Student Spotlight: Christopher Okumura
Throughout the course of a student’s experience at the University of Michigan memories are made that last a lifetime. From a vast array of student organizations, to hundreds of resources for academic immersion, there’s no limit to what you can do during your time in Ann Arbor.
When rising sophomore Christopher Okumura first set foot on the College of Engineering’s North Campus Grove, he knew this University was the perfect place for him to be. Where many students pursue creative, athletic, or thespian endeavors, Christopher wanted his college memories to reflect his excitement for innovation.
“I chose (the University of Michigan) because of these opportunities to get involved, with both engineering and entrepreneurship,” he said.
Christopher first discovered entrepreneurship was for him during his senior year in high school after he realized how differently he envisioned his future when compared to his friends.
“I was 17 and I felt like everyone was telling me to go to college, get a job, work hard, and retire at 65. It took me a while, but I realized that life is just not for me,” he reflected.
After what he describes as a “slow progression toward a realization,” Christopher came to the conclusion that a life of entrepreneurship is best for him, and ultimately for the greater community.
Community in Christopher’s life comes in many forms, and since his senior year of high school, it has been defined as those he finds commonalities with. The desire to make a difference and innovative spirit pushed him to take advantage of a wide variety of resources provided by the Center for Entrepreneurship and other startup opportunities in the city of Ann Arbor and the greater Detroit area.
One of the most popular opportunities the CFE offers students is the Discovery Treks which focus on the entrepreneurial ecosystem in cities across the state. With these immersive one-day experiences, interested undergraduate and graduate students get the opportunity to learn from and network with successful entrepreneurs, all while exploring the cities around them. When Chris participated in the 2019 Detroit Trek, he got to take a closer look at the exciting intricacies of Detroit’s current economic landscape.
“I thought it was interesting to hear about the stories of how they’re revitalizing the areas… I wanted to meet entrepreneurs, and I learned that there’s a common thread amongst entrepreneurs that the community comes first. Community is the key for success,” he explained.
From his experiences working with the CFE’s Discovery Treks, to taking advantage of several ENTR course offerings, and to working with CFE advisor Nick Moroz- Christopher finds all elements of the entrepreneurial ecosystem to be exciting.
“Life is about more than just money – it’s about creating value for others,” Chris shared.
The intersection between Christopher’s passion for invention and his desire to create value for others provided the basis for his very own digital gaming startup, Bluebird Studios.
Originally, Chris envisioned his first game as a dinosaur-themed, physics-based puzzle game, similar to Zeptolab’s Cut the Rope. After his team expanded to include his sister, she suggested to switch the theme to something more universally adored: pets.
The Treat Team game is a winning combination of most people’s favorite things: fun and cute dogs. In the puzzle game, users use logic and problem solving abilities to deliver objects to sleeping pets to wake them up.
“These in game interactions between the user and the pets create a story, and really create an interesting player experience,” Christopher explained.
In addition to its cute characters, cheery nature, and sleek gameplay, Treat Team strives to measurably improve the world we live in by acting as a fundraising platform for animal shelters. Users, with enough play, would earn in game currency which could be converted into real donations to animal shelters across the nation. These donations would go to fund the purchases of essential items such as food, medicine, and other care supplies for shelter pets in need.
“It’s also a great way to raise awareness for animal shelters, and how important it is to adopt animals,” he said.
At the moment, the game is in development, with plans for a Beta version launch this August. Until then, Christopher and his team at Bluebird Studios work on the game’s finishing touches, business plan, and the creation of marketing materials to get Treat Team ready for the world.
“I’m really looking forward to the release, it would be cool to see someone playing my game on the street,” Christopher said.
After the launch of his game, Christopher plans to continue improving Treat Team to realize his dream of seeing everyday people enjoying his game, and doing good at the same time. He also plans to continue exploring each and every facet of entrepreneurship – starting with taking the popular ENTR course E-HOUR in Fall 2020, and applying to the Entrepreneurs Leadership Program.
Through both his creativity and interest in entrepreneurship, Bluebird Studios and Treat Team are Christopher’s way of engaging with his college learning experience, making a measurable difference in the community, and saving animals-all while having fun!