Student Spotlight: Phillip Hedayatnia

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“College is a full-time job, so picking up another full-time job isn’t easy – and it’s definitely not sustainable for long,” says Phillip Hedayatnia, an 18-year-old social entrepreneur, UX designer, and digital strategist studying Arts, Technology and the Science of Creativity at Rice University.

 

Phillip says that he got into entrepreneurship in order to solve problems. In fact, this same spirit is what led him to develop his own degree and major at Rice. “I’m currently proposing a custom major in Arts, Technology and the Science of Creativity, which is a degree at the intersection of the arts, psychology, neuroscience, business, and human-computer interaction,” he explains. “In its essence, it’s a cognitive science degree, warped and expanded to have a greater focus on applied sciences and practical implementation.”

 

He chose this area to study because most cognitive science programs do not focus sufficiently on the kinds of real-world applications most valuable to those who plan to go into applied careers in such sectors as technology and product development.

 

The seed of entrepreneurship was always just under the surface for Phillip. He developed a talent for digital data growing up in small-town Ohio. As a high school freshman, he founded a data-driven design agency, HybridSite Creative, growing it into a powerhouse that now serves everything from small businesses to major news publications with readership in the hundreds of thousands.

 

His business sense has translated into the public sector, too: he served as a digital strategist for Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson and a developer and strategist for Ohio Governor John Kasich’s run for the Republican nomination in 2016. He also co-founded and served as editor-in-chief for the millennial-focused political news site RealPolitics News.

 

Currently, Phillip serves as the Chief Technology Officer for the Los Angeles-based Millennial Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization aimed at reducing voter apathy among his generational peers. All this experience has given him a unique viewpoint on young adult entrepreneurship.

 

Phillip says it’s important for young entrepreneurs to make their priorities clear from the get-go. “In the long run,” he explains, “it isn’t possible to sustainably run a fast-growth startup company for longer than 1-2 years without formally taking a break from school – you’ll be handling investors’ money, and they’ll have growth expectations that’ll require you to work double-time regardless.”

 

It’s also essential, he says, that prospective entrepreneurs surround themselves with smart, dedicated, and passionate people. “I’d say the most important thing I’ve done to mitigate that work is surrounding myself with a great team of fellow students who share passion for what we do,” he notes. “Knowing that someone always has your back takes a lot of unnecessary stress off your plate, and that’s crucial while in the middle of founding a startup.”

 

Phillip says he firmly believes that what’s most important, both in politics and in entrepreneurship, is acting as someone who can bridge gaps. “Rather than focusing on ‘joining the fight,’” he says, “my recommendation is to work as a unifier, as a humanizer. Try to understand the other side, not with the intent of changing their minds or yours, but with the intent of understanding their belief system thoroughly.”

 

He recognizes that this is not easy for those with an entrepreneurial spirit to do. However, he wholly believes that it is the best part of being an entrepreneur. “[W]e are really problem-solvers using the framework and structure of business model development in order to generate solutions to real-world problems,” he explains. “[B]egin [by] practicing the problem-solving core of entrepreneurship, taking on smaller projects to expand your skills. Eventually, you’ll discover more things about the area you wish to work in.”

 

 

Student Spotlight: Jacob Gendron of Trend Suspenders

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A few years ago, Jacob Gendron, an Accounting major at CSU-Long Beach, was a Top 100 player for a popular online video game. Though it was a fun diversion, Jacob realized he was spending all of his time in a virtual world rather than the real one. He decided to hit the reset button on his priorities and found a way to make his passion for business and entrepreneurship work for him. Now, Jacob’s company, Trend Suspenders, is a growing online retailer for the growing niche market of retro and modern suspenders.

Trend Suspender’s Beginnings

Starting a business was always one of Jacob’s goals. “Entrepreneurship was my major of choice, but sadly, it is only offered as a minor at CSULB,” he explains. “I decided on accounting because accountants speak the language of business, and it seemed like the best fit for those looking to start a business. Also, accounting is built on general principles making a tough skill to learn hands-on, while other majors such as marketing are much easier to learn through experience.”

CSU Long Beach Photo Courtesy of Jacob Gendron

Jacob kept himself busy, joining a fraternity and getting involved with a professional development center on campus. He also found himself increasingly interested in developing his businesses, so he developed a few eCommerce general fashion stores. As he watched his profits increase, he noticed that his best-selling product happened to be one he hadn’t expected: suspenders. “Suspenders are an old school accessory and that’s exactly why young adults and hipsters love them, so I felt that it was the perfect product to build a store around.”

Jacob developed Trend Suspenders based on the idea that suspenders were an untapped niche market that would appeal to a variety of demographics, but particularly a young, hip, trendsetting demo, influenced by celebrity culture. Jacob believes his company “will be the place to go for the latest styles and trends in suspenders fashion.”

