Students open for business / College entrepreneur success

Just nine years ago, the world was introduced to the social networking site Facebook after it blew up from a Harvard dorm room. FedEx was first introduced in a term paper by a student at Yale University, and the idea for Microsoft was the brainchild of a college student as well.

All these early starts have had their fair share of struggles with their entrepreneurial pursuits, but some of the most successful businesses started out on college campuses, not much different from our own.

Flow & Co. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Chirchirillo)
Mashup group. (Photo courtesy of Davis Craig)
Polished Designs manicures. (Photo courtesy of Polished Designs)
Greek apparel. (Photo courtesy of Sewing by Stack)
(Photo courtesy of Papia's Online Boutique)

Here at the College, there are several young entrepreneurs giving it the old college try at their own business ideas.

Each year, the Mayo Business Competition awards young entrepreneurs at the College portions of a $20,000 pot to help them get their business plans up and running. Last year, three freshmen took first place for their online customized magazine idea, “Mashup.”

Originally, sophomores Frankie Nwafili, biology major, Ryan Dolan, finance major, and Davis Craig, economics major, started with the Forever Dope brand website. The website was an online college lifestyle blog with a clothing line. The students took out a $4,000 loan to start the website up, and although it had over 5,000 likes on Facebook, the team struggled to stay together. “Mashup,” was the next step after Forever Dope, but their idea never became a reality.

“We all had varying views on where we wanted to go after the business plan competition,” Craig said. “One of the things about entrepreneurship is you have to know when to step away, and it can be really hard to step away.” Forever Dope will not continue in the future, but Craig is already thinking about his next business project.

Senior finance major, Patrick Chirchirillo, has been working on a larger-scale project, somewhat similar to that of Forever Dope.

Flow & Co., a college night life company that sells corduroy snapback hats and sunglasses, has been running for just under a year, but has already gained worldwide recognition, having shipped to 15 countries. Chirchirillo and his friends came up with the name Flow & Co. sitting in Eickhoff. At the time, Chirchirillo had longer hair, which was the Flow, and his friends, the Co.

The company has over 1,000 sales and has been profitable so far.

There are a couple other on-campus businesses that started up within the past few months, and are already gaining success.

Caitlin Stack, a junior statistics major, joined the Theta Phi Alpha sorority and noticed how expensive Greek apparel was from most companies.

“I got a little last semester, and it was so expensive buying shirts and everything, like crafts,” Stack said. “When I got all my shirts in the mail, I realized, I could definitely just do this myself.”

Having worked at Jo Ann Fabrics for four years, Stack decided to start her own business and begin supplying the College Greek community with cheaper apparel at the same quality they would receive from any other supplier.

Starting out, she admitted her shirts were looking a little rough and struggled with some fabrics that melted under an iron, but since Sewing by Stack began the week before spring break, she has already received about 25 orders and made over $500 in profits. Each shirt costs the customer about $14 to $15, since they have to provide Stack with the materials. Although the supplies may cost less, she includes an extra charge for her time. Stack makes all merchandise on the sewing machine she has in her dorm, dedicating about 3 hours a day to her business.

“My room is like a little sewing disaster right now,” Stack said.

While Stack’s business has proven to be successful, with future plans of expanding to other schools, some students found running a business is more difficult than they anticipated.

Polished Designs, an on-campus manicuring service, started in January, but already has plans of shutting down. Two friends, who requested to remain anonymous, decided to turn their extensive nail polish collection into a convenient service.

Each manicure costs $5 and there is an additional cost for nail art.

After only a few months in business, however, they discovered that the demand for manicurists on campus is not really there.

“We haven’t broke even … the demand just isn’t there,” the Polished Designs business owner said. “Most girls just kinda paint nails on their own. They don’t really see the need to pay someone else to do it.”

Polished Designs does not plan to continue next semester.

Papia Furkan, junior finance major, started an online shopping website, Papia’s Online Boutique, because of her own love for online shopping. Her aunt, who owns a small boutique in Bangladesh, ships her various products, such as jewelry, organizing materials and other accessories for Furkan to sell on her website.

Having products shipped from Bangladesh, Furkan explained, is more cost efficient than purchasing them here. A pair of earrings, for example, costs her $3, but she can sell them for $7, keeping the price low but also turning a profit for herself.

So far, Furkan’s only problems have been with technical issues from the website with shipping, but she has had more than 35 customers since she opened shop in January. Eventually, she hopes to expand her business and open a physical store.