The Student Life section of Utah State Today highlights work written by the talented student journalists at Utah State University. Each week, the editor selects a story that has been published in The Utah Statesman or the Hard News Café or both for inclusion in Utah State Today.
Student Startups: Aggies Open their Own Businesses
From insoles that can track your activity level to gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches delivered right to your door, Utah State University students are pushing forward to create jobs and solutions to better the lives of people across the globe.
“There is no such thing as someone walking down the street and getting hit by lightning with an idea,” said Spencer K. Bailey, a senior majoring in international business. “People that are entrepreneurs see the world differently than other people. They look at the world in terms of problems and solutions. Very few are inventors. Most are innovators.”
Bailey is one of many USU students who has created entrepreneurial opportunities. He comes from a background of entrepreneurs and has watched firsthand the financial ups and downs of his own family. He is currently working on several projects, one including running his own company called the SocialFund, a consulting strategy firm that counsels early startup companies coming out of venture capital incubators, such as Silicon Valley. The company helps startups improving returns on investments.
Though there are many success stories, not every brilliant idea in the small business world will have what it needs to survive.
“The failure rate is about 50 percent,” said professor and Executive Director of Entrepreneur Programs at USU Michael Glauser. “Half the new businesses don’t make it through the first few years, and over 10 years, about 70 percent of them shutdown.”
Glauser said USU’s entrepreneurship program teaches strategies that make the difference between success and failure.
“If you go through our program and learn the keys of success and what to do and not to do, we think your chances of success go up to 75 or 80 percent or more,” Glauser said. “You can’t just launch an idea. You have to launch a true business opportunity.”
This has been the case for Bailey.
“We don’t care about ideas. We care about opportunities,” Bailey said.
He said from what he’s learned through the entrepreneurship program, opportunities are defined by five things:
- Need: You have to ask people if there really is a need. Not just a few, but hundreds, and see if they’ll pay for it. Do research.
- Experience: Are you really the person that can pull this off? Do you really have the resources to do that? You need experience or experience on your team.
- Resources: Do you have the money, equipment, space, access to inventories and vendors?
- Customers: Is there someone to pay you for this service right now?
- Model: How are you going to tie all of the pieces together to be sustainable and make money?
Bailey said true entrepreneurs take the initiative and use this system. If entrepreneurs have everything required in this model, “then that’s an opportunity. Go. Run with that opportunity and grow it,” Bailey said.
To inspire entrepreneurial ventures, the Clark Center for Entrepreneurship at USU is holding a competition that began March 3 and will end April 8. Twenty student teams were given support, $100 and mentoring before setting off to create their own product. The winning team will receive a $3,000 cash award to invest in their business.
Tanner Randall, a junior majoring in business administration, and his group are competing with his team in hopes of expanding Granny’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese. They make and deliver grilled cheese sandwiches Monday-Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. through orders made online at grannysgrilledcheese.com.
“I think there’s a lot of money to be made in grilled cheese,” Randall said. “The first week I had to take off all of work because there were times when we were extremely busy.”
The sandwiches are named after the team’s grandmothers and feature ingredients such as ham and pineapple or bacon and apple, to compliment the different cheeses. If the business goes well and wins the competition, the team hopes to grow Granny’s Gourmet long-term and eventually franchise out to different areas.
“I really like working for myself,” Randall said. “Having a boss gets old for me. I find that starting a business, especially in the beginning phase, is extremely enjoyable.”
Opportunity Quest is part of the Utah Entrepreneur Series, which are competitions that prepare students to compete on a state-wide level for cash prizes and access to executives that help them fund new business ventures. Li Ma, a USU entrepreneur and marketing MBA student, won $2,000 in January for a fitness insole idea.
“This insole can check your calorie burn and includes a vibration function that would remind you to do your exercises,” Ma said, comparing it to the Fitbit device, which also measures calorie burn, heart rate and whether or not you’re running or walking based on arm movements.
However, Ma said her insole design would give a more accurate reading because it includes a pressure sensor that will better be able to measure movements.
“It exactly calculates your steps,” she said.
The insole isn’t only designed for active adults but also “for the busy office workers,” Ma said,” and it “will remind them to get up and get a drink, to move” through the vibration device.
She is also working on creating a convertible high heel for women. The design would allow on-the-go women to adjust their heels into a flat shoe by using a retractable or detachable heel. Then, when they want to go into a meeting or are inside and no longer rushed, they can change their shoe back into a heel, avoiding the impractical and often painful side of stylish high heels.
“We believe you’re going to have to more innovative and entrepreneurial in your career than ever before,” Glauser said. “(Entrepreneurship) is the way you lead organizations. You need the skills of entrepreneurship to be successful in any career, and one of the main emphases of the business school is to teach that to any student that is interested.”
There are 15 consultants available through the Clark Center for Entrepreneurship to help students starting their own businesses. The USU entrepreneurship club, which meets every Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Engineering Building, Room 106, also reaches out to students of all majors to give them the tools to be successful in their product and business ventures.