Have you been sitting on a business idea unsure about how to navigate the startup world? Here’s some encouragement—if college kids can do it, so can you. Thanks to the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah, students collaborate, innovate, and launch new business ideas nearly daily, earning the U its ranking as 5th overall for Undergraduate Entrepreneur Program and 2nd for public schools in 2023 by U.S. News & World Report.
The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute manages Lassonde Studios— a 400-bed residential community combined with a 20,000 square foot main floor area where students from any major can meet to connect, dine, test ideas and build prototypes. The institute also offers an array of programs including startup support, workshops, business-model competitions, networking events, scholarships, and innovation programs to provide unmatched support for students on their entrepreneurial journeys. And with the recent addition of the U’s new Stena Center for Financial Technology, students have yet another resource to explore business ideas in the financial technology sector.
If you need a little motivation to act on your business idea, here’s some practical advice from four U students who have taken their ideas to market:
Susma Gurung, founder and CEO of Off the Rack
As a member of the local fashion community, Susma Gurung observed an increase in young fashion entrepreneurs starting their own businesses, which inspired her to start Off the Rack, a marketplace where budding fashion founders can gather to sell their products and promote themselves.
“The main advice I would give to someone who wants to start their own business, is—to just start,” says Garung, a marketing major with a minor in environmental and sustainability studies. “Not everyone is going to see your vision, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Learn from ‘No’s’ or rejections. The outcome is not certain so learn from the process.”
She advises working hard to end up in a position where you can feel good about giving it your best. “Nothing is stopping you but you,” she says. “Write down your goals, surround yourself with the right people and organizations, and be open and adaptive to the process.”
Vivek Anandh, co-founder of Pure Solutions
While still in high school, Vivek Anandh cofounded Pure Solutions, a company that provides simple and cost-effective testing for anyone concerned about the safety of their drinking water. The business idea won Lassonde’s 2022 High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, and the following fall, Anandh started at the U as a computer science major and a member of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute’s Lassonde Founders residential scholarship program.
“Identify a problem you or others are facing and find a solution that isn’t currently on the market,” Anandh says. “This is how we came up with the idea for Pure Solutions.” Their product has been well-received by customers because it addresses a common issue many people face and provides a solution that wasn’t previously on the market, he explains.
“Many aspiring entrepreneurs often get stuck trying to come up with the perfect idea or business plan and never take action,” he says. My advice is to start with any idea you’re passionate about and get to work. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect because you can always pivot and make changes as you go. Just start, and be open to changes along the way.”
Angie Grover, co-founder of Metopio
Metopio provides easy-to-use data science tools so regular people can understand populations and places to make informed decisions. Metopia co-founder Angie Grover is a student in the Masters of Business Creation (MBC) Online program at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business.
“To be cliché, I would say ‘Just do it,’ Grover says. “As we know, not everyone can be a Google or the next Ulta Beauty Supply, so you need to realize that starting your own business can be risky and it’s important to understand your own tolerance levels. Contemplate the worst-case scenario and plan your way to the best outcome.”
Grover also suggests finding mentors because we all have blind spots and can’t experts in all facets of the business. “Ask around and find the marketing expert you need or the business analyst or sales leader or whomever,” she says. “You’ll be surprised by who is willing to help.” And finally, she adds it’s important to love what you do. “Being motivated day after day, at least for me, comes from doing something I believe in.”
James Linton, co-founder of Chuck Rack
After James Linton and his co-founder, Charles McNall, experimented with different ski and bike racks, the duo developed a new, family-adventure rack called Chuck Rack. The Chuck Bucket Ski Rack, their first product, raised over $72,000 in pre-orders.
“My best advice for an aspiring entrepreneur is to figure out where you want to go, even if it’s super vague, like ‘I want to be an entrepreneur,’, and then say that to people when they ask,” says Linton, a double major in communication and philosophy. “Always be on the lookout for opportunities and people to connect with—they will be your best resource.”
In Linton’s opinion, being ‘self-made’ is a bit of an exaggeration. “It takes many people, especially in the beginning, who are willing to believe in you,” he says. “Try to find those people, whether they be friends, family, business partners, employees, professors, or whoever and invite them to help you or offer to help them. That has been the biggest help to me by a large margin.”