Tag: startup

Students in Olin’s CELect course helped create the marketing plan for SafeTrek, a personal mobile safety app that was introduced to the WashU community this fall. Student-led teams in the entrepreneurship consulting course are paired with startups at the downtown accelerator T-Rex and assigned a wide variety of projects.

“The project for SafeTrek is one of many examples where helping a local entrepreneur also helped the community,” said Academic Director for Entrepreneurship Clifford Holekamp.

We asked SafeTrek cofounder Nick Droege about working with CELect teams on the marketing rollout of the app for WashU:

Have the CELect teams provided valuable contributions to your company?

The CELect teams have been extremely valuable in helping us over the past year. From market research to rollout strategies, they’ve made our jobs easier.

The spring 2017 team was diverse mix of law and business students. Did they bring valuable perspectives?

The spring 2017 team was an impressive group. They were able to provide us with valuable insights on campus climate as we geared up to launch at WUSTL’s campus.

[Related: Check out the Spring 2017 CELect team’s take on collaborating with SafeTrek]

What would you tell other startups considering a collaboration with a CELect student team?

Yes. Constantly getting outside perspectives is extremely important as you’re building a company. As founders, it’s easy to hone in on our strategies based on our lenses of how we should execute. Having a group of young, motivated, entrepreneurial spirited students look at what we’re doing and offer their opinions has made us take a step back and evaluate our approaches.

Safetrek recently announced a $3.2 million funding round with St. Louis-based VC firm Cultivation Capital.

The University is continuing to provide SafeTrek FREE OF CHARGE to all students, faculty, staff and Basic Services Contractor employees. To activate your subscription click on the link below and follow the steps: www.safetrekapp.com/affiliate/WUSTL

Varsity Tutors Online Platform

Chuck Cohn, BSBA ’08, founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, started his company when he was a junior at Olin. The personal tutoring company has grown as an online platform nationally since 2007, and has announced its first foray into the global marketplace with the acquisition of First Tutors, the largest tutoring marketplace in Europe. Read more in the Varsity Tutors News Release, Sept. 28, 2017:

Varsity Tutors, the leading live learning platform for private instructors in the United States, announced today its acquisition of UK-based First Tutors, the largest tutoring marketplace in Europe. The new partnership will enable learners in the UK and internationally to take advantage of Varsity Tutors’ market-leading technology infrastructure, which includes on-demand online and mobile instruction. This acquisition, effective immediately, marks Varsity Tutors’ first entrance into the international market, and reinforces the company’s commitment to providing access to expertise in any subject, anywhere, at any time.

Varsity Tutors connects students to over 30,000 experts for online, mobile, and instant instruction via its award-winning digital platform, as well as to in-person experts nationally. Named the 15th most innovative company in America by Entrepreneur, Varsity Tutors has delivered more than two million hours of live instruction in more than 1,000 subjects on its platform. Online and instant tutoring now account for the majority of its business with a product satisfaction rating of 4.85/5.00.

Since inception, both Varsity Tutors and First Tutors have focused on building robust platforms for students and adult learners to seamlessly connect with experts and receive the instruction they need to achieve academic and personal goals.

Varsity Tutors CEO Chuck Cohn“Expanding our platform globally has always been a priority for us. This partnership is a strategic move as we enter Europe by teaming up with the largest tutoring platform in the market,” said Chuck Cohn, founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors. “With First Tutors, we continue to expand our reach and scale our technology so more students can connect with expert instructors.”

First Tutors hosts 150,000 highly vetted experts on its platform, and has made more than 220,000 matches since inception. The website allows anyone to search for, browse and contact tutors. Once a tutor has accepted an offer from a student, First Tutors charges a one-time £4.99-24.99 introduction fee.
With the acquisition, Varsity Tutors plans to operate First Tutors under its current business model for the near term.

“First Tutors is excited to bring premier on-demand online instruction to Europe and beyond. The reality of students being able to use their smartphone to instantly connect with an expert across the world was compelling to our team,” said Anita Lee, co-founder of First Tutors. “With Varsity Tutors, we will be able to accelerate our efforts to connect students with tutors regardless of location or subject.”

