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

Why Being Your Own Boss Rules: Start a Business in College

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why-student-entrepreneurship

No offices. No work hours. No manager to tell us what to do. Working for yourself sounds like living the dream, doesn’t it? But you don’t have to get your MBA or wait ‘til you’re older to start your own business. Many college students, including those featured in our student spotlight series, have become successful business owners while still enrolled full-time! Interested in how they did it? These are just a few pieces of advice they have to share.

 

Use What You Have Available

You don’t have to know it all. In fact, when you’re in college, you don’t need to know anything at all. It’s all part of the learning process! Many colleges provide organizations, lecture series, programming, and even mentorships for those looking to start their own business. The best part of all — it’s usually free or low cost for students!

 

“I was part of the summer cohort at Happy Valley Launchbox,” Ishana Shekhawat, a Penn State business creator, says, “where we got a lot of help both in terms of individual mentoring as well as through weekly information and networking sessions.”

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Network

Whether you have an idea already or on the hunt, collaborating with others is key. That’s why being in college rocks because of all the opportunities you have to meet others with an entrepreneurial background or spirit.

 

Rajat Bhageria, a nonprofit owner and student from Philadelphia, describes in a Forbes article how networking using his college’s contacts paid off big, “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.”

 

Find Your Inspiration From Within

Many college entrepreneurs get their big break solving a problem they encounter every day. For example, think about how Facebook, the ultimate college business, was created from the need to connect and speak with others online. By addressing the issue head on in a creative way, an empire was built.

 

Ezike, a housing solution for international students living abroad, was started by one of our spotlighters and UCLA student, Anais Tadlaoui. Anais experienced the problem of finding housing for college first hand and wanted to come up with a solution.

 

After surveying other students, she said, “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.”

 

Balance is Key — Even for New Business Owners

A forgotten part of finding success as a business owner is remembering to not overwork yourself. Self-care, especially when juggling regular work, a new business, college studies, and a social life, seems to fall by the wayside first. But it’s vital to maintaining a clear head needed to make important business decisions.

 

Taylor Landrum, the owner of Fur Sure Dog Care, LLC and a full-time student at Northern Kentucky University, knows all about this and shares some wise wisdom regarding owning a business while juggling the rest, “The biggest challenge of starting my business was learning how to balance my life… The best way for me to do so was to take it one day at a time.”

Student Spotlight: ThirdEye Technologies Develops Product to Assist the Blind

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thirdeye-technologies

“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

Student Spotlight: Taylor Landrum Delivers Convenient Dog Care with Fur Sure

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This month’s Student Spotlight focuses on a student/ local business owner in Northern Kentucky who wanted to share his love for canines through taking care of them and making them look their best. Read on to find out more about Taylor Landrum and his dog grooming business – Fur Sure Dog Care, LLC.

 

Fur Sure Dog Care Logo

Taylor first came up with the idea for his business idea while taking care of his Sheltie, Rudy. He first met Rudy while stationed with the US Air Force in Omaha, NE. “I was nearing the end of my enlistment, and I wanted to get a dog that I could train and bring home with me to be my sidekick in this new life.” he says. Just a short time later, thanks to his experience with Rudy and other dogs his friends and family owned, he soon realized there was a need in the market, and Fur Sure was born.

The main unique selling point of Fur Sure is its focus on comfort for the dog and their owner. He offers grooming and walking services, all done in-house, so that both the owner and the pup feel most comfortable. “For most people, dogs become your children,” Landrum says. Noting that they teach responsibility, he also states that the work put into maintaining a dog’s well-being is a reflection on the owner more so than that of the dog’s themselves. “Your dog reflects your efforts, and when they’re happy, so are you.”

 

Taylor & Rudy

 

Fur Sure takes care of many types of dogs. These include small breeds like mini Doberman pinschers and Maltipoos, to bigger dogs who are still pups at heart, like playful Labradors, all of which are showcased to celebrate the many new friends he’s made thank to his services. From simple nail trims and brushing, to packages that include both grooming and walking, he offers a change from most grooming salons, where dogs are unaware of their surroundings and aren’t familiar with the people around them. This formula has proven to be a winning solution to a pain point for many pet owners.

In addition to making his clients feel their best, Landrum’s services continue to be lauded thanks to his deep care for dogs. Many owners commend him on his ability to engage with their dogs, giving them equal parts attention and affection in the effort to reassure that he’s there to make them feel their absolute best.

Of course, the challenges of having one’s own business are evident, especially considering the overall workload. Landrum is a full-time student of entrepreneurship at Northern Kentucky University, holds a part-time job at a local hospital, and operates Fur Sure. Even with his demanding schedule, he makes sure to take time to decompress from the pressures of donning many hats. “The biggest challenge of starting my business was learning how to balance my life.” He continues, “The best way for me to do so was to take it one day at a time.”

By keeping his priorities in order and in check, as well as staying organized with his trusty mobile calendar, Taylor makes sure to find free time to unwind and relax. In his spare time, he enjoys experimenting with wing sauce recipes, and cheers on the Bengals football team and the Louisville Cardinals basketball team. In Rudy’s spare time, he loves to run in big open areas, and is a huge fan of the canine classic “Fetch”.

 

Taylor & Rudy #2

 

After he’s finished with his studies, Taylor is interested in consulting for startups and mid-level companies, as well as general business consulting to identify and improve operations for firms. He attributes his way of thinking differently to his studies at NKU along with his work with Fur Sure.

“Most programs teach you how to follow a process, [while] entrepreneurship teaches you how to create a process. It is a different way of thinking, and once you start thinking like an entrepreneur there is no way to turn it off.”

Although Taylor wants to keep the business local for the time being, he’s open to expansion outside of the Northern Kentucky area, an area that takes pride in local businesses and always has something fun happening.

 

Logo Source: Fur Sure Dog Care