At eight-years-old, sophomore Ben Comer ran a gourd stand in the driveway of his Medford, N.J., home. Today, he and his business partner, junior Brett Apter, have launched another kind of business — an Internet-related one — and it’s beginning to yield big results.
MySavu.com facilitates connections between college students and the community or, as Comer says, the “communiversity.” The site lists local business by category and makes it easy to “find what you need near campus. Fast.”
“The mySavu.com concept has, because of the economic slowdown, been well-timed. When I visited a nearby restaurant, the owner said he was thinking about hiring someone to help find ways to bring students to his business,” says Comer, “but with mySavu.com he’s able to reach his specific audience more economically. Local business don’t have a lot of money to spend right now on advertising.”
MySavu.com lists restaurants, service stations, gift shops and other businesses that are convenient to campus. For a flat-fee, businesses can expand their free basic listing to include additional information. “Featured businesses” also receive large ads on the Web site; many of those businesses offer discounts to budget-conscious students.
Comer and Apter, who is from Treasure Island, Fla., are invested both personally and financially in their business. “Brett and I share the workload,” says Comer. “We’ve discovered what skills each of us bring to the business and what we enjoy doing. We have to visit potential advertisers, maintain the site, return phone calls and handle administrative responsibilities. I rely heavily on my time management skills and the fact that I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook to enable me to be both a student and an entrepreneur.”
But it’s not about just dreaming up a good idea and finding time to execute it. Bren Varner, program director for the University Center for Entrepreneurship, says passionate commitment and the ability to act quickly and consistently are also essential. Comer and Apter had been meeting with Varner separately for six months and through these conversations Varner noticed the two students shared similar ideas.
“I suggested they get together and brainstorm about possibilities and see if there might be a partnership opportunity,” says Varner. “Our office and several entrepreneurs-in-residence (retired entrepreneurs or business executives who volunteer with the program and mentor aspiring entrepreneurs) helped them to analyze opportunities, conduct research and refine their business model. Based on their consumer research, a financial feasibility analysis and their own personal interest, they landed on the current mySavu.com model which they continue to tweak and refine.”
Varner says Ben and Brett are experiencing first-hand what it is like to plan, launch and operate a venture. They’ve had to weigh the risks, invest some of their own money and knock on doors to sell their service to advertisers.
“There’s something to be said for getting out in the real world and actually investing your time and money and not seeing results right away,” Comer says. “That’s a growing experience. The paramount characteristics for a successful entrepreneur are learning to take risks and being patient. We’re very fortunate to have an entrepreneurial program that combines entrepreneurship with a student’s other interests and pursuits. Wake Forest offers the kind of help and support for entrepreneurial students that you might expect to see at a school three or four times the size of our University.”
“The entrepreneurship program has helped incubate many entrepreneurial ventures like mySavu.com,” says Varner. “However, our real goal is to incubate entrepreneurs, like Ben and Brett, in a way that will help them to better understand how they can apply the entrepreneurial process to life after Wake Forest.”