Image Courtesy of Jacob Gendron

 

 

Four Pieces of Advice for Aspiring Student Entrepreneurs

When it comes to starting an online store, Jacob’s first piece of advice is to stick with what you know and love. “Choose a niche that you’re passionate about,” he advises. “Don’t start a survival store if you hate the outdoors. I wear suspenders regularly on campus because I genuinely love them. You’ll be much more motivated if you actually care about what you’re selling.”

He also has found that testing is absolutely essential to figuring out whether or not a product might actually sell. He “tested tons of products through Facebook advertising before I found a successful one,” he recalls. That’s why students interested in starting their own stores should do their homework. “Do some keyword research and find what would be easy to rank for on Google,” he further recommends.

Organization is key, too. Anyone who wants to budget their time well should use all the tools at their disposal. “Use your phone’s calendar app for deadlines and appointments,” he says. “At the start of the semester, set reminders for all of your classes, tests, quizzes, and homework due dates,” all of which should be able to be found in your syllabus.

Lastly, Jacob sticks with one of the most tried and true pieces of advice. “Don’t give up,” he says. “If I stopped after losing my first $1000 then I wouldn’t have made it to where I am today.”

 

To learn more about Jacob’s company, Trend Suspenders, visit his store here

Student Spotlight: Scott Mathie Promotes Student Leadership with NYL

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Many people go to college believing that their training for a future career will happen in the classroom. But as Scott Mathie, an Applied Psychology graduate student at the University of Southern California, learned, some of the best lessons happen by getting involved.

Scott’s Reaction When He Learned He Was Accepted to USC!

As an undergrad, Scott decided to give becoming an R.A. a shot. That, he says, was what first made everything fit together.

“I quickly recognized that the leadership skills that were going to help me become a good Resident Assistant were the same skills that were going to help me be successful in life,” he explains. “When this clicked, I started leaning in heavily to my own development. I found a passion for sharing what I was learning.”

This led directly to Scott’s first job at his school, Coordinator for Leadership Development and Training. In this role, he was able to dedicate time to mentoring and providing leadership development to a team of students.

However, the role also made something plain to him: there weren’t a lot of online training resources he could use to help his student team. This pushed Scott to create one himself! He launched a website called NixYourLimits.com in order to showcase the kinds of leadership training he thought would be beneficial to both his own team of students and others around the world.

Now, NixYourLimits.com is growing in leaps and bounds. This year alone, Scott plans to launch the NixYourLimits (NYL) Academy, which will feature multiple online courses with specific content on leadership, communication, personal organization, goal setting, job interview skills, and more. NYL also plans on expanding to a Facebook group dedicated to helping Student Leaders connect, be supported, and find the resources they need to help catapult their careers.

But NYL isn’t Scott’s only job. In fact, Scott balances expansion for his venture, going to graduate school, and being one of our Trendsetters with a full-time job as Assistant Director for Student Involvement and Leadership at Dixie State University. In that role, he works with Student Leaders who are now keynote speakers, nurses, and higher education professionals. All-in-all, Scott estimates that he has personally mentored more than 200 student leaders through his involvement in these various ventures.

Scott has Spoken at Leadership Conferences in states such as Utah, Nevada, Washington, Arizona, Virginia, and Colorado

 

Scott strongly recommends all students interested in leadership positions start by doing whatever they can. It may be as an R.A. or Residence Hall Director, as he was, but they can also do almost anything they want. Students can build an online brand through Instagram Story, SnapChat, or blogs. Those more interested in direct involvement in their schools should start by going to activities, networking with members of the student leadership team, and recognizing their own strengths so they can speak well of the value they can add to an organization.

But most important, he says, is connecting with people. “I always felt like I was going out on a limb when I messaged people for advice or opportunities to connect or contribute,” he recalls, “but almost all of them always responded!”

This is the kind of skill that can carry over to a career, too. “No matter the career, you are going to work with people,” Scott notes. “The most important skill you can develop is the ability to communicate. I have seen countless examples where I may not have been great at a certain skill, but was able to accomplish the goal anyway because I communicated and gained help from someone who could. I have gotten fantastic recommendations from “higher ups” in companies and Institutions because I learned how to communicate and form strong relationships with them.”

 

Introduction, Engagement, Inspiration, and Creation at St. Louis University

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Entrepreneurship St. Louis University

Entrepreneurship isn’t something that starts after college or when you’ve made enough to become an investor. In fact, it can start while you’re still in school! For Jonathan Hwang, a student studying an Analytics & Enterprise Systems at St. Louis University in Missouri, entrepreneurship has long been on his mind.

