Many of us view college as nothing more than a means to get good jobs after we graduate. But why not jumpstart that process? Turns out we don’t have to wait until after graduation — and the crushing pressure of repaying our student loans — to try to make our fortune.
More and more college students are succeeding in creating their own business ventures years ahead of graduation, while still holed up in the hallowed halls of their universities.
The most obvious college start-up example, recently immortalized in film, should be sufficient inspiration. But this article is neither about Facebook nor the Facebook movie; instead, it concerns the plethora of other entrepreneurs who create innovative businesses from their dorm room. The famed social networking site is a great testament to the potential upside of college entrepreneurship, but it’s a statistically improbable home run — more than most of us can expect.
Nevertheless, the possibilities for entrepreneurship are boundless; they don’t need to involve engineering breakthroughs.
Aspiring journalists, for instance, now have all the tools they need to make a mark on the changing world of print media. Mediashift, a PBS-affiliated website that tracks the radical changes in journalism, features examples of journalists riding the wave of transition from traditional media to digital journalism.
The site recently featured undergraduate Zephyr Basine, who created the blog-turned-website CollegeFashion.net. Bored with her biology seminar at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she decided to scout fashion while in class, and feature or improve the fashions she observed.
Mediashift reports that “Basine is part of a select group of students who have constructed worthwhile new media niches — and become stars — while still in school.”
Another Internet startup, HackCollege.com was founded in August 2006 by Kelly Sutton, who at the time was a 19-year-old student at Loyola Marymount University.
Mediashift reports, “Kelly Sutton … began without a plan. [He] enjoyed reading the popular productivity blog Lifehacker and simply thought, ‘Hey, there needs to be a Lifehacker for college students, and I’m going to do that.’” HackCollege brought Sutton publicity, internships and job offers. His isn’t the only success story.
At USC too, students are hard at work with their entrepreneurial activities. Ben Gordon, a sophomore majoring in business administration, began the Bicycle Bread Company, which makes and sells a wide variety of bread on campus. His niche is a delivery service and attentive personal relationships with his customers.
Derek Roth, a senior majoring in public policy, planning, and management, and David Rajewski, a sophomore majoring in business administration, run their own longboard retail companies — Initiative Skate and Stoked Skateboards, respectively.
These three Trojans might not expect their businesses to become the next Facebook, but the startups provide good real-world experience and much-needed financial padding.
One of the nine businesses recently featured in Inc. magazine’s “9 Cool College Start-ups” is College Weekenders, pioneered by David Wachtel of USC. College Weekenders had its start with — you guessed it — the Weekender to Northern California.
Wachtel realized he could get a good price if he organized a trip package with a hotel and bus company, which he marketed to his fellow Trojans. Inc. magazine reports that Wachtel intends to extend College Weekenders to other college campuses in the future.
USC has many resources to encourage, support and develop innovation. The USC Stevens Institute for Innovation was founded in 2004 to promote and incubate innovation at USC among the faculty and students.
The Stevens Institute also sponsors the USC Student Innovator Showcase and Competition each year to encourage and reward innovation in the student body.
USC is a vast and diverse marketplace of experts, innovators and creators, who, through some networking, might be available to help you move your own plan forward.
If you have an idea that you think deserves a leg up, there is no better time to go for it. As Trojans, we are taught to lead and make our mark by transforming the world in which we live.
Unlike the generations that preceded us, who saw graduation as the starting line, our starting gun might have sounded the day we arrived at USC.
Reid Roman is a sophomore majoring in industrial and systems engineering. His column, “Bright Side,” runs every other Friday.