5 Ecommerce College Entrepreneurs Under The Microscope

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All eyes are on the younger millennials and generation Zs — those who are currently in college or starting businesses of their own in the global online marketplace.

This generation of young startups is thought to be distinctly different from their older ‘Gen X’ counterparts. According to studies, Gen Z’ers and younger millennials were found to be more entrepreneurial in spirit. They were also found to be highly resourceful as an offshoot of growing up in a peer group of ‘digital natives.’

Here we take a closer look at this younger crop of ‘bootstrappers’ to uncover what makes them tick, and the techniques they cleverly employed to make their businesses a success.

Amber Venz Box

Amber started her first business in the sixth grade. Back in the early 2000’s, when jean skirts were all the rage, Amber learned her first valuable lesson about making it in business.

She told Business Insider that the cost of producing distressed denim jean skirts did not meet her market’s price bracket. Plus, she was getting caught crafting by her teachers when she should’ve been paying attention in class. This may have spelled the end of her first business, but it ignited her lifelong passion for entrepreneurship.

During high school, she started a successful online jewelry store, and in the years following launched her own fashion blog.

Thanks to these sites’ massive successes, Venz Box was able to launch the platform RewardStyle. Offering social media influencers the opportunity to make money from their content.

And further, in 2014, Amber launched LIKEtoKNow.it a genius app that runs through Instagram. Users can just snap a screenshot of their favorite influencer’s outfit, and the app will send you the push notification links to buy it.

Takeaway tip: Develop your strongest passions in life and find out all you can about your industry. Make the products you (and your customers) would like to see the most.

Marshall Haas & Jon Wheatley

Growth hackers, Marshall Haas and Jon Wheatley, set up their creative agency Need/Want in 2013. Here they share their ingenious methods for building successful web-based brands.

Co-Founder, Jon Wheatley started his journey to success, aged 13, developing websites. He was able to put together DailyBooth, a site which was later acquired by Airbnb for an undisclosed sum.

Now in his current business, partnered with Texas-born, Marshall Haas, the Need/Want team have developed consistently successful methods for launching companies. In an interview, Wheatley discussed how to open a Kickstarter campaign that gets people invested.

“On launch day, you should have press already lined up, emails written to as many people as possible (close friends, family, and acquaintances). An email list of interested people who are ready to back, a plan for keeping the excitement up, and the donations rolling in for the duration of your campaign.”

Takeaway Tip: Create processes that can be repeated across projects. This will allow you to build sustainably and give you more opportunity to take creative risks.

Seth Berkowitz

Born late at night in his college dorm room at the University of Pennsylvania, Seth Berkowitz came up with the idea of Insomnia Cookies to satisfy his cravings for freshly baked goods delivered to your door.

On the older side of the millennial age bracket, Seth may not have qualified as a ‘digital native’ when he founded the business in 2003. Back then he was juggling his studies and developing the cookie dough business from his kitchen in his spare time. Now, 14 years later, Insomnia Cookies can be found in over 100 locations across the U.S.A.

Berkowitz was invited to speak as a Penn alum at an event in 2014. Here he revealed his secret to building a successful business alongside college commitments.

Takeaway Tip: “Insomnia was a huge leap of faith. So if you’re an entrepreneur and you feel like you have something, I would say go for it,” he said. “College is the best time to do it ever. You’re so protected, and it’s an amazing time to try things.”

Andrew & Ryan Beltran

Two brothers, Andrew and Ryan, decided to join forces with watch brand, Original Grain (now worth over $15 million), as a first-time entrepreneurial venture.

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, after college, Ryan spent a year living in Hong Kong. His younger brother, Andrew, in contrast, joined the Marines. Upon meeting up in Hong Kong, Andrew and Ryan decided to go forward with Ryan’s watch brand concept.

Inspired by the natural textures found in their surroundings at home, Original Grain watches combine timber and steel. These luxury timepieces are perfectly in keeping with the brothers’ outdoorsy lifestyles.

Aside from creating a brand that encapsulates their passions, Original Grain also donates to the Forest Garden Program. This scheme replants trees and contributes towards projects that alleviate hunger and poverty in Senegal.

Takeaway Tip: Build a healthy relationship with your suppliers, and you will be able to take more creative risks. Here are some in-depth tips for those who may also be looking to do business overseas.

Susan Gregg Koger & Eric Koger

Fans of 60s fashion, Susan Gregg Koger, and Eric Koger run Modcloth, a retail site that was set up by the couple back in 2002. Throughout their college education, Susan and Eric bought and resold vintage clothes online.

Skip to the next decade and ModCloth is now one of the fastest growing online clothing brands of all time. As the business expanded, the couple’s success came down to their ability to talk and work out problems. One of the business’ most significant achievements is their Be The Buyer and Make The Cut programs. Susan told Mashable that ModCloth’s crucial advantage is their ability to anticipate online demand through these unique tools.

Takeaway Tip: Be a pioneer when it comes to utilizing customer service technologies. ModCloth was among the first to allow customers to interact with product recommendations via mobile. Now thanks to SaaS (Subscription as a Service) e commerce hosts, you can create an online store with similar capabilities in no time.  With powerful customer service apps, referral programs, recommendations, and A.I Chatbots, the sky’s the limit for e-tailers.

These five, young entrepreneurs share one thing in common. They have all developed the ‘growth mindset,’ spotting opportunity regardless of financial circumstances. Bootstrap your way to success like any of the above examples and use your spare time to experiment with money-making business ideas.

Thank you Victoria, from VictoriaEcommerce for submitting this guest post!

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