Two years ago, Jonathan and his friend Austin were pulled aside by their advisor, who encouraged them to take over a club called the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, or C.E.O. The club had fallen into almost nonexistence, marked by years of apathy and low membership. Jonathan and Austin were tasked with helping it make a comeback. The duo first had to revamp the club’s image. “Austin and I decided to change the name to SLU Entrepreneurs’ Club, as ‘C.E.O.’ was fairly daunting to most people,” Jonathan explains. “Then, we decided on the following mission: to introduce, engage, and inspire student entrepreneurs to create a better world through entrepreneurship.”

SLU Entrepreneurs Club Logo

SLU Entrepreneurs Club

In order to live out this mission, Austin and Jonathan helped create events that would correspond to each of the club’s main values: Introduction, Engagement, Inspiration, and Creation. For Introduction, they began holding weekly meetings to help students learn about the entrepreneurship scene at SLU. To Inspire students, they began bringing in high-profile speakers to give their thoughts. “So far, we have brought in executives from [Spanish soccer club] Real Madrid, Strange Donuts, Dippin’ Dots, and FLOW,” Jonathan notes.

To assist with Creation, Jonathan continues, “we bring students to different accelerators such as Blue Diamonds, MedLaunch, [and] SocialLaunch, along with our student-run business, Billiken Ventures. Students are also given the opportunity to go through many of the pitch competitions held by the Center of Entrepreneurship at SLU.”

But the club’s biggest venture is tied to Engagement. Jonathan and Austin decided that the best way to engage their fellow students would be to host a flagship event. This led to the creation of Billicon Valley — also headed up by VP Byron Abrigg — which is a gathering held in SLU’s business school twice a semester.

 

Billicon Valley

Billicon Valley Event

 

“The main goal of the event,” Jonathan says, “is to bring college students, high school students, community members, esteemed guests, and startups together in order to foster serendipitous connections. It serves as a space for students interested in starting their own business, looking for an internship a local startup, leading an initiative on campus, or making a difference in their community to network, problem solve, and collaborate.”

Billicon Valley has managed to inspire some huge new things for students at SLU. Several student-run businesses have formed, and students have managed to gain internships from the program.

Among the most exciting things Jonathan has seen during his time running the SLU Entrepreneurs’ Club has been seeing these businesses grow. In fact, three of the student-run businesses have a parent company called Billiken Ventures, which just recently launched. Billiken Ventures has several arms, including a graphic design business, a dry-cleaning company, and a custom apparel business. “The SLU community has never seen something like this before,” Jonathan says, “so we are all excited to see where it heads in the future.”

Jonathan knows that students can find the thought of founding their own business intimidating – especially when they’re not in SLU’s nationally ranked Entrepreneurship program. He believes he can speak to this, as his own major is far outside Entrepreneurship. “Many people believe that starting your own business is an all or nothing choice,” he says, “but even just committing a couple hours to a project or startup is helpful. The most important thing to remember is that we are all entrepreneurs in our own way.

 

To learn more about SLU Entrepreneurs’ Club and Billicon Valley, follow them on Twitter or Instagram!

Student Spotlight: Penn State Grad Develops Biohealth Game Playphysio

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Ishana Shekhawat’s startup is about to bring a little bit of joy to many sick and recovering young patients.

Her product, PlayPhysio, is a biohealth game targeted for youth between 5- to 15-year of age who need to practice lung exercises due to medical conditions. The exercises may be prescribed for those that have chronic lung conditions, or are recovering from a surgery.

 

The Beginning of PlayPhysio

Ishana recognized a need for an effective breathing exercise while she was an undergraduate student in New Delhi. “As part of a clinical immersion exercise, I was visiting a trauma center in Delhi where I met with a child who had undergone abdominal surgery and had been prescribed these exercises for his recovery and rehabilitation,” Ishana explains. “He seemed very reluctant to do the exercise and this sentiment was apparently a popular one when I cross checked with the healthcare providers.”

From this experience, she recognized a need in the market. She goes on to explain, “The objective of the exercise was to formulate a relevant need statement and this idea particularly stuck with me, since I had been on the lookout for an idea and felt that I could apply my skill set directly to solve this problem. It stayed as just an idea for a year or so before I started looking more into it.”

While the original prototype of Playphysio was a board game, the vision turned digital. “The objective of the game is for players to use their breath to control the movements of a submarine as it maneuvers a series of underwater obstacles,” she explained to Penn State News. “The player breathes into a device, which sends data to a digital sensor and then to the video game app via Bluetooth. By following the game’s breathing instructions, players avoid crashing the submarine and earn points.”

 

How Penn State Supported Her Entrepreneurial Goals

“I was part of the summer cohort at Happy Valley Launchbox, where we got a lot of help both in terms of individual mentoring as well as through weekly information and networking sessions.” Ishana explained. Happy Valley Launchbox is a free business accelerator and coworking space located in downtown State College, PA. “The entire process taught me a lot about the different aspects of running a business – like financing, business model development, hiring etc.” This is how she gained the hands-on know-how that can’t just be taught in Penn State’s classrooms.

