Archive for Academia

Natalie Webb: A True GCC Entrepreneur

Last May, Natalie Webb graduated from Grove City College with a degree in entrepreneurship. After she graduated, she began working on launching her own business and app, which she designed for her elevator pitch her senior year. Her business model was born out of a problem which she had experienced in her grade school days, and she knew many other people experienced as well.

          As a homeschooler, Natalie and her family had to buy all of their books themselves, and as there was no curated or organized way to buy used book, they usually ended up buying these books new from publishers, which got very expensive. However, Natalie noticed that after he finished with a book, it just stayed on her bookshelf until it either was given away to a family friend or sold at a significantly reduced price at a yard sale. Natalie considered how wasteful this was, both on the buying end and the reselling end because there was no organized platform for homeschoolers to interact with each other in this manner. Out of this pain came her idea of Hoot Book Revival, which is an app and website on which homeschoolers can resell their books and buy used books from other homeschooling families at a reduced cost. This benefits both the buyer and the seller, because people looking to buy books can get them much cheaper than they can new books, and people looking to sell books can sell them for more than they could at a yard sale.

Since her graduation last May, Natalie has been working to get this web platform active. She hired a company to design her website and has gotten guest writers to post on her blog. She has spent the last few months spreading the word about her company to homeschooling families and educators and talking to different publishers and co-ops about her business. While the cite is currently active, it is pretty light on content, so Natalie is focusing her attention on adding content and marketing for her business to possible clients.

          When I asked Natalie about how this business came about and what need it was filling, she said, “I suppose the core of the business idea was identifying an underrepresented group, and how their market needs weren’t being addressed, because the business pitch itself is pretty simple.” Natalie’s website allows the customer to buy and sell books, as well as collaborate with other homeschoolers on which lesson plans and books are best. Hoot Book Revival also has an option where people can post their books and let Hoot do all the work in finding people to sell them to, making the customer experience more enjoyable and less labor intensive.

Ultimately, Natalie’s business is incredibly innovative not because she came up with the idea of reselling books, but rather because she found a niche market and is catering to them in a new, technologically advanced way, and allowing them to simply post their books and have her company do the rest of the work for them. It is pretty neat to see such awesome innovation coming out of our own Grove City College.

Aaron Gotwalt

– Penn State University’s Alumni Achievement Awards Dinner, 2015

 

Aaron Gotwalt is an Entrepreneur in San Francisco, California who grew up in Lititz, PA. He is the Co-Founder, CTO, and occasional software engineer at Projector. He Previously founded CoTweet (acquired in 2011 by ExactTarget), and graduated from Schreyer Honors College in 2004.

 

Schreyer’s news

http://news.psu.edu/story/370942/2015/09/22/academics/gotwalt%E2%80%99s-transformational-experiences-helped-launch-startup

AngelList

https://angel.co/gotwalt

His Blog

https://blog.projector.com/@gotwalt

 

Scholly: Opportunity for All

How much would you sacrifice to have a college education? If you’re a college student, you have probably been there. Considering how you’re going to pay for college and what means to do so. Scholarships? Loans? Parents?

When Christopher Gray was a junior in high school, he realized his family would not have the means to send him to college, but he believed a college education was a necessity. He started to apply for scholarships. After a tedious 7 months, he accumulated over $1.3 million dollars in scholarships (including some entrepreneurial scholarships…hint hint). Gray described the process as a lot of unnecessary work, but now he was essentially an expert at the scholarship system. He knew something had to change. Something to make college students’ lives just a little easier. In 2015, Gray launched an app/website that creates an easier process to connect aspiring college students to scholarships.

Accompanied by his co-founders Nick Pirollo (26) and Bryson Alef (24), Christopher Gray (24) created Scholly.

scholly-red

Scholly has generated over 600,000 users (which continues to grow) and is estimated to have facilitated $50 million in scholarships. Gray was also featured on Shark Tank which helped his idea get big.

I personally think the mission of Scholly is amazing, and though I haven’t used the app…I believe the testimony and experience of Christopher Gray is enough to support his idea. Gray’s college education paid off (quite literally)! He saw a problem: that being an outdated system in a technologically advanced world. It is encouraging to see how Gray took a personal struggle and turned it into a success, and I’m sure the college student community is very grateful for his work. Since Scholly was just so recently introduced, I am  certain the success will continue to grow.

Entrepreneur of the Year

For anyone who might be interested in scholarship opportunities, here’s a link to get you hooked up with a Scholly account.

RegisterForSchollyHere

 

Chalk One Up

The issue of uniformity and compatible software has always been of relevance in education and in business alike. William Zhou, the creator of Chalk, invented an Office for teachers. It’s a suite of productivity apps for K-12 educators. Used in over 20,000 schools worldwide, Chalk.com solves the problems of lesson planning, assessment, and collaboration and eases teachers’ pain by facilitating personalized education and driving student success.

William Zhou, co-founder and CEO of Chalk.com, observes, “I had always thought that teaching is an easy job. I thought teachers taught from a textbook and got 3 months off in a year. It wasn’t until I visited my own high school teachers that I realized it’s not the case. They were struggling with an overwhelming amount of work—dealing with lesson planning, assessment, and attendance, in addition to fending off angry parents and bureaucratic administration. I told them I couldn’t help them with the latter two but I could help ease their daily tasks. That’s when I started Chalk.com.” Chalk.com is used in over 20,000 schools and has over 100,000 teachers and continues to rapidly expand throughout schools and administrations throughout the world.

