Auxygen brings campus innovators together to form professional, "creative powerhouse"

In just one year, the student start-up has moved from the basement of Theta Chi to a real storefront in downtown Syracuse — and brought with it clients from all over the world.

Standing tall on Comstock Avenue, the Theta Chi fraternity house looks more like the site of games of beer pong and brotherhood bonding than it does a hub for new businesses. But for Syracuse University seniors Michael Choi, Adam Day, Pat McGowan and Marcus Baron, it was the perfect setting for their creative juices to come together to form Auxygen.  

“Straight out of that basement, they formed this idea for a company,” said Drew Osumi, Auxygen’s resident photographer. 

The name Auxygen has several meanings. Team member Rachel Samples recalls receiving a text from Pat McGowan saying that he wanted the name to reflect the company’s desire to change a generation.

“Auxilerating is helping somebody,” Samples said. “Oxygen you need to live. Combining those, we’re helping people to live and do what you want to do.”

Choi added that the Y in the middle represents Generation Y, the millennial generation. As well as meaning oxygen, the name also represents generation. 

At its core, Choi describes Auxygen as a design company that specializes in branding. Their projects range from architecture to products, graphics and websites, among other things. With cutting-edge technology at their fingertips, such as a 3-D printer, a laser cutter, and a flatbed printer, Auxygen is growing both in terms of business and team members.

Marcus Baron and Ryan DeSilva discuss the wire structuring for Ponix Future Farms. (Photo: Drew Osumi)

This growth is happening quickly. Auxygen only officially came together as a company this past summer. However, the wheels for something big were in motion during the spring 2013 semester, as Choi, Day McGowan and Baron found themselves increasingly blending their talents together to work on freelance projects. As the work kept rolling in, the four were inspired to start a larger company. Their varying personas complemented each other: a graphic designer, a fine artist, an architect, and a film student.

“It really is necessary for these projects,” Samples said. “It requires all these different skill sets, and as a collaborative team, that’s how it gets done.”

Since Auxygen’s inception, the company has more than doubled the size of its team, adding four more students since the start of the 2013-2014 school year. Auxygen’s founders reached out to friend and peers who they thought would be a good addition to the team. Among the new additions are Osumi and Samples, Daniel Baron and Ousman Diallo. And beyond their eight full-time team members, Auxygen also has an additional four to six freelancers who lend a hand to various projects.

Cross-collaboration is the “bread and butter” of Auxygen’s business. All of its projects benefit from the team’s range of specialized skills.

“When we have a project, we utilize all the talent,” Choi said. “We help each other out.”

Osumi said that witnessing the creativity and passion exhibited by Choi, Baron and Day ultimately led him to pursue working with the founders of Auxygen.  

“Seeing them work together and have all these crazy ideas come from each other for a project was really awesome,” Osumi said. “I just wanted to be a part of it.”

Ryan DeSilva examines a model of the Galleries of Syracuse (Photo: Drew Osumi)

Today, those crazy ideas have found a home beyond the walls of Theta Chi, in the Galleries on South Salina Street. Once a hair salon, Auxygen’s new workspace has given the start-up a home that many of the team’s members visit daily. In this new space, they’ve taken on a variety of projects on a worldwide level.

The start-up’s first major success was the 'Power Bank', a portable phone charger that was developed in-house. In the coming months, Auxygen is hoping to develop more products, film and photography projects, as well as a clothing line. Current projects include cover letter and resume design for students, contract work with the Double Tree Orlando, and the architectural redesign of a palace in the small Middle Eastern nation of Oman. The team’s latest development is an urban farming innovation, namely hydroponic farming in a shipping container. According to Samples, this farming would not require sunlight or fertilizer, and would take place in a closed container resembling a giant outdoor trash bin — which makes it a popular choice for land-limited urban areas.

The students behind Auxygen have gained notoriety among their peers not just from their work with the company, but across campus as well. Adam Day’s illustrations have been on the cover of Jerk Magazine. Television, radio and film student Rachel Samples runs a popular campus blog, Fondly an Orange Woman. Photographer Drew Osumi shoots for publications including The Daily Orange, the Onondagan, Jerk, and Equal Time Magazine. Unsurprisingly, between classwork, extra-curriculars, and running a business, the Auxygen team rarely has a spare moment to themselves.

Ryan DeSilva and Marcus Baron examine lettuce pods grown in a test chamber for the Ponix Future Farms (Photo: Drew Osumi)

“It’s hard because you’re doing these things in class, and you’re like ‘I’m already doing this in the real world,’” Samples said. “Doing something for a grade in a class is so different from doing something for an actual client.”

As many of Auxygen’s team members prepare to graduate this spring, the company’s future remains uncertain. If all goes well, Choi says they hope to expand into other markets, with New York City being the primary goal.

“For a lot of the seniors, there’s a worry about whether we’ll come up with enough clients to be able to support ourselves once we get out of college,” Osumi said.

However, the founders say that expanding the business to other cities won’t signify the end of Auxygen in Syracuse. Ideas include opening a studio in downtown Syracuse for students to develop ideas and technological projects.

“There’s no better way of finishing school than this, doing a start-up,” said Choi. “We hope to leave something in Syracuse.”

Agents of Change

Best Wishes to you all for your creative minds that will change the world and make Mother Earth a better place for future generations. Sincerely, Robert James. Consultant and Futurist. [315]403-1146

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