Courses and Commerce

With the current economic downfall, the gray cloud of unemployment is hanging above upper classmen’s heads. However, some students are getting a head start in the real world by starting up their own businesses.Senior entrepreneur Matthew Ackley began Vermontreal, a business that provides all-service overnight bus trips to Montreal from UVM.”I’ve always had different ideas for a product or a service or a company,” he said. “It just always bothered me that I never started one.””I thought road trips to Montreal would have been the most feasible thing to do,” Ackley said. “You don’t need much technology to do it or that much money to get it started.”He said his idea came to life while he was studying abroad in the fall of 2007.”Fall of my junior year I started organizing everything and started advertising back here [in Vermont] while I was in Australia,” he said.When he came back to campus, he started an entrepreneurship club to round up other students with the same entrepreneurial interest who share his interest.”We don’t really have a solid group of people that would like to continue working on their own projects,” he said. “The aspect of getting students together to develop their businesses and help each other out hasn’t taken off as much as the interest of hearing guest speakers,” Ackley said. “The club has kind of turned into a guest lecture series. We’ve had a good amount of speakers come in.” Senior Josh Typrowicz-Cohen began Grass Gauchos, a landscaping business, five years ago where he grew up in southern Vermont.He said he ended up selling the business before going to college at University of Washington-Seattle. He transferred to UVM his sophomore year and decided to start it back up.”The idea started when I was 13,” he said. “I started doing neighbors’ lawns and it grew.”He said he is satisfied with the growth of the business.”It’s grown a lot faster than I expected it to,” he said. “It’s on track where I want it to be financially. I didn’t even expect to have multiple trucks at this point. “Now we’re at the point where we’re shooting for 100 properties this year,” he said. “Right now, we have 50-something booked.”Although he wants to continue with it post-graduation, he said that he sees it growing for another three or four years and then probably maxing out.Associate Professor of Community Development and Applied Economics Kathleen Liang said she does not encourage students to start businesses until after graduation.”Some people really want to start their own businesses already, but if you’re in school, there are time management problems,” she said. “You can’t really pay much attention to the business operation and management perspective when you’re a full-time student and take 15 or 18 credit hours.”Liang recommends a gradual approach to students who wish to begin a business. “I usually do not recommend students start their businesses when they’re in school,” she said. “I want them to be more prepared.””I always encourage them to work with somebody in a similar business to what they want to start so they have more experience so that when they’re ready, they can do it,” Liang said.Liang, who helped start Growing Vermont, thinks students don’t yet have the right mindset to own their own businesses.”When you get into the business world, it’s really cut-and-dry,” she said. “Either you do it and you make it, or you fail and you don’t make it. “It’s totally different from the school atmosphere.”Typrowicz-Cohen said he finds it hard to balance school and his business.”It gets pretty tough,” he said. “You work eight or nine hours a day, you really have no interest in going home and doing schoolwork.”Ackley, however, said he thinks that if someone has a good idea and wants to start a business that they should just go for it.”There could be 10 great things that go along with an idea and one bad one, and that one bad thing will turn people away from taking the next step forward,” he said. “I wanted to get past that hurdle and just get the ball rolling.”