At 16 years old, Sethu Munusamy was first introduced to composite engineering in a high school class in Malaysia.
Sethu, a WSU 2010 alum, was fascinated by idea of taking a plastic and a fiber, mixing them together, and creating something so much stronger than any other material.
“This sounds like the future,” Sethu said as he reminisced.
When Sethu told his father – a lecturer and professor with university ties – about his desire to study composite materials, he was met with enthusiasm and soon after was enrolled at Winona State University through the American Degree Transfer Program. He moved overseas and started his pursuit in Composite Materials Engineering. Eleven years later, after owning 2 businesses and being seen as the top in his field, Sethu certainly doesn’t regret his decision.
“There’s a reputation for a WSU undergraduate student,” Sethu explained. “In the composites industry we’re almost looked at the same breath as a Harvard or Stanford student.”
Sethu explained that the programming at WSU has such a “local legend vibe” that when he went on to pursue his master’s at a different school, the students there — even ones working on their Ph.D., — would see him as an expert and ask for help because of the reputation WSU holds.
Sethu characterized his time spent at Winona State University as one that prepared him well for his career field.
His revered professors – who are all experts in the field of the Composite Engineering Program – gave him a “close-knit family bond type of feel… that a small school and small program will give you.”
“The five professors that we do have are world-class,” Sethu said with conviction.
“My WSU degree has been instrumental to becoming the successful professional that I am.”
Sethu explained that composite materials engineering — unbeknownst to many — is a relatively new industry with lots of discoveries to be made. Although the current trends favoring carbon-based composites, his interest was concentrated on bio-based composites which he pointed out were materials that are more sustainable.
For three years Sethu worked with a composite company, Sintex Wausaukee Composites which is a small company located in Wisconsin that provided manufactured materials for the mass transportation ,automotive sectors and many other sectors. Then after ten years of being abroad, Sethu traveled back to Malaysia made the decision to stay near his family and form a better connection with his fourteen-year-old brother.
That’s when the entrepreneurial spirit hit him and Sethu saw the benefits of working for himself.
Sethu created his own startup business, Compositecniq, and with his sophisticated understanding of composites he partnered with SKSBUS, the largest bus manufacturing company in Malaysia.
Like many other industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the bus industry fell rapidly.
With several devasting government shutdowns threatening his chances to get his fledgling startup off the ground, Sethu needed to pivot his business.
To do that, Sethu thought back to his education from WSU.
“The knowledge that was bestowed on me is what’s helping me be the businessman engineer that I need to be today,” Sethu said.
In March of 2020, Sethu created his second start up called Midwest Composites.
He was recently accepted into the Global Accelerator Program which is funded by the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity, which is a branch of the Ministry of Science and Technology.
With the excitement of funding, Sethu has a renewed sense of hope for his startup — especially with the mentorship component the Global Accelerator Program can provide for his business. The program also gives Sethu support and networking opportunities with 30 other startup entrepreneurs.
With the government’s support, Sethu can focus on increasing his company’s visibility, hiring more staff, and strengthening current and future partnerships.
Now Sethu is working to develop further partnerships with a drone building company, a military tank provider, and several Small and Medium- Sized Enterprises (SME’s), as well as a possible $300,000 project partnership with another drone company. Within the next year, Sethu has a major goal for his startup: to make three to four million in revenue.
With a bright and hopeful future ahead of him, Sethu cherished most his WSU education. The title of being a WSU Composite Materials Engineering alum gave him an edge when entering the field, whether that was while networking at engineering conferences or while making connections during his entrepreneurial startups. The benefits of earning his degree have continued to help him every day in his business. “I’m excited for the future of my business,” Sethu said with enthusiasm. “My WSU degree has been instrumental to becoming the successful professional that I am.”