The Business of being a Student Business Owner

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Student Business Owners- There’s an app for that!

It can be difficult for students to juggle homework, classes, work, and social lives. However, there are University of Nebraska at Omaha students who do all of these activities while also owning their own businesses. Two of these students are Taylor Korensky and Jon Burlingham Jr

Korensky, a sophomore, and Burlingham, a junior, are owners of the company Activate Innovation. Burlingham and Korensky are both enrolled in the IT Innovation program and although Korensky is pursuing a minor in entrepreneurship, both have already become entrepreneurs at young ages.

Activate Innovation, LLC, which has been an official business since June 2013, is located in Omaha and is a mobile application development company. The company develops apps for both iOS and Android.

“Activate Innovation provides accelerated development life cycles to accommodate for the ever changing mobile market, while maintaining a high standard of customer service and interaction throughout the development process,” said the team.

Burlingham and Korensky decided to begin Activate Innovation throughout their Applied Innovations course, which was taught by Douglas Derrick.  Derrick and his course helped inspire the creation of Activate Innovation.

“It was through him and his Applied IT Innovation course that we discovered the potential and reward for starting a small business,” Burlingham said.

“Through the course, we were exposed to the development process, seeking capital investment and business planning,” said Korensky. “This really helped us realize the potential we had as a team to create innovative mobile applications while also having a lot of fun doing it.”

During the course, Korensky and Burlingham had the chance to invent a prototype of an app called My Happy Plate. Currently, the app is in the planning and prototyping phase.

“It is designed to allow grocery shoppers with food allergies to quickly pick out products with the certainty that it is safe for you and your family members to eat,”  Korensky said. “The user can scan the barcode of a food product, and it will quickly give you a red or green light showing if the food is safe to eat.”

The app allows each user to create an allergen profile and also allows a different profile for each family member, so that each person’s food allergies are considered with a simple scan.

“My Happy Plate is using the FoodEssentials LabelAPI, which is one of the largest food information databases available. Over 40,000 new products are added each week to ensure that the allergy information we are providing is accurate and up-to-date. We expect a beta release of this application for iOS and Android this year,”  Korensky said.

This app was only the beginning of many apps to come from the innovative duo. In addition to My Happy Plate, Activate Innovation is also developing three other apps. “Hookah Stop” is free app that is sponsored by Hookah 402. The app allows the community to rate and review over 1,300 different shisha flavors. Hookah Stop also lets users list their favorite flavors in addition to ones that they want to try.

“Clay Counter,” an app that is currently being developed, caters to high school trap shooting teams. The app lets coaches score meets from their phone instead of having to record it on paper.

“This application will make teams more efficient as it will provide analysis of the shooters’ patterns and provide valuable data to the coaches to help improve each teammate’s unique skills and adjust weak points,” said Burlingham.

“Aedia,” another app that Activate Innovation is currently developing, gives users the opportunity to cultivate innovative ideas through unique social networking.

“This system will let you record and categorize your ideas as well as get feedback from the Aedia community in the way of idea seeds,” said the Korensky.

A later version, which is already being planned, will have even further brainstorming capabilities for groups of any size. Although Activate Innovation is still in its early stages, the company brings in between $5,000 and $10,000 per app developed.

“In 2014 we hope to develop between one and two applications to be owned and sold by Activate Innovation, as well as developing between three and five applications for clients looking for custom mobile application solutions,” Burlingham said.

Korensky and Burlingham have bright plans for their business’s future.

“For the next few years, we will continue pushing on with our degree programs and running Activate Innovation as a part-time company on the side,” said the team. “Our main focus will be to grow our team by two or three individuals which we plan to find at UNO, as well as continue developing our own apps and providing rapid and quality native development to future clients.”

In addition to furthering their own business, the Activate Innovation owners are also interested in catalyzing innovative thinking around Omaha.

“We would like to push for more education in the technological fields for grade schools and high schools to introduce students to basic programming concepts, and in turn help them to make a contribution to the rapidly expanding demand of technology.”

For more information on Activate Innovation, visit their website at activateinnovation.com.

An app sure to deliver

Hamza Rehman and Thang Nguyen are also young entrepreneurs who are in the process of creating their own business. Rehman is a senior who is studying biology and entrepreneurship, and Nguyen is pursuing an MBA with a concentration in electronic business. For Rehman, business has always run in the family.

“I grew up in a business household. My father is a successful business man,” said Rehman. “He has always been my inspiration.”

Rehman has been involved in the restaurant industry for seven years and has even managed restaurants in New York City. Rehman’s teammate Nguyen is also not new to the business world.

