Chris Althouse is not an ordinary undergraduate college student. At 24, older than most of his classmates at the University of Oregon in Eugene, he not only exudes business-like professionalism and charisma – but also has a business card to match.
Not an ordinary one, either: The card is oriented vertically instead of horizontally. It’s red. On the top half is a red-toned image of young people dancing. Althouse’s contact information is displayed on the lower half in a stylish white font advertising Energy Entertainment, the mobile disc jockey company he started during the summer of 2003.
The card stands out. People notice and remember it, just like they do Althouse.
Many college students can’t see beyond assigned papers, reading and exams to the future, but Althouse always has tomorrow on his mind. He gets the most bang for his tuition buck by using his class assignments to plan and develop businesses.
“You need to be smart about your education, not just be educated,” he says.
Last year, Althouse chose to research the mobile DJ industry for a marketing class project. The numbers were encouraging, and he used the results to start Energy Entertainment.
“I make sure to use school classes for personal purposes to make them useful for me. I have no problem with doing that,” Althouse says. His advice to fellow students: Do projects on something you are passionate about. You will enjoy the experience more, get more out of it, and produce higher quality work.
Throughout his high school and college years, Althouse has worked two jobs that embraced and nurtured his entrepreneur within. He got a job at a local grocery store where he worked as a courtesy clerk responsible for organizing other people and fulfilling the job duties – even the not-so-glamorous ones like cleaning the bottle room. It was there that Althouse discovered a rule he always follows: Be willing to do any job you would ask someone else to do.
After graduating high school, he attended Oregon State University for two years, but took time off because he didn’t know what to do with his life. Althouse worked as a sales associate and then store manager of a large retail clothing store. Although the job was the first time he saw real rewards for his hard work, it was also the moment when he realized he didn’t want to work for the company, he wanted to own the company.
Althouse is taking his time finishing his business degree so he can work on getting real world experience to complement his academics. This term, he is taking just one class. In addition, he owns and operates a second business, Crystal Clean Windows, a commercial and residential window cleaning operation.
Althouse’s long-term goal is not simply to own companies, but to build businesses that can help provide valuable real world education to young people who have talent and skills but lack experience.
“If working for me gives you cool stories to tell a recruiter, then my job is done,” he says.
He is using both his businesses to help motivated students build portfolios that will help them get good jobs. Recently, Althouse took on a fellow student entrepreneur as partner to help run Crystal Clean Windows. College students can work for the company as summer interns to run their own window cleaning service and earn money while developing management skills.
He also has two interns working with Energy Entertainment. One is a sophomore at the University of Oregon who is doing marketing for the company; the other intern is a high school sophomore who will be creating a promotional video for the company on CD.
“The difference between college and life is college is evaluated with grades,” he says. “In the real world, you either get a pink slip or a promotion. In creating synergies between students and my companies, we can connect our academic lives to the real world in a meaningful way.”
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