Student Spotlight: Phillip Hedayatnia



“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


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



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 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, 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


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!

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



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: Penn State Grad Develops Biohealth Game Playphysio



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



“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

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


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 or visit

How to Start a Business in College (Tips + Infographic!)


Start a business in college

Ask the founders of Reddit, ModCloth, or even Insomnia Cookies – there’s no better time to build your brand than as an undergrad! Your college campus is the ideal place to brainstorm, produce, and promote your million-dollar idea. If you’re serious about getting your feet wet as a young entrepreneur, this is the best chance you’ll get to learn and experiment. We’re ready if you are. Here’s how to turn your biggest, scariest, and wildest daydream into a real-life business venture.

Develop Your Ideas & Think it Through

Map Out Your “Big Idea”

What need(s) are you looking to fulfill? What makes your product or service unique? How will you conduct business? Grab a notebook and pen and go to town jotting down notes about everything, from your offerings to your key demographic, staffing structure, and promotional ideas. The more detail, the better!

Immerse Yourself in the Industry

Before you decide to dive in, research the market. Identify your competitors, and make note of what they’re doing right, and what they could improve upon. Read up on the industry, and weigh the opportunities vs. risks involved in getting into this line of business. Be sure to check out blogs, magazines, and other outlets where you can keep up with news and learn from the professionals!

Do Your Homework

Put your electives to work by signing up for classes that will help you build your business. Use class time to learn the ins and outs of finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, and more! Doing so will also put you in touch with teachers and students with similar interests, and those connections may prove valuable as you work towards your business launch.

Give it a Name

Narrow down the list of possible names for your business, products or programs to pick the best option(s)! Before finalizing your choice, make sure the appropriate copyrights, trademarks, and social media handles are available to you.


Transform Your Concept into a Business Opportunity

Write a Business Plan

Don’t skip this step! Apply the template you learned about in class to your own business model. Get clear on your mission statement, revenue streams, and 3 and 5-year plans. By affirming your goals and the methodologies to achieve them, you’ll be ready to answer any questions and think through any roadblocks.

Seek Advice from Your Professors

One of the greatest advantages to launching a business in college is the resources available to you – none more important than faculty! Attend the office hours of appropriate professors to share with them your ideas and ask any questions related to their academic field. Make it your goal to find a teacher you really hit it off with, who can serve as your advisor. He or she may even become a lifelong mentor!

Structure Your Support Team

If you intend to venture into solo entrepreneurship, seek out a community that you can turn to for advice and inspiration – be it in person or online. If you want to build a team, start thinking about who you want to work with; what positions or skills are needed, and where to find your future coworkers.

Prioritize by Planning & Scheduling

It takes a whole lot of time and effort to turn an idea into a reality, and as an undergrad, you no doubt already have a lot on your plate. Schedule time outside of class, internships, and campus activities – every day or every week – to continually work towards your goals. Set deadlines every step of the way and hold yourself accountable to them.


Secure Finances & Take Care of Legalities

Get Serious about Funding

There are so many different ways to secure the cash to launch a new business: you can apply for a loan, seek out investors, submit for grant consideration, try crowdfunding, or simply ask a family member to lend you some seed money. Do your homework in researching all of your options to determine which is best for you!

Determine Your Legal Structure

Assuming you want to make a profit, you’ll need to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. Decide whether you’ll be operating as an LLC, sole proprietorship, partnership, or use another type of business structure. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to register your business name and register for state and local taxes.


Prepare for Launch

Develop Your Product or Service

This is where the magic happens. Press play on your business idea and find and utilize the resources you need to create your prototype or prep your service offerings. Forge important partnerships and test your product or service as a way to acquire feedback and insights before the grand unveiling.

Create a Website

Have some official space on the Web where friends, family, and potential customers can find out more about your business. Build your own site, or simply create a no-frills landing page or official social media account where you can share news and interested parties can get in touch with your team.

Use Your Student Status While You Have it

Make the most out of your undergraduate position by taking advantage of campus resources and student discounts. Consider what perks you may need in the future that make sense to get now for cheaper, like electronics, business cards, and other printing services.


Present Your New Business to the World

Confirm Payment & Delivery

Have a Point of Sale (POS) system in place so that you can collect, process, and organize orders for your new offerings. Ensure revenue is deposited into the right account, physical or digital delivery methods are in place, and that you are able to obtain all customer information required for a smooth and successful transaction.

Generate Publicity

You can’t be the only one excited for your business to launch! Reach out to the editor of your school newspaper and other local outlets with a press release announcing your new venture. Implement some creative guerilla marketing tactics on campus or seek opportunities for promotion online to get the word out about your business.

Celebrate Your Start!

An event is the perfect occasion to show loved ones what you’ve been working on, as well as to generate interest and secure your first clients or customers. Whether a grand opening party, media night, or just a party with friends and family is most appropriate, it’s important to celebrate your hard work and imminent success!

Start  A Business in College Infographic 

Every great entrepreneur needs a designated space to work, play, and recharge! At OCM, we’re dedicated to serving college students with dorm room essentials and campus gear that is “Guaranteed ‘til Graduation”. We’re in the business of making your dorm or apartment look and feel as stylish, comfortable, and productive as possible! For more helpful tips, advice, and resources on making the most out of your time as an undergrad, visit the OCM Blog at


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


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.