“I was also awarded the Penn State Summer Founders award, which provided me with both a seed grant to get the idea off the ground and with weekly sessions where we could interact with the other teams and a guest with expertise in the related areas. As a student entrepreneur, the resources at Penn State have helped me tremendously. Not just in terms of the opportunities available but also with respect to the people who are there to offer advice and help whenever I was stuck.” she said.

 

How You Can Start a Business as a Student

Ishana shared wise advice for others looking to follow in her entrepreneurial footsteps. “If they are at the building stage, I would advise them to put the product out there as much as possible even if they don’t think it is ready.” she urges. While you might not feel like your product or service is exactly market-ready, getting it out there early can bright about some beneficial outcomes. “Feedback helps a lot in shaping the product, according to what the users want.”

You should also have contingency plans in place. Ishana explained, “There are a lot of unexpected situations that I’ve had to deal with, especially when it comes to timelines. I had thought while planning that it would be easy to get feedback from health practitioners, but it took almost 2 months to get somewhere with that.” Moral of the story: be prepared for the worst and try to expect the unexpected. Accounting for any detours can help you accurately set your expectations and create a realistic roadmap for your brand.

 

 

If you’re ready to make the plunge into student entrepreneurship, check out our How to Build a Business infographic to get started!

 

Student Spotlight: ThirdEye Technologies Develops Product to Assist the Blind

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“Think about what you did yesterday. Have something in mind? Now think about how that something would be different if you were blind…. Difficult to imagine, no?” college entrepreneur Rajat Bhageria asks in a self-published Forbes article. He continues, “You see, we often take our eyes for granted, when in reality we’re almost dependent on sight. In fact, the lives of visually impaired persons are significantly different than our own, with independence being one of the main problems. But what if we could change that?” From this understanding, ThirdEye Technologies was born. The technology, which Rajat co-founded with fellow Penn students Joe Cappadona and Ben Sandler, came from the desire to equip the blind and visually impaired with the independence they deserve.

We spoke with Rajat Bhageria about their venture, and learned more about the companies accomplishments, challenges, and where they hope to see ThirdEye in the future.

The team at the Wharton Business Plan Competition Venture Finals in April 2015. They took home both the “Most Disruptive Award” and “People’s Choice Award”!

 

ThirdEye Technologies: From Product Ideation to Market

 

Caption: ThirdEye – Google Glass Demonstration

This Philadelphia-based nonprofit commercializes a product to assist the visually impaired and provide them with the independence they deserve. Rajat, Ben, and Joe formulated ThirdEye Glass during a weekend hackathon. The technology initially leveraged Google Glass to verbally identify what the wearer is looking at. Sometime later, the idea pivoted. While the product was a success, landing ThirdEye a partnership with the National Federation for the Blind, the team saw some limitations of wearables.

“The problem with wearables is that they’re immature in the market, and they’re expensive,”  said cofounder Rajat Bhageria in an interview with TechCrunch.

Their focus pivoted to a mobile platform, which uses object and text recognition to identify what the user is pointing their device towards. This product has many practical applications. Take for example, if a blind or visually impaired person were to open the fridge and grab a condiment, how are they to confirm which bottle they’ve picked up? By using ThirdEye’s object and text recognition capabilities, they could learn that they are holding a bottle of Heinz Ketchup.

After developing their product at the hackathon, the ThirdEye team took to networking in order to plot their next move as a business. The team sought out entrepreneurs and other professionals to learn exactly what it takes to bring the product to market. Being a college start-up, they utilized their school’s resources to do just that.

“Having very few contacts with successful entrepreneurs, for the next few weeks we lived on our school’s alumni directory. Whenever we found anyone–entrepreneurs, founders, medical personnel, CEOs, friends, and investors–we would pitch them and ask for advice on how to go forward” Rajat explained in another self-published Forbes article. Through networking with alumni and other key players at Penn, the ThirdEye team gained the entrepreneurial know-how – along with funding for their new venture.

However, Rajat explained of the company’s structure, “The thing to keep in mind is that we’re not doing ThirdEye to make money (in fact I would argue it’s one of the worst businesses purely from a financial standpoint); we were doing it to make as much impact as possible and we thought that the non-profit route would help us with that goal. After that it was just cost-benefit analysis: the major benefit was that since we were non-profit a lot more people and organizations would want to help us and we would get access to a lot of grants. The costs were that we could give out dividends to shareholders and had to reinvest all earnings into the company (which was what we wanted to do anyways).” Through this strategy, ThirdEye demonstrates their altruistic intentions in bringing some semblance of independence to the blind and visually impaired.

object-recognition

Object Recognition

Ultimately, Rajat told OCM, ThirdEye aims to have a global impact. “I think what’s next is just continually expanding internationally. Right now we’re mainly in America on iOS but increasingly the rest of the world is getting access to Android smartphones so we want to expand to India, China, and Brazil mainly right now.”

