Is it possible to start a business without leaving school? Easy. Here are nine American students and recent graduates who run their businesses and reach $100,000 in annual sales while continuing to study at the university. Some of them are studying at public universities, others – in the elite private. They have completely different projects – from managing your own hedge fund to creating protein shakes. But all of them are united by ambition, optimism and entrepreneurial drive.
Bright Young Things: Successful Business Student Stories
Kevin Djelfand, 23: making protein shakes
- San Diego State University – graduated in June 2012
- Company: Shake Smart
In July 2010, leaving the gym at the University of San Diego, Kevin suddenly realized how disgusting it was to drink a warm protein shake with lumps. “It tasted like dirt,” he recalls. Then Djelfand decided that he would make his own drink, adding fresh fruit and skimmed milk to protein powder. The mixture not only retained the effect of a protein shake but was also very tasty. He spoke about his idea to the gym mate Martin Reiman: as a result, the partners came up with more than 60 different mixes and tested the cocktails on 20 friends. As a result, they chose 15 tastes, including “chocolate frosty”, made of chocolate protein powder, agave nectar, milk and ice. They collected $50,000 from family and friends and opened a Shake Smart kiosk near the gym. According to their calculations, it was necessary to sell 60 drinks a day to pay off. Shake Smart became a bomb – they sold about 120 shakes a day immediately after opening, and six months later they had 12 people working there. In 2015, Shake Smart opened a point in a mall in San Diego near a 24-hour sports club. By the end of the year, Djelfand expects revenue of $ 740,000.
Alexandra Ebraham, 23: wet floor cleaner
- University of Seattle High School
- Company – DripCatch
In May 2010, Alexandra Ebraham, working as a waitress at the luxury hotel Salish Lodge in Washington, slipped on a wet floor and fell on her back. Abraham encountered wet floors in all restaurants. To avoid such falls, Abraham asked her boss to install a special tank, where drops would fall from the shelves for freshly washed dishes. When he said that such a thing did not exist, Abraham did not believe it and searched for a device on the Internet for three months. Having found nothing, she developed it herself: it’s just a black plastic pallet 50 by 50 cm in size. The pallet clings tightly to the shelves, which are then placed inside industrial dishwashers. One Chinese manufacturer agreed to create a prototype, which Abraham called DripCatch. Lawsuits against American restaurants in connection with falls on wet floors amount to about $2 billion, so pallets for $50 turned out to be in demand. Abraham quickly gained the support of the famous Seattle chef Tom Douglas. His help helped Abraham raise an investment of $81,000. But starting her own business was not so easy. Abraham took a sabbatical and worked two jobs to pay bills. After another clarification of relations with Chinese manufacturers, she decided to work with an American company that could produce pallets in smaller batches and at a cost of $3 less. In May 2012, DripCatch was featured at the Chicago National Restaurant Association trade show. Abraham has already sold 600 DripCatches and expects total sales for 2012 to be $1 million. In the autumn, she plans to return to the university.
Ansar Khan, 23: A Restaurant App for the iPad
- University of Buffalo – graduated in May 2011
- Company: Refulgent Software
While working at the Kabab & Curry family restaurant in Buffalo, Ansar Khan and another waiter James O’Lieri decided to come up with a more convenient way to process orders. There were already computerized systems on the market but they were very expensive. They thought that the mobile app for iPod Touch and iPad would be cheaper. Using $32,000 borrowed from Hahn’s parents, the partners worked on the application in the basement of O’Lieri’s mother. It took 10 months to write the code, another six months to test. In April 2011, they launched the Ambur app on the App Store for $999. Their first customer came 6 weeks later: a Greek restaurant in New York. Ambur is now installed in 265 restaurants in 14 countries, Khan expects that in 2012 they will earn $850,000. Part of the revenue comes from selling additional equipment to restaurants: check printers and credit card terminals.
Max Alenhat, 22: counting trees in the forest with the help of a satellite
- Yale University – graduated in May 2011
- Company: Silvia Terra
For more than a hundred years, timber merchants have been evaluating their assets using the same time-consuming method: manually counting different tree species for different forest plots, and then extrapolating the results to all ownership. A similar counting of 20,000 acres of oak, cherry and birch forest can take six months and cost $100,000. Max Alenhat and his partner, Zekery Pariz, have figured out how to move this process to the 21st century. They also count trees on the ground, but for this, they use satellite images and an algorithm developed by Pariz. The algorithm helped to significantly reduce the number of sites whose samples needed to be analyzed, and to focus on areas where the size of trees and the diversity of species are most representative of the entire forest. This job costs only $12,500. “They took the old methodology and transformed it with technology,” said Tim Corriero, managing director of FIA Timber Partners, which invests in the timber industry. Since its launch in 2009, Silvia Terra has attracted five customers and earned more than $200,000. Alenhat expects sales to reach $1 million by the end of this year, and triple by the end of 2013.
Eni Wang, 23: Women’s Portal Network Senior
- Harvard University
- Company: Her Campus Media
“Students constantly sit in their laptops, do not listen to lectures, read the latest news on Her Campus, and we earn on this,” says Eni Wang about her network of women’s portals, which she launched in 2009 with her friends, are also Harvard students Stephanie Kaplan and Winsdore Henger. Her Campus offers the usual ladies mix of love, beauty and health stories, but each campus has its own My Campus microsite, which produces content for female students at this particular university. Students at Duke University, visiting Her Campus, will see the article “10 Things You Will Miss at Duke University,” while girls in Georgetown see a column about celebrating Georgetown Day. Advertisers like this targeted approach. Vang’s team is written and edited by more than 3,000 unpaid journalistic students. The average monthly audience of this site is 850,000 users, and last year’s income was more than $300,000. The Wang team owns 80 other domain names, including HisCampus.com. Now they are exploring how to attract readers. “This is one of those ways you can expand and make Her Campus an idea for a billion,” says Wang.