Interview by Derek Grosso
Mike Ong is President of the Business Builders Club, a group of passionate students who collaborate with the Columbus community and organizations around the world to foster entrepreneurship at The Ohio State University. Born in Jakarta, Indonesia and raised in Cleveland, OH, Mike set his sights on Ohio State with entrepreneurship in mind. He’s also currently involved with community efforts such as GiveBackHack, a launchpad for social impact, and US Together, a nonprofit agency focused on the needs of refugees and immigrants in central Ohio. Mike is a shining example of someone who is working to solve real problems while creating value in the world.
Name: Mike Ong
Year in School and Major Field of Study: Fourth year undergraduate at The Ohio State University studying Accounting
Neighborhood: University District
Where did you grow up and what brought you to The Ohio State University?
I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia then raised in Cleveland, Ohio. The biggest allure to Ohio State University was the resources it provided. I came into Ohio State with entrepreneurship in mind. I was sold on the fact that Columbus had an emerging start-up ecosystem and Ohio State had strong programs from the STEM fields to business. The combination of these two things seemed like a perfect storm to fulfill my entrepreneurial goals.
What are you looking forward to most during your senior year at OSU?
I’m looking forward to seeing the culmination of my four years at Ohio State from seeing the growth of underclassman to seeing how Columbus as an eco-system has developed.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a college student?
The biggest challenge is managing my time and evaluating which opportunities I should pursue.
What advice has helped guide you through college (so far)?
School is just school, work is just work and there’s more life outside of it. A lot of things that come up like job interviews or finals seem like the end-all and be-all, but there is more life than that. One of my favorites quotes is “It’ll be alright in the end. And if it’s not alright it’s not the end.” The quote gets attributed to Lennon a lot, but I’m unsure of exact origin.
What’s the story behind the Business Builders Club? How did it first get started, how is it organized, who can join?
Business Builders Club is a group of passionate students who collaborate with the Columbus community and organizations around the world to foster entrepreneurship. The BBC recruits, educates, and funds talented students at Ohio State. Our members are excited by the challenges and opportunities provided by entrepreneurship. Some of us are determined to end poverty. Some of us want to be millionaires. All of us want to change the world.
Our structure is weekly general body meetings, which are open to the public, and a few flagship events throughout the year from start-up career fairs to pitch competitions. Membership is open to all Ohio State students! The best way to join is attending one of our weekly general body meetings (Tuesdays at 8:00PM). Also, follow us on social media [Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter] to get the most up to date information on all things BBC!
Who has been one of your most memorable BBC meeting speakers or events?
One of my most memorable speakers is Jason Fried the CEO of BaseCamp and author of Rework. Jason Fried challenges the typical status quo of the entrepreneurship mindset of working 80 hours a week and overworking yourself. Jason basically got me to force myself to sleep 8 hours a night.
You’re also organizer of GiveBackHack. Can you tell us about that?
GiveBackHack is about bringing communities together to solve social issues with the power of entrepreneurship. The best part about GiveBackHack is the wide range of community members we get to come out to our events from business professionals to non-profit managers, so we could truly get a holistic solution for the problems we see. GiveBackHack is readily expanding to more major cities with the illustrious Suzy Bureau at the helm. Follow us on social media to hear about when GBH is happening in Columbus and other cities!
What are your career aspirations? What do you want to do for a living?
I do not have specific career aspirations. My goal is to work with a team of smart and talented individuals working to solve real problems and creating value in the world.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
As a kid, I really wanted to be a lawyer. I still might – who could say?
What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs?
My two biggest pieces of advice are you do not have to go all in and entrepreneurship is something anyone can do. I recommend setting aside 5-10 hours a week to work on truly validating a business and getting that validation before making any major lifestyle changes.
If you could have a superpower, which would you choose?
I would definitely choose time control. It would be great to just pause time and catch-up on all the work / Netflix shows I need to.
What are 3 recommendations you would have to an incoming Ohio State freshman?
Get involved in student organizations you’re genuinely passionate about. Get involved in the Columbus community. Meet as many people as you can.
Tell us about an upcoming initiative that you’re passionate about.
The new spotlight on Columbus has been great from being selected for the Hyper loop to the Smart City accelerator to all the new start-ups blooming. It’s an exciting time to be in Columbus.
What’s the coolest thing about entrepreneurship right now?
The new inflow of people getting involved into the scene; just different types of people getting involved in entrepreneurship. I’m hearing more stories about entrepreneurship programs being implemented in elementary schools, high schools, and even prisons.
What is one thing that you think Columbus needs (or wish Columbus had)?
Columbus needs better public transportation.
What other organizations are you involved with?
Visible Invisible (Star House), US Together, DOmedia and VR Columbus.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
Our pulse can be described as collaborative and community orientated. Columbus always lifts up members of community doing good work and supports them as they can.