For Two Alumni, Positivity isn't Just a Mindset, it's a Business Model

For Two Alumni, Positivity isn't Just a Mindset, it's a Business Model

Alumni Cameron Markowitz '18 (BBA) and Stephan Osorio '18 (BBA) started Positive Mindset Foundation.

In 2020, Navy veteran and University of San Diego alumnus Cameron Markowitz '18 (BBA) suddenly found himself with more time on his hands and passion in his heart. 

In the immediate wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, local, state, and federal governments encouraged people to stay at home to stop the spread of the disease. The lockdowns forced many to remain at home, day in and day out, contemplating how to spend their time in isolation.

That's when Markowitz got to work on a lifelong goal launching a successful non-profit that helps others in need. It may sound like a simple task for a veteran and college graduate, but it's taken years to prepare Markowitz for this moment.

Fail early, fail often, but fail forward

To explain how Markowitz found himself on Google, researching ways to start a non-profit requires you to know more about him. As an 18-year-old, he was a semi-pro skateboarder dedicated to his sport and wasn’t too focused on education. Graduating high school by the skin of his teeth, Markowitz enrolled in Santa Barbara City College. Working at a machine shop to pay for college, burning his wick at both ends, he started to spiral out of control and found himself struggling to earn passing grades. Soon, he failed out of college. 

“It's good that I failed early,” says Markowitz. “I was able to hold onto something that I knew I needed to beat later on in life.”

Though some may quit after an experience like this, Markowitz was motivated by his failure to try something difficult – joining the United States military. Markowitz joined to obtain funding for his education and chase adventure. 

“When I went to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPs), they asked me, ‘Do you want to be the wet or the dry guy?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ They said, ‘Do you want to be the guy that jumps out of the helicopter or the one who stays in it?’ I quickly responded ‘the guy who jumps out.’ I had no idea what I was signing up for,” laughs Markowitz. 

After years of the most challenging training Markowitz has ever done in his life, he became an Aviation Rescue Swimmer (AIRR) for the United States Navy. He quickly joined a part of a special programs team dedicated to search and rescue missions (SAR). At the drop of a dime, Markowitz had to be ready to jump out of a helicopter, “so others may live” (SOML).

As a fully qualified crew chief, door gunner, and rescue swimmer, Markowitz served six years on active duty (2009-2015), with two deployments — one in Kuwait and Iraq and another on the Boxer on a Westpac. 

At the end of his service, Markowitz knew it was time to go back to school to earn the degree he never completed.

Second time’s the charm

While attending San Diego Mesa College, Markowitz was approached by Jhonnatan Chinchilla ’18, who suggested he try applying to the University of San Diego. At first, he was hesitant, thinking he couldn’t get in, but he took the risk, eventually transferring to campus in 2015.

Markowitz and his wife Naomi, who was working on her master’s at the time, moved into a campus apartment and started a new journey.

He double-majored in corporate finance and commercial real estate, for which he received many scholarships, including one from the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate (BMC). He worked his way through his studies and earned cum laude honors, graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 2018. He equates his success to the feeling of immense pride. 

“I finally felt like I made it beyond my failure, and I am ready for more challenges.”

Before graduating from USD, Markowitz went on to land a job with a construction management company in San Diego, overseeing projects at the University of California San Diego and Irvine campuses and the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Two years after starting that job, he and his wife knew it was time to move back home to Simi Valley. Markowitz began a new career at Northrop Grumman in Woodland Hills in April 2020, amid the pandemic. He and his wife also welcomed their first child, a baby girl, Thalia. Even with his hands full, Markowitz still managed to find time to work on another dream of his — the Positive Mindset Foundation.

Positive Control of Your Life

Markowitz didn’t know his non-profit would end up being called the Positive Mindset Foundation. He initially thought it would be called Positive Control Foundation. 
“In the helicopter, you have to have positive control of your gear, so I was like, you need positive control of your life.”

He tested the name on a group of close friends and family who encouraged him to change it slightly, which is how the Positive Mindset Foundation was born.

Around this time, Markowitz also shared the idea of the non-profit with another USD alumnus and close friend, Stephan Osorio ’18 (BBA).

Friendship and Co-Founders

Walking into his financial accounting class in Olin Hall, Osorio knew precisely who he would sit next to. He scanned the room and spotted a guy front and center of the classroom. He remembers looking at the man, thinking he looked friendly and had a “cool beard.”

That person turned out to be Markowitz, and from that moment on, the two became good friends.

It only made sense then that when Markowitz got the idea to start a non-profit, he turned to Osorio for his opinion.

Both of the men always thought about doing something more for their communities. For Osorio, the dream of starting a non-profit came to him while he was a member of the entrepreneurship club at USD.

“Non-profits would come in and talk to us, which planted a seed in the back of my mind,” Osorio says. “It was a coincidence that Cameron called me up and talked about starting a non-profit that would give back.”

Osorio told Markowitz he was all in. By January 2021, the two started the Positive Mindset Foundation.

The idea is this — a merchandising business that donates 100 percent of its profits to people in need or gives out merit-based scholarships. Funds would be raised on the Positive Mindset Foundation’s website, generated through clothing sales with the non-profit’s logo. 

“People often donate their money, and you never hear about where it’s going,” Osorio says. “In this case, you buy a shirt, and you know exactly where your money is going … you can wear it.”

The co-founders hope to expand their sources of revenue by partnering with 10 to 20 other non-profits. All the money raised from merchandise purchases would go to partner non-profits, and Positive Mindset Foundation would retain fees to host the organizations on their website.

The duo hopes to host scholarship and good Samaritan fundraising competitions where people can sign up to bring in their networks to help them in their collegiate journey. 

“We want to invest in people, and PMF will send the return to society. We want to help good people to greatness; pay it forward to make communities become better,” Markowitz says. “If someone donates to you, they feel like you’re going to be more valuable than you are right now at this very moment and that you’re going to pay that forward, and the cycle continues.”

Baby Steps

Positive Mindset Foundation is still in the infancy stages. Markowitz and Osorio have taken on the work of starting their non-profit from the ground up on their own, relying on their USD education, experience, and networks. 

“I’m seeing more and more each day the value of the USD education,” Markowitz says. “I’ve taken the skills I’ve learned from my degree and put them to use.”

Markowitz and Osorio’s team is growing. Other USD alumni who have caught word of the Positive Mindset Foundation are now reaching out to offer their services. PMF now has 12 board members and an intern. The two hope to have their first official board meeting this October.

“I see PMF going pretty far in the future,” Markowitz says. “I would like to see this where it’s self-sustaining, and it would be a very heavy-hitting non-profit that can help people across the country.”

Though the sky is the limit for the Positive Mindset Foundation, one thing is clear — Markowitz and Osorio are on a mission to improve the lives of many others.

—    Kelsey Grey ’15 (BA)