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Early entrepreneurs

Aggies start up innovative businesses

Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07

For many students, a full class load is more than enough to keep busy during a semester. But some students have taken a risk — one that many students will never shoulder — and started a business.

Jenna Harbert, senior visualization sciences major, and Ramsey Simmons, senior agricultural communication and journalism major, put their skills together to create Atomic Apparel, a screen-printing company. They run the company out of their apartment in Bryan and are the only two employees.

"It's hard being in college and running a business, but it's fun," Harbert said. "Starting a business is a good experience."

Harbert and Simmons said their business is different from other screen-printing operations because it is smaller,  and they create designs free-of-charge for customers. They also print on more than T-shirts, and don't require a minimum or maximum order.

"We're trying to get the word out there that our company is more personalized," Harbert said.

To other students who are considering starting a company, Harbert and Simmons said to go for it, but prepare before jumping in.

"Know what you're getting into before you do it," Simmons said. "Do research."

Xiaotao Jiang, agribusiness graduate student, Jen-kuan Ting, economics graduate student, and Tao-Hsiang Lee, former electrical engineering graduate student, wanted to find a way to help an elderly lady shop for groceries. They created Running Boy, an online grocery delivery service.

"We attended the Big Event last year and met an old lady who couldn't go to the grocery store," Jiang said. "My marketing professor told me about online groceries. It's a new idea."

Jiang, Ting and Lee are the only employees of Running Boy. When they first came up with the idea, the three posted flyers around campus, trying to get other students to work with them, but to no avail.

"Very few Aggies start a business while in school," Jiang said. "It's very hard."

Running Boy purchases grocery items from local grocery stores and then sells them from their website and delivers them to the customers' doors.

"We are very local and very customized," Ting said.

Jiang and Ting said that customizing for the customer is important, but also difficult.

"The hardest thing is to know your customers," Jiang said.

Shanil Wazirali, senior human resources major, needed a way to make money for his a cappella group, Swaram A Cappella. He got the idea to sell Aggie-themed wristbands, which became "Hump It" bracelets.

"I felt like we needed to create something new and catchy to fund our album we wanted to make," Wazirali said. "I was inspired by the breast cancer awareness bands."

Wazirali said he came up with the phrase "Hump it, Keep the Spirit Alive" and created a design in Photoshop for the wristbands. He and his group ordered 150 wristbands, which sold out quickly. Wazirali ordered 2,000 more wristbands and sold them before the Baylor game.

"It's been very successful," Wazirali said. "The crazy thing is, we didn't have to market the product. It marketed itself. That was the beauty of it."

Wazirali said his success is due in-part to his ability to be creative, and that creativity is essential for any successful business venture.

"Think outside the box," Wazirali said. "Think big, and don't be too realistic. The people who think non-realistically are the ones who end up bringing something creative to the table."

Kathryn Hazard, a marketing graduate student, is one of seven students in The Whoop Group, which advertises for Chevrolet in a Marketing 660 project.

Hazard said the class venture introduced The Whoop Group to more than simply academic lessons.

"It mimics a real-world experience," Hazard said. "Before you go out on your own, it helps to have as much experience as possible. It gives you the chance to screw up and learn from it and do better next time."

The Whoop Group organized a promotional event before and after Midnight Yell for the Baylor game, and a Chevrolet test drive event three days later.

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