From St. Edward's to ESTEEM

Author: Gene Stowe

Luisa Mayorga and Christina Lacamu (St. Edward's '18)Luisa Mayorga and Christina Lacamu (St. Edward's '18)

Luisa Mayorga and Christina Lacamu treasured the close-knit classes and attentive professors and mentors during their undergraduate years at St. Edward’s University, a 4,500-student institution founded by Notre Dame founder Rev. Edward Sorin in Austin, TX in 1877. They found the same community in the ESTEEM program and the same values across the Notre Dame campus. Both of them also discovered their entrepreneurial passion when they learned about ESTEEM from alumni who visited their classes for brief introductions.


“I didn’t even know really what an entrepreneur was,” says Luisa, a biochemistry major who also considered MBA and Ph.D. programs. “I was curious. I’m definitely a person that once I master a skill I’m ready for the next thing. I like to continue to be challenged.”


“ESTEEM is the community I wanted, and the Notre Dame community in general,” says Christina, a biology major who originally planned to go to medical school and found entrepreneurship as an alternative way to help people. “There are 45 of us in the class. We have almost all our classes together. The professors help us one-on-one. We’ve all gotten really close. It seemed a lot of us were in the same boat – we hadn’t done business or entrepreneurship before.”


Christina is doing entrepreneurship now. In addition to applying for five industry and faculty capstone projects, she pitched a founder’s project. She wound up working with a professor on a fitness app to measure such factors as weight, food, and activity – a biology-related endeavor with the technology edge she sought and the marketing experience of choosing targets such as users, nutritionists, and insurance companies. In addition, her founder’s pitch drew some interest from several classmates who are working on the side to develop a business collecting compostable waste from homes and selling the compost to individuals or farmers who want the recycled organic material enrichment.


Luisa applied to about dozen projects but wound up developing her founder’s pitch for a probiotic-infused pacifier that provides the bacteria missed in infants who are delivered Cesarean. Research increasingly shows that such bacteria are vital for developing a strong immune system and preventing chronic disorders. On the side, she and some classmates are pursuing an easy-open pill bottle for other adults that they conceived during their course on design entrepreneurship.


“Coming in, I’m not an entrepreneur,” says Luisa, who expects to work at her own startup, another startup, or as an intrapreneur inside a larger company after ESTEEM. “Now I’m 100 percent in the entrepreneurship game. ESTEEM marries science with technology and business.”


“I feel like ESTEEM is such a special program because we have so many opportunities we could do afterwards,” says Christina, who is applying for advisory roles in companies and hopes to pursue her startup when she returns home to Austin. “It was probably the best decision I ever made for myself.”