“I always knew I have that entrepreneurial bug in me,” said Nguyen. “I’ve been working in e-commerce and mobile technology all my working life.”

These characteristics from both Rehman and Nguyen worked perfectly to create their new mobile app called “DliveryPal.” DliveryPal allows partnered restaurants to offer delivery options for customers. The delivery process is then handled by DliveryPal.

“I felt there is a big gap in the food delivery market here in Omaha,” said Rehman. “We plan to fill that gap for the $1 billion a year restaurant industry in Omaha.”

Nguyen’s interests only complimented the idea.

“I also love good food. So when Hamza shared with me this idea, I saw a huge potential,” Nguyen said. “I think it’s time to bring out the entrepreneur in me and see where it would take us.”

According to Rehman and Nguyen, the target audience for the app is “anybody that has a smartphone and an appetite.” Although the business is planning to eventually reach out to investors, they are currently using their own resources to start up.

The app is currently in its final state of development and a beta version is expected to be released within the next two months.

“It could be as early as March,” said the duo. “It’s very exciting for us here at DliveryPal.”

Because of the basic idea of DliveryPal, there are many directions that the business could expand further in the future.

“We want to fully focus on this project right now, but as our name suggests, we do not limit ourselves to just food delivery. We do have a few ideas to expand DliveryPal further; grocery delivery, prescription drug delivery, are in our master plan.”

Since DliveryPal is being prepared for its beta run, anyone who is interested in the app can visit the website DliveryPal.com to sign up and get the latest news.

“We are very passionate and excited about this project and would like all the support we can get,” said Rehman and Nguyen.

 Managing being a student business owner

Starting a business can be extremely daunting. According to Rehman and Nguyen, the hardest part is being able to stick to core values.

“In the inception phase, we tried to reach out and shared our idea with people and everybody had something to add to it, and that could have potentially led to stray us away from our initial focus,” said the Rehman. “Being able to focus on our initial vision is challenging at times, but we can’t forget that. We remind that to ourselves everyday, and stay focused.”

After the business is started, being a student business owner doesn’t get much easier.

“The hardest part about being a business owner and a student is that it can be very difficult to manage a good balance between work and real work relationships like friendships and family ties,” said Korensk. “We are excited about working on our ideas but this can be consuming and distracting to what else is going on in our lives. Overall it is very rewarding to own a small business while still taking classes, but we give away a bit of ourselves and a lot of our time to invest in the business.”

Although managing the role of student owner and entrepreneur is clearly difficult, these business owners have managed to find ways to juggling never-ending homework along with never-ending business to-do lists.

“Keeping lists of things that need to be done and learning how to prioritize the tasks have been essential tools in managing a good academic standing while also growing a successful startup,” said Korensky. “One of my favorite ways to keep organized is to utilize the 44 square feet of whiteboard space that we installed in our office to lay out ideas on a grand scale!.

 Advice for students who want to become entrepreneurs

Starting a business is a great opportunity for students. Although the process may seem daunting, there is advice for any student considering becoming an entrepreneur.

“Students seeking to start a small business should find a partner or a small team of students that share the same passion for the business idea or product,” Korensky said. “This helps to spread the intense work of starting a small company between individuals that all have unique skill sets, rather than trying to learn everything you need to on your own.”

Often the most challenging part about starting a business can be just that—starting.

“Don’t be afraid to start doing,” Korensky said. “Many people will sit on great business ideas for years thinking and planning that it will work but never actually get around to doing it.”

Another important piece of advice for students who want to become entrepreneurs is to become more knowledgeable about what it’s like to work for start-up businesses. One way to do this is by attending the Start-Up Fair, an event that is like a career fair for start-up businesses. The event will be hosted in PKI Room 158 on Tuesday, Feb. 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Several start-up businesses will have tables set up to meet with interested students to discuss internships and job opportunities.

Start-Up Story is another event that offers learning opportunities for potential entrepreneurs.

“Start-Up Story is a monthly event that brings the UNO community face-to-face with an entrepreneur for a casual conversation about concept development, company building and the good, bad, funny stories that are a part of the process,” said Traci Hancock, who works under the Vice Chancellor of Research and Creative Activity on a variety of projects.

Hancock has helped develop many entrepreneurial activities at UNO, including helping students and faculty find viable ways to develop business ideas and concepts. Hancock has also worked with over 300 National Science Foundation funded start-up businesses from around the United States since 2008. Students are welcome to contact Hancock for more information by e-mailing tahancock@unomaha.edu.

Although being a student business owner can be a difficult job, it is a rewarding pursuit, said Korensky.

“A big opportunity is only a skip and a hop away if you can push yourself to find it.”

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