspiring entrepreneur Zak Beard, Irvine Valley College (IVC) and Saddleback College proved to be the ideal incubators for his unique fusion of passion, creativity, and perseverance. From crafting 3D prototypes to exploring the realms of business planning, Zak’s story reflects the spirit of exploration and growth that defines community college life.

Zak’s trajectory at IVC was initially propelled by his love for volleyball, drawing him to the college’s renowned men’s volleyball program. Reflecting on his time, Zak fondly recalls the camaraderie and mentorship fostered under the guidance of emeritus Coach Tom Pestolesi, describing him as “a really positive, down-to-earth guy.” The volleyball program not only honed Zak’s athletic prowess but also instilled in him a sense of belonging and community—a vital component of his college experience.

“Being on a team gives you a sense of community and a sense of belonging for sure,” he recalls. “I was goal-driven and still am — I wanted to go as far as I could with volleyball and see if I could take it to the next level. It helped balance out my college experience, so it was less goal-driven and more social.”

While later pursuing classes at Saddleback College, Zak was immersed in a project that would ignite his passion for innovation. In collaboration with Saddleback’s manufacturing division, Zak embarked on a quest to create a 3D prototype—an accessory for GoPro cameras for use while surfing. His ingenuity and determination bore fruit as he witnessed his creation come to life—a mouth mount that made it simpler (and safer) to capture epic moments from the surfer’s point of view.

“The experience spurred my interest in studying business,” says Zak. “I realized through the program that I can design and sell products, and that was exciting to me. I tend to go to where my passions are.”

Although Zak would later transfer and graduate in 2016 with a business degree from Cal State Fullerton, he enlisted the manufacturing lab at IVC to help him create a 3D prototype of the motor housing for a water-propelled surfboard he is currently designing.

Despite the success of his prototypes, Zak’s entrepreneurial journey encountered its share of challenges. Balancing academic pursuits with entrepreneurial endeavors, Zak has navigated the complexities of business planning and financial feasibility. Reflecting on his experiences, Zak candidly shares, “I call them projects because they’re not businesses until they’re profiting in my mind.” His resilience in the face of setbacks and his unwavering commitment to his dreams epitomize the spirit of innovation that thrives at IVC and Saddleback.

Reflecting on his time in community college, Zak remarks, “It was a cool combination of creativity and practical skills. I’m such a dreamer, being able to take my dream and make it into reality—it facilitated that. You could say it allowed me to go through the college system at a pretty low price and allowed me to try some different things.”

 As Zak embarks on the next chapter of his journey, he remains grateful for the formative experiences and invaluable lessons gleaned during his time at community college. From the guidance of supportive faculty to the ability to access innovative lab space, Zak’s journey epitomizes the transformative power of education as a launchpad for pursuing passions of any kind.