A look at student-made businesses

Rachel Sluss

Each semester, new student-run businesses emerge on and off campus. From T-shirt companies to websites and smartphone apps, students get the chance to become self-starters by launching businesses and services that aim to benefit their peers.

Kent State entrepreneurship majors students create many of these businesses in a required course called “Entrepreneurial Experience.”

The two-semester course requires each student to formulate an idea for a business within the first five weeks. After analyses and presentations, students must bring their thoughts to reality.

“The goal of the class is to set up a business,” said Denise Easterling, a lecturer in the department of marketing and entrepreneurship. “The course is titled ‘experience’ for a reason.”

Easterling teaches approximately 40 to 50 students who are all launching their first businesses. She said some are working on patents, and others are working their interests into an official companies.

“The students are in shock the first couple weeks of class,” Easterling said. “When students successfully get through [it], the amount they know and learn is amazing.”

Some businesses started in Entrepreneurial Experience still thrive today, while others have not succeeded beyond the course.

Laundry in a Flash

One company that was developed in the course and continues doing business is Laundry in a Flash. The laundry service was created to relieve students’ pain of having to wash and dry their own clothing. The business has been passed down since 2009 from graduate student to undergraduate student.

Chad Radke, junior entrepreneurship major, said Laundry in a Flash drew in about 100 customers last semester. Instead advertising only to students, Radke started reaching out to parents.

“Parents of freshman students buy our service because they’re paying for their students’ [expenses],” Radke said.

Radke believes Laundry in a Flash is and will continue to be a sturdy company. He has tried to expand to apartment complexes off campus but has had little success due to the cost. Radke and partner Joan Weber, junior entrepreneurship major, plan to provide dry cleaning services for Kent State faculty in the future.

International H.O.M.E. Market

Another company created for students by students is International H.O.M.E. Market located downtown in Acorn Alley.

Genia Kollie, senior entrepreneurship major, started International H.O.M.E. Market in 2011 with three other business partners. Some still take part in the company.

“I moved here about two years ago from Cleveland, and I’ve grown up eating different types of food,” Kollie said. “I moved to Kent, and there was nothing here.”

Kollie hopes to expand International H.O.M.E. Market further than Acorn Alley in the future and plans to stay with the company even after graduation.

“We reach out to international students. They are one of the reasons I started this business,” Kollie said. “We go about business differently here. We take requests. Our items are things we know people want to buy.”

Steel Clothing

Similarly, Matt Kolic, senior entrepreneurship major, came up with his business idea, Steel Clothing, during the Entrepreneurial Experience course. He aimed to create “less bland” workout clothing for men and women.

“The class helped me majorly. Without it, I might not have a business,” Kolic said. “They give you guidance and help you from the idea to the first sale and beyond that.”

Kolic said his company was built using social media, which allowed him to reach out to a successful body builder on Twitter. Now, Kolic has a signature line for him.

Kolic also advertises his products at different body building shows all over the country, and the items are available outside the U.S.

“We’re ever-changing,” Kolic said. “It went from an idea to a few orders to shipping international. It’s now my career instead of a nighttime hobby.”

Clothing is a popular business idea for many entrepreneurship students. The companies that have lasted beyond the course have been creative with their advertising methods and create products targeted mostly toward students.

Rubber City Clothing

Joy Eskesen, Kent State alumna, her brother and four other friends, created Rubber City Clothing in 2005. The company carries T-shirts and accessories that represent Akron, Ohio.

The company began with 10 screen-printed T-shirt designs and now carries a larger selection of shirts and accessories specially made for women, men and babies.

“This business got started by promoting Akron,” said Angela Roloff, Rubber City Clothing general manager. “People love their city. In big cities like New York City, there are a lot of tourists, but in normal cities you don’t see a lot of people promoting it.”

Rubber City Clothing has its own shop in Akron, and its T-shirts are available in local stores. Roloff plans to continue to work with local businesses to promote the brand.

“It’s all about loving your city and taking pride in where you live,” Roloff said. “People always tell me they have a to-do list when they return home to Akron. Rubber City Clothing is part of it.”


Rachel O’Neill, senior entrepreneurship major, created Snapcessories in the Entrepreneurial Experience course in September 2012. All the hair accessories created by O’Neill and her coworkers are interchangeable by a magnetic snap.

“Our inspiration came from the need for a perfect headband,” O’Neill said. “We always wore headbands that we wanted to swap the accessories on to mix and match colors, or if we loved one headband but didn’t want the accessory, but we couldn’t take it off.”

Snapcessories’ sales have been increasing since its opening. O’Neill plans to keep the website as the primary location for sale and wholesale to retail stores and hair salons. She hopes to expand the line to carry products like shoes, scarves and accessories for blazers.

Avery Taylor Knits

Avery Bounds, junior entrepreneurship major, created her company, Avery Taylor Knits, after receiving good feedback in the Entrepreneurial Experience course.

She began knitting hats and scarves and selling them on Etsy and said the best way to advertise to the student body is by wearing her own products.

“Word-of-mouth is a big deal,” Bounds said. “A lot of people spend time on advertising. I walk and wear my product. People come up and say, ‘I love your hat!’ Items that are selling are items people want to wear.”

Because every item is handmade, Bounds spends more time creating customized knit accessories that tailor to customers’ wants. She plans to expand from the six designs she currently has on Etsy and would like to make trendy bearded hats and mohawk hats.

“I definitely want to keep my business going,” Bounds said.

Belle’s Healing Solutions LLC

Gavin Ursich, junior entrepreneurship major, began working on the formula for his company’s products before he took the Entrepreneurial Experience course. His line of products includes lip balm and healing solutions.

Ursich and his mother started making healing products for their family, and once they found the solutions worked, they went further with the business concept.

“We did a focus group to get reviews on our products,” Ursich said. “The reviews we got

said our lip balm was too hard. We worked together to come up with different ways to make it


The company’s healing solution works for problems with the skin such as cold sores, scratches, scabs, pimples and dry skin.

“Someone in my class buys the healing solution for Eczema,” Ursich said. “It works for minor skin conditions or problem areas.”

Belle’s Healing Solutions LLC officially became a business in October, and Ursich and his business partners are now vendors at the Aurora Red Rock Farmers’ Market.

Ursich plans to keep up the business throughout his college career and wants to expand his products to different stores across the country.

Businesses that don’t succeed

Ideally, students start their businesses during the sophomore-level course and keep them thriving throughout and even beyond their college careers. However, because the course is so early on the Roadmap for entrepreneurship majors, there is a high rate of failure for startup businesses.

“Upperclassmen who are passionate often keep their businesses going,” Easterling said. “Sometimes they find they can make more money in a side business.”

Easterling said businesses often fail because students start them early in their college careers and they are not as focused as the upperclassmen.

“It’s hard for some sophomores to keep their business going when they still have so much ahead of them,” she said.

Kolic said he has found success with his business because he pushed himself to think outside the box and kept interest in what he was creating.

“Businesses fail, I think, because people lose passion for what they’re doing,” Kolic said. “My advice is to do something you’re passionate about, and when hard times come, just let your passion carry you through.”

Contact Rachel Sluss at [email protected].