How You Can Start a Business in College

Rajat also shared some advice with OCM to other students looking to start a business in college. He explains: “I think the main piece of advice is that everyone is willing to help you — so reach out to as many people as you can for advice. Innovation really is a network game and who you know matters so it’s important.” Rajat found resources such as medical professionals and entrepreneurs through his university’s alumni directory. Reaching out to those with experience – be it entrepreneurs or industry insiders – can greatly assist you both intellectually and financially.

“Another major point would be that when you’re in college there are a lot of organizations who will help you so make sure to take advantage of all the resources (like free legal services at the local firm instead of spending 10k there, etc),” Rajat continued. Resources vary from school to school, but almost all of them offer some type of support for budding business – from something small like a regular library break-out room for meetings, to research and funding opportunities.

If you’re looking to start a business in college, check out our infographic. It will guide you through the steps, from ideation to implementation. Paired with Rajat’s advice on networking and utilizing your campus’ resources, you’ll be well equipped to start your own business in college!

 

We thank Rajat and the ThirdEye team for their efforts to assist with the blind and visually impaired, and we’re excited to watch this company continue to grow after their university years.

 

To keep up to date on ThirdEye’s business, check out ThirdEye here or follow them on Facebook.

 

Student Spotlight: Isabelle Ecker Jewelry

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Isabelle Ecker Jewelry

This month’s Student Spotlight features Isabelle Ecker, who realized her passion for crafting jewelry at a young age. Over the course of two years, since her line was officially developed in 2014, Isabelle has built a strong brand of fine, handcrafted jewelry. Here we discuss how a pre-teen with a love for jewelry built a mini-empire for her line, and what she contributes to her success – from her coursework and mentor support at Tyler School of Art at Temple University, to various networking and business opportunities.

Isabelle Ecker Student Entrepreneur

Identifying Her Passion and Following Through

“I started making sterling silver jewelry back when I was 13 years old. After I made my first silver ring, I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life,” says Isabelle about finding her passion. Before even attending college, Isabelle took part in various workshops and classes to better understand the craft. Isabelle explained of her pre-college training, “I attended weekend workshops at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia as well as Tyler School of Art.” While not many business owners find their niche before college, attending workshops, events, and lectures that seem interesting can put you one step closer to finding what it is that really makes you tick.

For any high school students preparing for college, interning or volunteering is a great way to explore different career fields, and add an impressive touch to any college application. Isabelle remembers, “I worked with a [local jeweler] for many years, even through college, who taught me many things. Working with him has definitely helped create the business and jewelry line I have now.”

Through various workshops, classes and an apprenticeship, Isabelle was able to reaffirm her interest in crafting fine jewelry. “I started selling my work when I was 15 years old. I figured I could do what I loved, [by] making my own designs and then selling them! What could be better?!”

Isabelle Ecker Jewelry Cuff

Balancing School with a Starting Business

Isabelle enrolled in Temple University’s Tyler School of Art for Metalsmithing/Jewelry/CAD-CAM. As far as developing her line, Isabelle says “Tyler helped me well; giving me the understanding of conceptual art and using those concepts in my work. They have a high end studio and well-educated professors.”

Because she was able to apply her personal business goals and fit it into her coursework in studio classes, Isabelle found that it wasn’t as much of a challenge to balance school with the business. In fact, she saw it as a great opportunity to network and learn as much as she possibly could to apply to her personal business venture. “I learned many additional skills, easier ways to go about things, and how to create production pieces through their Productions Class,” she says.

One challenge Isabelle faced, however, was the focus of the program. “They really focus on CAD-CAM, a computerized way to make something which you then 3-D print. I personally like to build with my hands.” Despite this, she was able to apply her teachings in the classroom, along with a drive to continue handcrafting pieces on her own time, to launch her collection.

Isabelle Ecker Jewelry

Developing the Line

It took countless workshops, hours spent as an apprentice, and coursework at Tyler School of Art to prepare her to officially develop her jewelry line in 2014.

Once the collection was in motion, Isabelle was excited about all of the opportunities her brand had to grow. “I had so many ideas of what I wanted to do! I did lots of practice tests, practice pieces, until I got it exactly the way I wanted it to be,” Isabelle explains.

“I worked with a very talented graphic designer to create my logo, business cards, sign, and website. I was all ready for my debut show at Ambler Arts Festival! It was a nice turn out ‒ not the best show income wise, but you learn shows vary.” That being said, a slow first show didn’t halt Isabelle’s passion for fine crafted jewelry or her ambition to grow her brand. She explains, “The following year at Ambler Arts Festival, it was one of my best shows. So never give up!”

