Ah college, it brings back memories of classes (skipping them), parties, friends and wasted opportunity. I can’t help but wonder what the exact percentage is of college graduates that look back on their experience and wish they did more with the available resources.
We won’t be covering those underachievers in this article (don’t worry I’m one of them too). We’re going to take a look at the student entrepreneurs that had a mind for building business and making money. It’s no secret that students can make great entrepreneurs for a variety of reasons. We’ll do you a favor and skip over the Zuckerbergs, Dells, Gates, Wozniaks, Brins and Pages of the world, yes they were all student entrepreneurs, and focus on the smaller time entrepreneurs.
If you’re lucky, you’re still in school or on your way there shortly and if not, don’t worry there’s still time for you to learn from these showcases and jump on the entrepreneur train.
Corrine must be of a rare breed. She’s one of the very few entrepreneurs that started their business in high school. Yep that’s right, as a 17 year old junior in high school Corrine approached a local sports shop with her homemade lycra and fleece winter hats and scarves.
Shortly thereafter she had formed her business SKIDA, which is the Swedish word for ski. Since then SKIDA has seen a consistently positive growth. The company has been profitable since 2009 and in the past year has seen sales of roughly $100,000. SKIDA items are now available in more than 47 retail stores across the nation.
What was the inspiration and key to her success? She simply found a hole in the market space. As a passionate skier she found that the selection of fashionable winter hats was remarkably slim. Grabbing some cheap fabric and a knitting kit she first made her own hats and scarves which soon thereafter caught the attention of friends and peers. Once friends starting asking the question “How much are they?” the idea of actually turning this hobby into a business made perfect sense. Even after all this work and growth, Corrine is still a student, only a junior at Middlebury College! The future sure looks bright for this skiing seamstress.
Some product ideas make so much sense that they immediately trigger the question “Why aren’t these things everywhere!?” Such is the case with Maxwell Arndt and the Toepener.
The Toepener is the result of a real world entrepreneur class offered at the University of Minnesota in the School of Management program. Students are given the task of solving a problem and building a business and in 2010 one group came up with an idea so great that they followed through and debuted their first product in January 2011.
The Toepener as you can see is a door handle for your foot. How many times have you been exiting a public bathroom and scowled about having to touch what is presumably a filthy door handle with your freshly washed hands? I don’t know about you but this happens to me nearly every time. Such a simple idea that solves two problems, the spreading of germs and reduces paper towel waste (apparently some people use them to open the doors) with one ingenious product.
Tilden Smith and Dylan Balsz
Isn’t it annoying when dogs poop on your carpet? Apparently high school pals Tilden Smith and Dylan Balsz thought so. When Balsz approached Smith with his idea of creating indoor outhouses for pets, Smith was sold on the idea immediately. It wasn’t long before the two had come up with a design and name for their product, the PetLawn.
The PetLawn is a carefully engineered product that features synthetic grass that absorbs no smell, a scented bag dispenser for number twos, a unique and strong grate to elevate the grass and a highly absorbent pad that sits below. The product is smartly designed and looks great which is a credit to the time and effort both these guys poured into it. The two made the hugely courageous decision of debuting the product at a Las Vegas tradeshow. The product was a huge hit and the two found interested retailers immediately.
What was the key to their success? When they first conceived of the product they did a careful market study. In their study they noticed that the leading product, the high-end Pet Loo, was retailing for up to $250 while devices at the opposite end of the price spectrum cost $70 or less. The two determined that not only could they offer a product that hit a middle road (the PetLawn retails for $120-$150) they could also make it far more attractive and functional to have in your home. They were right.