April 11, 2008
By: Jessica Bell
There has been an increase in the number of students starting their own companies over the last five years, said Anne Stamer, director of the Weiss Tech House. But because of the independent nature of the companies, it's difficult to track exact numbers.
Reasons cited for this trend range from improved technology to an increase in resources available to entrepreneurs on campus.
While Startup Wear may have been "just for fun," other Penn students have big plans for the futures of their companies.
Student entrepreneurs say that while running a company and going to school full-time can be difficult, it also has its advantages.
For Peter Handy, who graduated from Wharton in December and co-founded the shipping and storing company BoxMyDorm.com in March 2005, his company has both helped and harmed his education.
Because BoxMyDorm - which has helped 2,500 students pack thus far - has been his first priority, some of his classwork has suffered, Handy said. But, he added, the company has also given him "real world experience."
"Learning about management is one thing," but applying that to BoxMyDorm is different, he said.
Handy also said being a student helps him relate to his customers, all of whom are students themselves.
"I know what its like to move out and to have to wait for the elevators in the high rises," Handy said.
Successful Students: According to the trio, being full-time students has actually made it easier for them to run their business.
"Probably the most advantageous aspect of being a student entrepreneur has been being here among our own customers," says Leary. Most students don't know he owns the company, so he's able to get honest feedback from them about what they like and what needs to be changed.
"We get a lot of support from the university, which is very helpful," adds Handy. BoxMyDorm is now the official moving and storage company for the student body at Penn State and serves a select number of other college campuses. But the box doesn't stop there.
"We have a very aggressive growth plan," says Handy. "You'll see us next year in a lot of new places across the country."