The Melt Collection was one of Isabelle’s first lines. “My Melt collection was inspired by melted pieces I made when I was 13,” she explained. “Every piece is different; and I even enjoy hearing customers’ interpretation of what they see.”

As her business and craftsmanship grew, she built on other lines. Isabelle explains, “My Pebble Collection has grown so much. All cast from wax into silver or gold, using Lost Wax Casting. The newest addition to this collection is my cast in place gemstone pieces. The stones are placed in the wax and go through the whole casting process. Very few jewelers do this because, one it has to be done properly, two it sometimes doesn’t work and becomes time consuming, and three it takes a lot of practice. Each piece comes out slightly different so each one is a one of a kind: ‘OOAK’.”

Isabelle Ecker Jewelry Cuff

Success and the Future of Isabelle Ecker Jewelry

For her business, Isabelle imagines, “I see my company doing more craft shows, high end shows, home jewelry parties, office parties.” She intends to further her brand’s reach by attending craft shows all around the country.

For her business, she also sees internal growth. “I would love to find an assistant business manager to help with PR and everything the job comes with. I probably will have a few more jewelers in the studio with all the orders and inventory that there are.”

In the future, Isabelle hopes her brand will be available to an even wider audience. She says, “Getting my work into galleries and jewelry stores would be the next step, possibly even wholesale.”

Isabelle Ecker

Advice for Other College Students Looking to Start a Business: Network!

Isabelle explains of her venture, “I absolutely love my job, I am very grateful for my parents that have supported me and continue to do so throughout my venture.”

For those who feel inspired to create a business while in college – whether it’s something you’ve been passionate about since 13, or a recent realization or business opportunity that excites you – there are many things you can do to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

We all have heard about the importance in networking to find job opportunities, but it is also especially important when hoping to start your own business. Networking was also a great part of what drove Isabelle Ecker Jewelry’s success. For one example, her school had a field trip to the American Craft Council’s Baltimore Show in order for students to view other artists’ in the retail and wholesale businesses. By attending this show, Isabelle was able to learn from and network with established jewelers. “I took the opportunity to talk to as many people as I could, ask them questions about how they started, the challenges they face with this business, and if [they can] make a living selling their work. I got my answers, and I also met a fabulous artist who offered me a job assisting her at her upcoming show.” Networking with others in the field you are seeking to enter is not only enlightening, but a great way to make connects and find potential business partners.

Networking doesn’t have to be your standard meet-and-greet format or suit-and-tie formal event. Be proactive in building our own network. Isabelle recommends, “Look up people who have already started a business near you and apprentice or intern with them. You learn a lot more by doing.”

Some may feel that reaching out to others in the field they wish to start a business in is a tricky move – particularly if you see these people as competitors, or are afraid of having your ideas stolen. However, when done the smart way, you can make lasting mentorships and learn far more than you might handling your business ideation privately and alone. “Advice I give everyone: ASK QUESTIONS! Talk to people! You don’t get answers if you stay quiet.”

Finally, Isabelle offers up a solid piece of advice: “I’d say to never give up on your dream.”

 

Learn more about Isabelle Ecker Jewelry at http://www.Isabelleeckerjewelry.com/ and be sure to check out her Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/Isabelleeckerjewelry/

Student Spotlight: How Cornell Fostered Yorango’s Innovation & Facilitated Further Growth

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Yorango College Entrepreneurs

Yorango was launched in late 2012 by Adam Kirsch of Cornell University. The initial intent was to create a housing platform that was a better alternative to the sketchy, outdated classifieds that many typically rely on in the housing market. Over time, Adam Kirsch tells us, the scope of Yorango’s offerings transformed. “While we started off dealing with just listings, it was because it was what we knew as students. We were renting, our friends were renting, it was easy to grasp that we needed really good way to find a place or post a sublet,” Kirsch explained. They then spoke with hundreds of tenants and landlords to recognize a greater need in the housing market.

Business Growth

“After solving that problem for thousands of renters in the Ithaca area, we began work on our SaaS, which solves a number of shared problems affecting both tenants and the landlord or property manager responsible for the property. This platform brings organization and efficiency to the rental process, from allowing tenants to pay rent and sign leases online to empowering landlords to track maintenance effectively from their phone or computer,” Kirsch explained. Yorango now offers three total services: a listings platform for leases and sublets, a property management Software as a Service, and the Yorango Housing Network. The Yorango Housing Network is a program that works to connect graduating students with trusted brokers and landlords in new cities. Yorango’s growth is the culmination of both internal and external factors.

“Yorango’s recent product expansion can be largely attributed to the technical leadership of the company’s CTO, Anton Gilgur. A startup veteran, Gilgur’s energy and experience was instrumental in taking Yorango beyond listings and into broader applications of the technology to build better landlord-tenant relationships.” Kirsch also explained of their growth.

