Student Spotlight: Aleksandar Popovic, International Student/Entrepreneur
By Jonathan Maye Jr.
TAMPA (April 5, 2018) -- Aleksandar Popovic came to the United States with only one goal in mind: to pursue and reach what the Serbian student calls his "American Dream." And as an aspiring entrepreneur, the 21-year-old knows that being innovative is key to being successful.
Popovic, last semester, was accepted to the USF National Science Foundation's I-Corps, a six-week intensive program that offers entrepreneurship training for students with viable business ideas. The opportunity came with $3,000 and a team of faculty experts to perfect the business model.
Popovic is developing a product called the MEDIband, which assists medical professionals with monitoring patients who have deep-vein thrombosis. He conceived of the idea while enrolled in the Creativity and Innovation in Entrepreneurship class. The motivation: his dad, who lives with DVT. Popovic -- the student -- already has a provisional patent and a prototype for the product, which he hopes will transform the way patients with DVT are cared for, while they are under treatment.
"I just hope to make something incredible that will help and inspire people," he said.
James Taylor, an adjunct faculty member and Popovic's mentor, praised Popovic for his continued pursuit in developing the MEDIband beyond the classroom.
"I have mentored hundreds of businesses and students in the Tampa region through the USF Muma College of Business and the USF Student Innovation Incubator," Taylor said, "The fact that he has had the personal drive to continue to pursue the MEDIband, with little outside influence, will serve him well as effort and tenacity are critical in being an entrepreneur."
Popovic's accomplishments in his college career have proven that he is well on his way to becoming a successful businessman.
Born and raised in London, the business management major was accepted to the USF Bulls Business Network and lived in the invitation-only Bulls Business Community as a freshman. Since then, he has gone on to compete and place highly in several business competitions. He has served as president of the USF Entrepreneurship Club and is a member of the USF Investors Club and the USF Real Estate Society.
If that weren't enough, Popovic, who is fluent in Serbian and English, is learning how to speak Spanish and Russian in his spare time.
But before he could excel in the USF community, he had to overcome the challenge of being an international student in a new country.
"It was difficult at first because I didn't know anyone coming here," he said. "My first semester was really tough because I was homesick, so I mainly stuck around other international students I knew from orientation."
Whether it's competing in elevator pitch competitions or attending leadership workshops, Popovic uses every opportunity to improve his public speaking and networking skills as he aims to establish meaningful connections. Now as a senior, he is appreciative of all his experiences at the Muma College of Business, which will help bolster his resume as he enters the professional world.
"Universities back home don't have nearly as many clubs or competitions where you have an opportunity to build your professional development or leadership skills," he said. "So, for that, I am very grateful."
Handling his demanding business endeavors with academics has proved to be an achievable task for Popovic as he has managed to volunteer, work and intern in the U.S., Serbia and England, all while reaching graduation in just three years. After graduation, he will work as a full-time sales representative for Vivint Smart Home and he will continue to build his personal business.
He credits much of his ambition and inspiration to successful entrepreneurs Richard Branson and USF alumnus Jordan Zimmerman. Popovic greatly admires Zimmerman's determination to be a leader in the business world. It comes as no surprise that Popovic's favorite book is Zimmerman's "Leading Fearlessly."
"The best advice I have received is to never give up your dreams," he said. "My parents and business idols have taught me that perseverance is the key to being successful."
Popovic has also learned that having a well-rounded experience is a key to being successful.
He spent the 2017 spring semester studying abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. This was his first visit to an Asian country and the first time he immersed himself in an environment where language would be a significant factor in business relations.
"Going to Korea was a great experience," he said. "The business world is totally different there and not everyone speaks English, so I now have an interesting background from living in Europe, going to school in America and from travelling to Asia."
Even still, it isn't all just hard work and no play for Popovic. In his free time, he likes to play soccer, exercise and spend time meeting new people.
As he embarks on life after college, Popovic has learned to take advantage of big opportunities. He hopes that other incoming international students will pave their own way and take the time to explore life outside of the classroom as well.
"You get out what you put in," he said. "Too many internationals are focused on school and as a consequence, they don't socialize and engage in internships or out-of-the-classroom competitions and events, which give you a real-life experience."
"In my case, I wanted to come to college in America and make the most of this opportunity by doing the best I can."