Young Entrepreneurs Becoming Bosses, Not Employees

By Arselia Gales
The Dallas Morning News.


Forget corporate America and the traditional job route. These days, some college graduates are launching their own businesses with just a degree in hand.

Kaleb Bryan, 24, created his first business selling televisions at 19 and after selling that business two years later, launched a startup after graduating last year from Texas A&M University.

Disregarding corporate America, Bryan is one of many young graduates who are starting a business shortly after earning a degree. With a low barrier to entry thanks to technology and a smaller capital requirement, young entrepreneurs are launching their businesses with minimal difficulty.

In March, Bryan launched Spotagory, a location-based mobile photo-sharing app.

“Every entrepreneur seeks an opportunity to make something better, and that’s what I wanted to do with Spotagory,” he said.

Many colleges are providing their students with classes and even seed money to start their own businesses while they are still in school. Southern Methodist University, Baylor University and the University of Texas at Dallas have programs that provide capital to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to turn their ideas into businesses.

Serial entrepreneur David Grubbs, who also teaches a startup program at Baylor, believes that the cost of starting a business has decreased, attracting college students and recent graduates to entrepreneurship.

Grubbs helped create Baylor’s Accelerated Ventures program, which provides students $5,000 in seed money to create a business over two semesters.

Grubbs said many recent college graduates don’t have mortgages and car payments, making it easier to save money. He also said many entrepreneurs create products and services that have a huge online audience and therefore can operate from any location.

“Becoming an entrepreneur allows you to control your own destiny and do something exciting,” Grubbs said.

According to a survey conducted for online education company CreativeLive, 47 percent of employed millennials would like to “get out of corporate America.”

Although starting a business may be the goal for many college students and recent graduates, it isn’t always practical.

Dave Stangler, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit supporting entrepreneurship, says that interest in studying entrepreneurship in college is growing but student loans act as a deterrent for starting a business after graduation.

“The millennials would certainly appear to be more predisposed to entrepreneurship than prior generations,” Stangler said in an article posted by the foundation last month. “The 20- to 34-year-old age cohort still has a far lower percentage rate of entrepreneurship than older cohorts, and that rate has actually fallen in the last couple of years.”

Southern Methodist University professor Jerry White said he’s seen a surge of interest in college students wanting to run their own businesses, but most will have to wait a couple of years before they can get started.

Although college students are interested in becoming entrepreneurs, they need to save capital first, said White, director of the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship in the Cox School of Business at SMU.

With barriers to entry lower than ever, though, many young entrepreneurs turn to crowdfunding to raise money and gain support for their ideas, he said.

“Fifty-one percent of millennials plan to start their own business in the next five years,” White said, citing recent data from the Kauffman Foundation. “All you need is a laptop and seed money in order to get something started.”

Bryan began developing Spotagory last year while still in school. Joining him are Emmanuel Iroko, who has a master’s degree in electrical engineering, and Brandt Barham, the company’s creative director. The three work from a “startup house” in Coppell.

As a college student, Bryan said, he felt he had nothing to lose starting his own business.

“Failure is the stepping stone to success,” he said.

His app, which launched in March, allows users to share what’s happening around them by providing a photo-based newsfeed for a geographic area. Bryan said he wants the app to provide unity within communities. Spotagory has between 5,000 and 7,500 users, he said.

Bryan said the tech community in Dallas has supported his vision. He attracted a few investors and raised $200,000 before his app launched.

Like Bryan, 24-year-old Texas Christian University graduate Kathleen Ward decided to start her own business shortly after realizing that the corporate world was not for her.

After working for Silicon Valley Bank as an associate for two years, Ward decided to follow her entrepreneurial spirit and launched uChilla, a business she calls “Craigslist for college students.”

“I always wanted to do my own thing and didn’t really enjoy working full-time,” Ward said.

All uChilla users must have a .edu e-mail address. Ward tested her site at TCU last April and launched it in January. Ward raised $50,000 through friends and family before launching the site.

On uChilla, college students and teachers can buy and sell items with others in their university or at nearby schools. Ward said TCU represents the site’s largest user base.

Ward and her team are working on an iOS and Android app that will be ready before the fall semester.

Both Ward and Bryan are glad they took a risk by starting their own businesses without having much traditional work experience.
“I’ll probably never go back to the corporate world,” Ward said. “Being an entrepreneur is too fun.”

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