At the young age of 23, William is just beginning his entrepreneurial career  and has already made it into the Forbes list of
30 under 30. His example of immigrant entrepreneurship is inspiring others from his homeland of China to journey to the United States in search of a better life, and a venue for their ideas and dreams. He hopes that one day his motherland will become just as friendly to new companies and ideas as the United States is.

Quizlet #2

Most of us have used Quizlet at some point or another in our student careers. Quizlet goes beyond just flash cards on a mobile devise. It allows teachers and students to study, take practice tests, and play games together in class on mobile devises. This is all to prepare for up coming tests together and help make studying not seem like a chore.

But who was the Entrepreneur who came up brainstormed this technology? It was at the time 15 year old Andrew Sutherland! In October 2005 Andrew had started Quizlet and since then 300,000 people have registered to participate in over 35,000,000 games! So thanks to Andrew there is now a cool way for teachers to interact with their students in the classroom more and help them not feel like studying is a chore.

Catherine Cook- Memories of Money!

Catherine Cook’s life is the perfect story of living the American Dream. She is a true millennial entrepreneur and has made millions in her teens! The beginning stages of her entrepreneurial spirit took place when she at a very young age, she sold books in her homemade library to her parents for a small charge. When she turned 15 years old, she started a business called myYearbook with her brother in New Jersey. She partnered up with her brother David, and they were kick started by her older brother, Geoff, who made an investment to get them up-and-running.

Her business, myYearbook, which was started in 2005 with 400 members that went to school at her local high school. She grew her business immensely through great marketing strategies and a true passion. In 2012 it grew to an astounding 32.7 million users, which is the same year she sold their family business for 150 million dollars…

The success and the money were a byproduct of love and passion. Her brilliance in social networking led her to be on of the youngest self-made millionaires in the world. MyYearbook makes most of their revenue through online advertising. High school and college graduates go on myYearbook to reunite and touch base with old classmates.

Through Catherine, lessons can be taught to all of us, especially young entrepreneurs like ourselves. It starts with a simple idea, and having the ambition and passion to get out there and act on it. At a young age of 15 years old, she saw a problem that could be solved by herself. We are the millennial age and have the strongest position ever in human history. We have so many tools and resources at our disposal. Catherine, herself, proved you are never to young to start a business. Now is our time, let’s go out and conquer the world.

 

Rent a textbook for $5 a day?

As a college student, Mike Shannon realized that some textbooks are rarely opened by students because they are only used a few times in class, but students still need to buy the book. To save money, most students try to purchase used textbooks if at all possible, but this creates something of a vicious cycle as textbook manufacturers raise prices to compensate for the fact that while they only make a profit once, the book may be resold 4 or 5 times. Shannon realized this was an inefficient business model where all parties lost out to a certain extent. In addition to the costs, his research revealed that 78% of students open their textbooks less than once a week.

His creation: Packback, currently in its beta period, puts a twist on conventional electronic textbook rental models by allowing students to rent the book for just 1 day at a fee of $5 per day. This allows students to save money on textbooks that are only used a few times during the semester, and if a student finds they are referring to a certain book more than a few times all the daily fees will be credited towards the semester long rental price. So, there is really no risk to students if they decide to rent a book for a single day.

Shannon believes Packback can boost revenue for textbook companies, reduce costs for students, and accelerate the adoption of digital textbooks, which he says has been stalled by the used book market, in effect playing a role similar to iTunes in its infancy as a platform to ensure content creators receive compensation for the use of their content while packaging it in a lower cost form.

I am impressed by Shannon’s creativity in developing a way to promote the adoption of digital books while benefiting both textbook publishers and students, only time will tell, but I think Packback has a great future and could become an integral part of how we acquire textbooks.

 

College Dropout Sells Textbooks

A Student With a Dream

Glen Nothnagel, like many other college students had a problem- every time he went to go buy textbooks for his classes he found himself paying outrageous sums of money to get them; likewise, whenever he went to try and sell his textbooks back he found that he often couldn’t resell them, and if and when he did, he usually took a pretty substantial financial loss. Nothnagel knew that most college students didn’t have a whole lot of money in the first place, and what they did have they didn’t want to spend on textbooks. He noticed that there was a pretty significant gap in the market between the average textbook buyer and the re-seller and so in 2007, he dropped out of the college of DuPage where he had been attending as a freshman, and with $2000 of his own money he leased out a 1,000 square foot building and set about buying up used textbooks from friends and fellow students to build his inventory.

Building the Dream

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Glen Nothnagel, founder/owner of sellbackyourbook.com.

 The business officially started in 2008 and worked on selling books through existing online vendors such as Amazon.com and Half.com at 20-30% normal retail value which gave them a competitive edge on their larger competition. In his first year of business Nothnagel’s company, EZ Book Recycle Inc.,  made about $200,000 through online sales, and by 2010 the company was raking in about $4,000,000 a year though its website, sellbackyourbook.com. The company, which originally sold only textbooks, now sells a wide variety of student related gods ranging from graphing calculators to CD’s to fiction books and video games.

Sustaining the Dream

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Nothnagel’s website: sellbackyourbook.com.

In the world of Amazon and much larger competitors, one might not expect Nothnagel and his 12 man company to succeed, but Nothnagel continues to succeed by offering competitive pricing and great service. The website now offers Paypal for customers and has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Factors like these combined with perks like free shipping continue to make Nothnagel business shine, and  at 25, his business continues to grow and add new products to their line to keep in touch with consumer wants.