Lassonde Studios Helping University of Utah Students Make their Business Dreams a Reality

Lassonde Studios is more than just a dorm housing 400 residents. It is a center for student entrepreneurs making their business dreams a reality.


Photos by Braden Latimer.

The future is today at Lassonde Studios on the University of Utah campus. The student lounge has the normal dorm stuff such as a pool table, video games and comfy chairs. But that is where similarities end. How many other dorms have a fully-equipped tool room and access to patent attorneys?

Lassonde is more than just a dorm housing 400 residents. It is a center for student entrepreneurs making their business dreams a reality.

Two of those students are junior Austin Birch and sophomore Laurbong Gai. Austin has started Argus Entertainment to produce concerts and special events. Laurbong has created Balmont Ave, a fashion boutique that has premiered several collections. A graduate of Stansbury High, Austin says Lassonde allows him to meld together his love of music with its technical aspects. “This is a hub for people wanting to do something cool,” he says. Lassonde provides him with free office space and he is planning a concert series. “Lassonde invests in its students. It absolutely goes above and beyond,” he says. For Juan Diego alumnus Laurbong, a fashion designer needs sewing machines. Lassonde provides sewing machines. “I want to create elegance in my clothing line,” he says.

Austin Birch and Laurbong Gai at the Lassonde Studios.

Both Austin and Laurbong are also full-time students at the U of U, with Austin majoring in information systems and Laurbong in marketing. What makes Lassonde so special is that it is not a class assignment but a student passion. There is no syllabus. “It’s a place to live, create and launch,”says Austin.

The founder of the Studio is Pierre Lassonde, a U of U graduate who wanted to honor his late wife by forming a space for engineering and business minds to merge. “It’s a playground for student innovation. Kids are learning through trial and error, but they are always learning,” says Thad Kellong, marketing and public relations director.

The Studio is a showcase, but there are mentorships and collaborations involving other students as well. This enables the U of U to be one of the nation’s top schools for young entrepreneurs. The Lassonde idea has existed for twenty years and the actual dorm for six, Kelling says. During that time a backpack and telehealth company (among others) became full-time businesses. “I am humbled every day by the creativity I see,” Kelling says.

At 75, Pierre Lassonde remains a vital inspiration for students in the program. On a pillar in the lounge are life precepts he champions. They include “Leave a better world behind” and “Never miss an opportunity to throw a party.” On that note, Austin says, “Lassonde students know how to party hard.”

Lassonde Studios will hold an open house on May 4 to celebrate its 20th anniversary. 


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