There are many outlets through which young people can channel their passions. For us, both Clark University seniors, cultivating entrepreneurship throughout our college campus set the foundation for realizing our dreams of owning our own company.
Even though our past experiences were vastly different, we shared a sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo and an ambition to change the world. Upon graduating high school, we had enrolled at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., where we co-founded what was soon to be a huge part of our lives – Clark’s student entrepreneurship group, Initial Advantage (clarku.edu/students/advantage).
The Right Idea
As the first six members (including us) of Initial Advantage convened around a library table one weeknight, there was a strong desire to uncover the mystery of entrepreneurship and launch something "new."
After several meetings spent deliberating concepts from a professor guide to online food ordering, the first practical and timely idea was realized – a used textbook buyback service for Clark University students. It did not take much convincing to get other Initial Advantage students on board and soon several members were anxious for action, especially since they too wanted to save money on buying textbooks.
A team of four student entrepreneurs operating The Campus Book Brokerage (CBB) immediately began challenging convention by incorporating the business and raising more than $10,000 from student investors within six weeks – a challenge was soon realized as student work schedules had to be coordinated during finals week. Proudly displaying our presence across the street from the school’s bookstore with a bright yellow banner, the CBB intercepted students on their way to the bookstore by offering better prices and hot coffee in the frigid December weather.
After a successful week of buying books, the CBB dispersed for winter break, only to return for the more difficult task of selling books when school started again in January. But, after the kinks were worked out and operations began to take shape, investors became very happy when they had money in their pockets.
Now that we had a taste of success, and even though summer was upon us, our team did not take a moment to relax. We immediately began researching textbook operations for the following spring.
By being persistent in our dreams to grow our business, we realized there was an opportunity to service the high school market. With further discussions and due diligence, we crafted a unique business model to address the needs of an under-served high school population. With that, The CBB was laid to rest, and Interactive Purchasing Solutions, Inc. (IPS), was born.
A Rollercoaster of Highs and Lows
After raising $25,000 in start-up capital and spending five months preparing to launch the enterprise, we better understood the new challenges of our lives as student entrepreneurs. With the responsibilities of the business replacing our "laid-back" student mindset we found ourselves in a frame-of-mind contrasting that of our peers.
Running a business means taking initiative. It means seeking out the resources around you, which may only be limited, in order to help accomplish your goals. We have learned that being on a college campus gives students access to a wide array of academics and professionals who have the knowledge and experience to assist students far beyond the classroom. As our responsibilities grew little time was left for the full course load that both of us had to juggle.
Supported by the developments around us and those we had created, we sat at the focal point of many liberal arts institutions. Being at the crossroad of art and science allowed us to develop a deep understanding of positioning – teaching us that the foundation of capitalizing on opportunity is a function of both art, science and ultimately of being in the right place, at the right time.
We eventually looked to experienced business mentors for help in effectively balancing our new priorities. As student business owners, we were forced to learn how to manage and prioritize our time. Our social lives declined as the pressures and responsibilities of running a business mounted. Occasionally, meetings were attended instead of class, and nights were now spent catching up on what was missed.
We had quickly gone from being students who happened to be running a business to businessmen who happened to be finishing school. The lifestyle forced us to become accountable in many areas, allowing us to learn through the most valuable way – experience. Although simultaneously finishing school and running a business can be a lot to handle at any age, it is learning to deal with that pressure that has helped us to grow as entrepreneurs.
Currently, the IPS (ipurchasedirect.com) team is busy signing up schools and seeking additional capital to support its growth well into the future. We have since started to involve other student entrepreneurs in the business and have realized the power that passion can have in transforming dreams into reality.
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