Story by Nicole Cooke, Copy Editor —
Most students and professors at UCM would probably agree that getting a degree is important, but so is getting real world experience to go with it.
UCM student entrepreneurs now have the chance to sell their products in a store in downtown Warrensburg, giving them that experience.
Experience Entrepreneurship, also known as e2, is located at 205-A Holden St.
The store opened Nov. 1 and is home to many student businesses.
One student who is part of e2 is Amanda Roberts.
She is a junior entrepreneur and social enterprise major who owns Geek Details and sells dishware and pin-back buttons with clever sayings.
The buttons range from “Doctor Who” themed buttons to sayings such as “Real friends help you kill zombies,” or “It’s okay Pluto, I’m not a planet either.”
She designs all the buttons and dishware and then packages them to sell on Etsy.com and in the e2 store.
Her dishware has even been featured on Huffington Post and Buzzfeed.com, where it was described as “obscene dishware,” due to the flowered patterns and words such as “cocaine,” “psycho” and other insulting words.
She decided to become involved in e2 after she had tried to sell her products on her own in 2008 and ended up closing in 2010 to evaluate what she was doing.
“Before I was just running on luck,” Roberts said. “But there are certain formulas for business that I didn’t know. If I had a business degree, I would’ve known how to do the math and make better decisions. Now I’ve learned how to do things better, such as marketing and keeping track of inventory.”
Another entrepreneur is Brandi Miller, who graduated in May with a degree in graphic design.
Students can display their products while they are in school and for one semester after they graduate.
Miller’s company, Dorky Dino, sells products such as charms, key chains, jewelry and greeting cards with designs inspired by Hello Kitty and other popular Japanese characters.
She said she wanted to create something that was her “own take on cuteness.”
There are five student entrepreneurs who sell their products at e2, but the store started with 20 students in the Integrative Business Experience class, which also sells its products at e2.
“We were looking for something that continued after a semester of IBE,” said Mary McCord, professor of entrepreneurship and social enterprise. “Now that they (the students) know how to run a company, they could actually run a company and keep the money they earn.”
UCM President Chuck Ambrose also wanted to find a place to help those kinds of companies.
He was looking for a place to give students those opportunities and offered McCord the space on Holden.
The rent and utilities are free for the entrepreneurs, so students concentrate on turning a profit on their products.
Students involved with e2 and IBE also volunteer their time at the store, working three-hour shifts a few times a week, which helps cut down on costs.
One IBE company, Live2Red, sells cooler bags, which are waterproof insulated drawstring bags that are also coolers to keep food and beverages cool.
The students came up with the product after conducting student surveys.
In addition to IBE and the student entrepreneurs, there is also a section of the store devoted to a thrift store.
McCord said she would like to see it become a place where students can buy items for their dorm or apartment, such as small refrigerators and other small pieces of furniture.
Since the store has only been open a few weeks, many of the students have goals for the store in the coming months.
“We want to help get the store name out to the student body and to the future student body as well, so the students know what is available for them,” said Kelli Brennan, a junior marketing major and member of Live2Red.
“The goal for our product, the cooler bag, is to sell as much as possible by the end of the semester.”
To help drum up business for their product, Live2Red is holding a canned food and winter coat drive at the store Nov. 26-30.
When customers bring one coat or two canned goods, they will receive a dollar off the cooler bag.
One of McCord’s goals is to eventually keep the store open during breaks.
This year, however, the store will close after finals week and reopening when classes resume in January.
So far business has been slow for e2, but the students and McCord hope that interest will pick up soon with the help of marketing and window displays.
For that to happen, the store needs more student volunteers.
“I’m hoping we’ll get some marketing students more involved,” McCord said.
“If anyone wants to help with the store, maybe create a window display, we’d love their help. They can put it on their resume and get some good experience.”
There are many benefits for students involved in e2.
Roberts and Miller have different ideas of what those benefits are.
“Being a part of e2 will help support my store and hopefully get me a wider customer base,” Miller said. “It will also help with my experience in selling and running a store.”
“It lets you see if there is a desire for your product,” Roberts said. “Most students can’t sell their product on their own with their own money. You can get exposure with this store.”
There are many other products offered at e2, such as T-shirts and sunglasses, and profits from those items support ECHO.
There are also new items arriving daily in the thrift store.
“People should go down there and see what their peers are inventing and making and selling because it’s very good stuff,” McCord said.
“It’s edgy and fun. And every time they buy something they are supporting someone just like them.”
Any student can become involved with e2, regardless of their major.
For more information, contact McCord at firstname.lastname@example.org.