About Varsity Tutors
Varsity Tutors is a live learning platform that connects students and professionals with personalized instruction to achieve any goal. To date, students have accessed more than two million hours of live instruction on the platform. Experts are available to meet in person or through the Company’s award-winning online and mobile platforms, which currently support the majority of all sessions. Varsity Tutors was founded in 2007 at Washington University in St. Louis.

About First Tutors
First Tutors is a global tutoring marketplace that helps families find experts in hundreds of subjects from academic courses, music and languages, to dance, business and computer programming. The online platform ranks 150,000 highly-credentialed tutors based on user feedback and specialist requirements. Founded in 2005, the company is dedicated to allowing students the widest range of choice possible for expert instruction.

Forbes features a new venture from Lori Coulter, MBA99, called Summersalt. The veteran swimwear designer and recent fashion design lecturer at WashU’s Sam Fox School has partnered with seasoned brand strategist Reshma Chamberlin to launch a new direct-to-consumer shopping experience.

Lori Coulter (R) and Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin (L)

Summersalt targets millennial women and delivers luxury swimwear in classic one and two-piece designs to your door that are eco-friendly and priced at $95 or below.

Coulter launched one of the first made-to-measure retail apparel concepts to successfully integrate 3D body scanning, mass customization, and computer aided design to create a fully digital and automated supply chain in 2005 in St. Louis. In 2012, she launched exclusive ready-to-wear collections with brands like Soft Surroundings, Cintas and Bra Smyth. Related Blog post.

Link to Forbes article.

Photos courtesy of Summersalt. Above: Lee Litumbe in the Sidestroke in White Sand, Photographed by Nasrin Suleiman, on location in Zanzibar. Below: Jess Kirby in the Sidestroke in White Sand, Mango & Deep Sea, Shot by Craig Mackay.

David Dresner, BSBA’10, is getting closer to making his dumpling dreams come true. The founder of Sleeve a Message – a company he dreamed up while a student at Olin – is reported to be launching his next venture called Crispy Edge, a gourmet potsticker company by the end of the year.

In a profile published by the St. Louis Business Journal, Dresner explains why he wants to be in the fried dumpling business:

“I love dumplings; I dream dumplings. I used to make them with my grandfather. These potstickers are artisanal, creative, wholesome and crispy, not soggy. Our output will be similar to Sleeve a Message. We’ll do small runs and ship eventually big orders everywhere.”

Dresner is in the process of converting a former community center in the Tower Grove neighborhood into his potsticker factory. The building will also house a restaurant, apartments, and office spaces.

The concept for Dresner’s first venture, Sleeve a Message, was developed during the Managing Your Business Career Strategy course at Olin. Sleeve a Message produces custom coffee sleeves and coasters. The company offers four color variable printing that allows for a “no minimum” order and quick turnaround times.

Dresner is also committed to sustainability and told the Business Journal, “It takes many trees to make sleeves so I decided that for every 7,000 sleeves sold, I’d plant a tree. Working with Forest Releaf of Missouri, we’ve planted more than 20,000 to date.”

Photos courtesy of David Dresner and Crispy Edge

Adam Stumpf, PMBA ’14, has defined a unique niche within the small-batch spirits category of the distilling industry. The ingredients for his brand, Stumpy’s Spirits, are sourced from the Illinois farm surrounding his craft distillery. And the farm has been in his family for eight generations.

Stumpy’s just celebrated its second anniversary in July and has released six products to date, including a single barrel bourbon, vodka, and four flavors of whiskey. And like so many great startups, Stumpy’s began to take shape while Adam Stumpf was a student at Olin.

Stumpy’s distillery and farm in Columbia, Illinois

Thanks to Adam, Stumpy’s self-described “Chief Everything-else Officer,” for taking time from his busy schedule to tell us about his company and entrepreneurial experience:

What were you doing when you were earning your PMBA degree?

I was working at AB-InBev while I was earning my PMBA. It was also while earning
my PMBA that we conceptualized and took the first steps to starting the distillery.
In fact, while I was in the Introduction to Entrepreneurship class with David
Poldoian, we secured funding and purchased our original distillation system.

How did your Olin experience affect your career?

The Olin experience was honestly the extra push we needed to get the distillery going. Olin changed my way of thinking, changed the way I approach problems, and it changed the way I view business and the industry in general.

Did Olin courses help to build and run your business?

