The University’s presence makes Ann Arbor a fertile place to start a company, and some students have taken advantage of the resources offered to them.
Business School junior Slava Leykind, president of the University Entrepreneurs Club, said the University produces a great deal of commercial technology that brings venture capitalists from across the country to Ann Arbor, creating an environment conducive to entrepreneurship.
“The Michigan Entrepreneurs Club educates students about how to start businesses and provides workshops and coffee hours where we bring in speakers to help students work on particular business skills,” Leykind said. “We also provide a forum where students can network and make contacts and create strong business plans.”
Among the students taking advantage of their resources is Business School junior Rob Salter who, along with his brother and a friend, helped create Schlepper’s, a company that helps students move in during welcome week by laying carpet, moving furniture and performing other tasks. The company will enter its third year in August.
“We are basically handymen rented for a half-hour,” Salter said. “The company got started because of supply and demand. We saw a service that was needed and started it with money made from jobs. It had a low start-up cost. Right now, we are looking at venture capitalist firms to expand regionally and then maybe nationally. We feel we have a service a lot of campuses can use but we want to perfect it here at Michigan before getting larger.”
LSA sophomore Jeffrey Wilcox became an entrepreneur at an early age by writing basic software for the Microsoft Windows platform while in sixth grade.
“I got into entrepreneurship in middle school because I was a computer geek and saw a business opportunity,” Wilcox said. “Three years ago, I got involved in a dot-com start-up. I also started a web software business entitled ‘Jwpc Internet Solutions’ that creates software to manage content on the web.”
Whether or not students are successful in entrepreneurship, they acquire skills and experiences that are applicable in running future businesses and in their daily lives.
“I learned through experience all about marketing and customer support,” Wilcox said.
“Running my own business taught me so much more than I could have ever learned in school. Staying in tune with business and industry, always refining my skills and competition have all taught me great lessons.”
Still, many students do not start their own businesses on campus, often because they believe they do not possess the necessary ideas or skill.
RC junior Christian Shafer said he has no unique business ideas worth pursuing although he had the people skills to start a business.
“It’s probably pretty easy to start a business but difficult to keep it afloat because the market is so competitive and crowded,” Shafer said. “Being a student is pretty much a full-time job, and so most students put aside their ideas to think about when they are done with school.”
Like Shafer, LSA freshman Hannah Kim said she never had any entrepreneurial idea she wanted to do.
“This is my first year so I haven’t given much thought to starting a business,” Kim said. “If I thought I could be successful and if I had the skills and friends to start a business, I probably would. I mean I really don’t want to start one alone.”