Yorango Housing Platform

“Our recent expansions – the SaaS and Yorango Housing Network – reflect hours upon hours of talking to prospective users and understanding the challenges they face in their business and their life, and us using our skills as entrepreneurs to address those problems,” said Kirsch of the growing pains of a startup. “The biggest challenge in launching Yorango was really getting to know customer needs. You can’t just declare a problem exists unless you intimately know it yourself,” he added.

Specifically, Yorango recently launched maintenance software on their for their property management product. Tenants, who could previously make online payments through the platform, are now also able to are now able to digitally file any maintenance requests, which will automatically and immediately notify their landlord or property manager. The system then allows both tenants and landlords to track and update the progress of a specific maintenance request. This especially offers some ease of use for landlords, as it merges all requests for maintenance across all of their properties listed on Yorango.

 Yorango Landlord Platform

Balancing School with a Startup

As challenging as it was to balance school with a startup, what Kirsch described as sometimes “[needing] to burn the candle at both ends” was ultimately a worthwhile experience. His school greatly fostered his creativity and provided ample resources as well. “Cornell has a fantastic infrastructure for supporting student companies, and the eLab accelerator program meant that we could receive coaching, credit and capital as we built our business. We also used the Cornell-affiliated Life Changing Labs incubator for additional support, and were headquartered in what is now known as the eHub, a co-working space where Cornell students do entrepreneurship. Countless students, faculty, staff and alumni support us in our endeavor,” Kirsch said. According to The Cornell Sun, eHub is a 5,000 square foot working space, boasting an open layout that fosters startup innovation.

Advice for Starting a Business in College

For students looking to follow in his footsteps, Kirsch offers the following three pieces of advice:

  1. Make sure you’re solving a real problem or creating something truly amazing. Talk to 100 prospective customers, ideally strangers, and confirm your product is either going to drastically improve their life or solve a real problem they face. Don’t lead them into an answer either – ask “What sucks?” and see if your solution addresses that opportunity.
  2. Don’t wait to be great. If you’re well-suited to solve a problem now, do it.
  3. Leverage the “free consultants” all around you – this means faculty, staff and students at your school. Odds are more than one has experience in an area you need help in, and they’re often more than willing to help someone at their college or university.

What the Future Holds for Yorango

“Growth is definitely top-of-mind for us right now,” Kirsch underscored. “While we’re quite happy with the success of our listings platform, we know we can create even more value going forward. That’s why we’re going all out on the SaaS, so Yorango can address your rental needs at any time of the year, not just when you’re looking, and also pioneering the Housing Network in select markets, enabling our alumni users to transition to their new hometowns with our support.”

To learn more about Yorango’s offerings, reach out at contact@yorango.com or visit www.yorango.com

KrafftIT’s Inhale App Helps You Mitigate the Effects of Air Pollution

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KrafftIT Student Spotlight

Knowing that air pollution is an increasing environmental concern is to understand that air quality directly correlates to quality of life. This is just what KrafftIT co-founder Fredrik Krafft discovered one day when he was on a run in downtown Los Angeles. Krafft felt the debilitating effects that air pollution had on his workout, and aimed to find a solution. We spoke with Fredrik’s co-founder Kyle Walden about their inspiration for the business, as well as how his coursework at University of Southern California factored into running a start-up.

Recognizing a Need in the Market for Accessible Air Pollution Data

“Fredrik wished there was a tool that would make air, essentially, visible,” explained Walden. The LA dweller sought out apps and other resources that would tell him when was a good time to work out in metropolitan areas (according to the current air conditions), but was disappointed at the lack of publicly-accessible information out there. That’s when he and his co-founder decided to take this matter into their own hands.

Walden clarified, “The solution was to take advantage of how pretty much everyone owns an iPhone, and develop a smart phone app ‒ a device that people use daily ‒ [because] air quality is a metric that people should check daily as well!” From this, the Inhale app was born. By aggregating data from governmental organizations, the app helps users determine when is a good time to work out outdoors in areas that are more densely populated. To this end, it helps users mitigate the effects of air pollution, including pollen and ozone pollutants.

KrafftIT Inhale App Co-Founders

KrafftIT Inhale App Co-Founders Kyle Walden and Fredrik Krafft

 

Business Classes Helps Co-Founder Kyle Walden Apply His Real-World Experience

Walden also found that his classes at University of Southern California fostered his ambitions for KrafftIT; helping him apply real world context to his coursework. He explained, “I am in the business school and most of the classes I take relate to my start-up. So my start-up basically becomes my homework, my exams, and my class curriculum. I also think it makes me learn more effectively since, whenever I am learning about a business concept, instead of using the various examples in my textbooks, I just think ‘How would this work for KrafftIT?’. Or ‘We experienced this problem, so I can really relate to that point’. I find learning much easier that way, and also my relationships with my professors outside of the classes that much more meaningful.”