Absolutely. Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Supply Chain Management,
Negotiation, Economics, and Power and Politics are the classes I find myself
referring to the most often! So many incredible nuggets of information buried in
those lectures. I also competed in and was a finalist in the Olin Cup (now the Skandalaris Cup). I remember it fondly. It was our first business case competition and it helped us really refine the business plan and our pitching skills!

Were you ahead of the small batch spirits trend?

I wouldn’t say we were on the cutting edge, but we were fairly early in the
movement. Looking at industry and category trends certainly helped make the case
for launching a distillery, but definitely wasn’t the deciding factor.

This was a project where we knew we could combine our skills, our passion, and our family history to create an incredibly unique and one-of-a-kind brand.

In terms of being ahead of a trend, we are definitely on the leading edge of farm distilleries. We are one of only a handful of distilleries in the country that grows EVERY kernel of grain that we put into our bottles.

What are the biggest challenges to starting a distillery from scratch?

Oh goodness…where to start? For us, I would say that there have been a few
challenges that really stick out; some which are certainly not exclusive to distilleries:

1. Funding

My wife and I 100% boot-strapped this thing ourselves and have not sold any
equity. That has obviously made access to capital a bit challenging.

Convincing a bank to believe in your dream when all you have is a homemade mason jar of moonshine can be a bit tricky! Luckily, we have a great partner in a local bank who is willing and able to keep up with our capital requirements as we build our barreled whiskey inventory.

A whiskey distillery is certainly a cash flow problem. Spend all of your money on day 1 to make the whiskey, roll it on the shelf, and hopefully you’ll be able to pull out an incredible product in a few years, or, what is left after evaporation! Our approach has always been quality in = quality out, and we’ve had tremendous success with our whiskey thus far.

2. The unknown

We walk into work in the morning with a blank slate. There is no one to give us
direction, tell us what needs to be done, etc. It’s definitely a blessing and a curse.
We set the production schedule, the marketing budget, do the accounting, sweep
the floors, and try to make a little booze along the way. Our approach has always
been and will continue to remain to be that we aim to do what is best for our
business, our family, and our community.

Laura and Adam Stumpf

3. The not-so-glamorous side of entrepreneurship

Laura and I are incredibly involved in our business every day. Sometimes that means
18-hour days (with the occasional all-nighter). The business is almost always on your
mind so it makes work/life separation challenging sometimes. Unfortunately, we
don’t get to spend as much time with friends and family or take as many trips as we
would like, but we love what we are doing and are incredibly passionate about it.
Sometimes that makes work feel like a vacation.

There is just a certain feeling that you get when you see that first drip of alcohol come off the still in the morning or pop the cork on a barrel that has been resting on a shelf for a couple of years, turning your hard work into some incredible whiskey.

How many employees work at Stumpy’s?

Right now, there are only four of us, with a TON of help from our incredible family and
friends. My wife Laura runs the front-of-house operations and sales at the distillery;
my brother Andrew helps a ton with production in the distillery; our awesome
Brand Ambassador Rachel visits the market and introduces our brand and story to
consumers; and I’m the Chief Everything-else Officer, but spend most of my time
distilling and running the day-to-day.

How many markets are you in?

Right now our products are distributed mostly in Southern Illinois and we just
started distribution in the St. Louis area. We try to keep the store locator on our website
updated as much as possible! We’ve recently increased our production capacity by 4 times in order to prepare for future distribution growth. Hopefully, in the not so distant future, our products will be widely available throughout all of Missouri and Illinois.

Do you give tours?

Absolutely. We love giving tours. We offer tours Thurs-Sun at 2, 3, and 4 p.m. We ask
that customers call in advance to make a reservation, because we want to make sure we are not over-booking. Tours are $10 per person and last about an hour, which includes a full tasting of our products, a cocktail, and a guided tour of our entire process from front to back, along with a complimentary tasting glass to take home. For more info, folks can visit our website.

What is your advice for current students dreaming of being entrepreneurs?

Industry and relevant experience are crucial to starting a business. If you don’t have
that experience, make sure to build a team with someone that does, because it
really is a situation where you don’t know what you don’t know on so many
different levels.

You don’t have to have a brand new idea or the next Google to start your own business. In the words of someone far more successful than me, “Ideas don’t make you rich. The correct execution of ideas does.” – Felix Dennis