Bryan Silverman of Star Toilet Paper.
Nam Ho was at work when it happened. Oliver Bogner was preparing for his bar mitzvah. Joseph Getts was playing soccer.
As these collegiate entrepreneurs can attest, regardless of the trade — whether reality television, clothing design, video rentals or toilet paper — every good entrepreneurial effort begins with a good idea, and there’s no telling where or when inspiration might strike.
• Stacey Ferreira, New York University — MySocialCloud.com
For Ferreira, it started with a tweet.
“By chance, I saw a tweet from Sir Richard Branson that offered something like, ‘Donate $2,000 to charity to meet me in Miami for cocktails.’ I replied, ‘I’m not old enough to drink cocktails, but I’d love to meet [you].”
Forty-eight hours later, Ferreira and her brother Scott were pitching the billionaire their idea.
Branson, along with Jerry Murdock of Insight Venture Partners, eventually invested nearly a million dollars in MySocialCloud.
“As far as MySocialCloud is concerned, it will continue whether or not I go back to school,” said Ferreira, who is currently on leave. “We’ve made lots of progress on the site over the past year. Thousands of people use it daily and depend on it to log in to their online accounts. The plan is to continue building out our mobile platforms as mobile is the up-and-coming market.”
• Nam Ho, University of California – Irvine — Oh Man! Clothing
Ho got the idea for his urban streetwear company while crunching numbers at a summer finance internship.
“During my spare time at work,” he said, “I would research different things like garment fabrics, printing techniques and general advice for entrepreneurs. Starting a clothing company seemed like only a dream, but one year later in 2009, I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey.”
Ho, who has always been interested in artistic endeavors, put the majority of his internship earnings toward launching the line, and Oh Man! (his name spelled backward) hasn’t stopped since.
“In order to balance my work life, I give up a lot of sleep and work late at night — many times until the sun rises,” Ho said. “I don’t mind working late at night, though. It’s the only time where I can get away from all the chaos of the day and just focus on designing.”
• Bryan Silverman, Duke University — Star Toilet Paper
“Some people choose a cappella, some people join investment club and others focus on athletics — my thing is toilet paper,” said Duke University sophomore Bryan Silverman.
Silverman’s brother and co-founder, Jordan, came up with the idea in 2010.
“He was sitting in the bathroom, reading his phone just like everyone else does,” Bryan explained. “He thought to himself, ‘Everyone reads, creating a captive audience in the bathroom, so why not put advertising here?’”
Bryan initially “pooh-poohed” his brother’s idea, but wisely eventually came around to it. Last year he was named Entrepreneur Magazine’s College Entrepreneur of 2012.
The Silverman brothers’ business — which operates under the slogan, ‘Don’t rush, look before you flush!’ — uses a “two-ply” system: First, the company prints coupons and advertisements on toilet paper and provides it to public venues at no charge. Revenue brought in from the second ply — obtaining advertisers — allows them to provide the TP at no cost.
“Companies who choose to advertise with us can choose the specific demographic they wish to target by selecting from the venues we will be supply and at half a cent per ad, it is a unique way to advertise in a cost-efficient manner.”
• Joseph Getts, Fairleigh Dickinson University — ClickAFlick
Getts arrived at the idea for automated DVD kiosk machine ClickAFlick in the most unlikely of places: a soccer field.
“I remember a group of my teammates talking about how cool it would be to have a Redbox DVD rental machine right on campus,” he said. “At that point the idea was planted, and I just needed to find the opportunity to help it grow.”
With the support of faculty advisors and mentors, Getts and his co-founder — fellow FDU Senior Matthew Fishman — negotiated a $12,000 loan from a micro-lending intermediary. They placed the kiosk in their campus’s student center, with 100% of revenue going towards the entrepreneurship club the two started.
They plan on selling ClickAFlick to the club upon their graduation this spring, to “give future business owners the opportunity to operate and manage a company of their own,” Getts said. “We were able to succeed with ClickAFlick because we had the proper support structure that allowed us to turn over every stone and plan for every possible scenario that might occur when creating a company.”
• Oliver Bogner, Chapman University – Bogner Entertainment Inc., RelativityREAL
Not many students can boast two full-time jobs, but for Bogner, 18-credit semesters juggled simultaneously with 40-hour workweeks are commonplace.
While the sophomore admits finding balance “isn’t something I would advise everyone to try,” he has obviously managed to make it work: This year, his company has nine television shows in production for as many cable channels.
Bogner first caught the entrepreneurial bug in middle school, when he asked for DJ equipment as a gift. Seven years later, with profiles in The Los Angeles Times and Forbes, the DJ-turned-television-producer has continued to make a name in the industry.
“I’m selling TV just like the hundreds of other producers in town, so it’s very competitive. But I’m not a giant corporation. I’m just me — loud, crazy, awkwardly funny and not afraid to put all of my heart and soul behind my product.”
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