Walden also mentions that for him, the experience of starting his own business and creating the Inhale app has been more valuable than working at traditional internships. He stated, “For me, one of the main pulls for working in a start-up was having that strong sense of purpose, autonomy, mastery, and responsibility that I just didn’t really feel like I was receiving from traditional internships. Why wait two or four years to make an impact on the world for the better?”

 

Inhale App for iPhone

Inhale App for iPhone

 

No Resources on Campus for Your Startup? Create Your Own!

As for his advice to college entrepreneurs? Walden urges that students take advantage of all of the resources that are available to undergraduates that are otherwise not available to young professionals. But even if your campus doesn’t boast the exact resources needed for your business, he urges: “Here is my favorite part: if there isn’t [any resources], start it yourself. Become an entrepreneur by building a startup community/resources within your campus. Do it with your friends as a side-hustle or a fun little project. You won’t believe where it might take you. Just a reminder: Uber started as a side-hustle.”

 

For more info, visit KrafftIT’s website, and follow along on Facebook and Twitter to receive the latest updates on the Inhale app.

Student Spotlight: Ezkie Fills the International Housing Void

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Ezkie (1)

 

Venturing out to study, intern or work abroad is something OCM highly recommends – not only is it an incredible way to broaden your horizons and immerse yourself into another culture, but it also looks great on your resume. However, we are aware of the challenges that living abroad can present, like finding affordable and safe housing. For a long time, you weren’t left with many options or resources to find the perfect place abroad. Outside of some potentially sketchy Craigslist posts or word of mouth, it’s hard to safely secure housing without being in the country first!

Ezkie Changes the Way Students Travel, Live and Connect Abroad

Our Student Spotlight for June is Ezkie, a company that fills this international housing void by matching students worldwide with apartments. Ezkie (read: “easy key”) was started by UCLA student Anais Tadlaoui, who personally and repeatedly experienced the struggle of finding housing, having lived in seven different cities.

Ezkie aims to foster cultural, social, and intellectual relationships across the globe by changing the way university students and young professionals travel, live and connect abroad. Ezkie seeks to change the housing game and give all young adults the chance to pursue international experiences by building a curated network of universities where students can let their place to each other.

 

Recognizing a Need in the Market for Safe, Affordable Housing for Students

Anais shared a few anecdotes with us about the struggles she personally faced when moving both domestically and internationally. Having been scammed in New York, homeless in Rio de Janeiro and having to pay an exorbitant price up front to an agency in London, Anais told us, “I figured I either had a housing spell cast on me or there was a much bigger problem out there.” She found that regardless of the platform or method she used to find housing – like traditional landlords and agencies, Airbnb and Craigslist – they all ultimately failed to meet her housing needs.

Having suspected this need in the market for safe, affordable and convenient housing for students, Anais took to her campus to survey others. After interviewing about 100 other students, she found that she wasn’t the only one with apartment horror stories. “I realized how critical the problem was, how big the market was, and the lack of adequate solutions” Anais explained. “And this problem is only going to get worse as more students are seeking out international education and global experiences. So, I decided to put an end to this housing frenzy and make it easy, safe, and convenient to relocate to a new city for a few months.”

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Ezkie Gains Traction and Recognition

Anais and her team’s successful efforts to fill the void of safe, affordable international housing have not fallen on deaf ears either. In April of this year, Ezkie was awarded a $10K Courageous Women Entrepreneur Prize from The Rice University Business Plan Competition. Ezkie’s success has also gained its fair share of rightfully earned publicity, with news sources such as Forbes, TechCrunch and Los Angeles Times commending the Ezkie team on their ingenuity and success.

ezkie

 

Ezkie Founder Anais Tadlaoui’s Advice on Starting a Business in College

When asked what advice she had for students that hope to start a business, Anais urged that the best time to start is when you’re still in school! “That’s the easiest and best way to find your co-founding team and get access to so many free resources schools offer to foster entrepreneurship on their campuses. It will be so much harder to start a company, when you’re ‘alone in the real world’ with no support system backing you up.” She also shared an incredible list of college resources and benefits for students looking to get their ideas off of the ground:

  • Prize money from startup competitions only available to current students
  • Exposure to thousands of students and potential customers via the school’s newspaper, announcements before class, student organizations and Greek life partnerships
  • Accelerator programs and free office space on campus with free consulting
  • Mentors such as professors, tutors and grad students

Through these resources (among many others), Anais urges that colleges can be a great incubator for your next big idea.

ezkie2

As far as what the future holds for Ezkie, Anais explains that they aim to expand internationally. “We are striving to help students with more than just housing. In the future, we plan on offering additional concierge service to help them make the most out of their new city.”

To learn more about Ezkie or find your next home away from home, visit www.ezkie.com.