Being a full-time student is a time-consuming commitment for most. But for some University students, one job just isn’t enough.
Translating what they’ve learned in the classroom to the business world, several undergraduate students at the University have already started their own companies. The process, many of them found, has presented new challenges outside academics.
Drew Leahy, a senior in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, first started MyBandStock.com during his second year at the University and is now overseeing the site with Business junior Bobby Matson and Engineering senior John-Michael Fischer.
The company, Leahy said, provides fans the opportunity to “invest in their favorite bands” by allowing fans to earn shares with various bands by increasing traffic to the site. These shares can then be applied toward perks such as backstage passes and meetings with band members.
Describing MyBandStock as an “online stock exchange,” Leahy said the start-up fizzled out at the outset, but he hopes that a new business model will re-energize the site, which will launch tomorrow. He added that the failure gave him a real world lesson in running a business before he ever graduated college.
“That’s just a reality of starting a business: failing and understanding what works and what doesn’t work,” hesaid.
After making those initial mistakes, Leahy said the reward of establishing a successful company has been well worth his time and effort.
But MyBandStock represents just one of several student business ventures that began at the University.
Jason Bornhorst, a University alum who was in the College of Engineering, said one of the biggest challenges of having a business in college was balancing his life as a student and running his own business. Bornhorst is a programmer for Mobiata.com — a company that develops travel applications for smart phones.
“I was a part-time student in my last semester, and I was working full-time at that point,” Bornhorst said. “It was hard to balance, but it was really enriching.”
Bornhorst said though completing his coursework and attending to his company was difficult, the technical skills he gained in his engineering and entrepreneurship courses helped him to run his business.
Business senior Josh Lin is a co-founder of the Nexecon Consulting Group — a student-consulting group that advises local businesses and University departments on their marketing strategies. Nexecon works with a wide range of clients which include Sava’s Cafe and No Thai!.
He said one of the reasons he was able to start his own business while still attending the University is because there were many resources in the area to help him financially or otherwise.
Lin said help from Ann Arbor SPARK— a local economic development agency that helps young entrepreneurs start companies of their own — was the “cornerstone” of Nexecon’s early development.
Leahy said Ann Arbor SPARK also recently provided MyBandStock with a $10,000 grant.
Lin said though it’s difficult to be a student and a business owner at the same time, his business school courses helped him both in advising clients and in making Nexecon a more efficient business.
But he said he learned one of the most important lessons outside of the classroom.
“At the end of the day, if you don’t recruit the right team, you’re going to be one of the only people staying up until four o’clock in the morning trying to get things done,” Lin said. “If you’re going to recruit people with passion and with strengths in different areas, it can become a cohesive group that can drive things forward.”