(U-WIRE) CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Starting a business of your own can seem like an impossible dream, but some students across college campuses are taking the initiative and finding success.
University of Illinois graduates Zach Kaplan and Keith Schacht are prime examples. The 22-year-olds met on campus at a business plan competition and decided to drop their independent businesses and create a new company, Lever Works, Inc. Kaplan said the project began in December 2000 and required they spend seven days a week working.
"For me, running a company is just a big project. It’s like building a tree-house, a catapult, or anything else – just on a larger scale," Schacht said. "With any project, I have an idea of where to start, but there is a lot I don’t know and I just figure things out as I go."
In less than a year after establishing itself as a well-developed software and consulting company, Lever Works, Inc. was bought by Leo Media, Inc., an e-learning company. "We turned our ideas into reality, and were able to create value for the customers and the company that bought us," Kaplan said.
The duo already has a new company, Inventables, Inc., that, as noted by Kaplan, creates original "how to" content and related products to help entrepreneurs, inventors and engineers take their ideas to the next level.
Many students are unaware of the opportunities for entrepreneurship both during and after college, said Laura Hirschfeld, program director for network coordination and marketing for the Technology Entrepreneur Center.
Hirschfeld said young entrepreneurs with success aren’t uncommon, they just aren’t talked about. "Our hope is to demystify the misconception of the college entrepreneur as being a Bill Gates. Not everyone is going to be a multi-millionaire, but you can still be successful," Hirschfeld said. "We want to put a real face on the image of the college entrepreneur."
Schacht said that "people need to realize that it is possible to start a company" and that it "doesn’t require genius or an MBA." He also hopes to find some students to hire for summer internships.
"More than a few times I have talked with people who want to start their own company but have some reason it can’t be done right now," Schacht said. "Nothing can stand in the way of a thinking mind."
Both Kaplan and Schacht emphasized that owning a business is fun and requires confidence and the faith that "anything is possible." Schacht continued, "We never allowed ourselves to think something wasn’t possible and never thought anything just because someone else told us."
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