9 Great Businesses Started in College Dorms

college fund


Day 239: Home Away From Home

Photo credit to Willie Strausser on Flickr

One of the biggest reasons that I write this blog is to help motivate college students to start their own businesses.  When 18 year old kids get to college, oftentimes they really have no idea what they are looking for or what their ultimate goals are – and I can relate.  The focus is usually going out and meeting new people, and then all the sudden you wake up and your 6 months from graduation with no real plan or idea what to do next.  So, the logical next step, which has been the standard for generations, is to go out and get a job.

I’m a strong believer that this shouldn’t be the case.  College is a time when kids are around some of the most creative people they will ever be around, willing to take risks.  Students need to better understand how much potential and opportunity today’s world has created for us – there are so many tools and resources to help people start their own businesses.  Too often, creative minds get sucked into the corporate world, and creativity fades quickly.  There NEEDS to be more motivation and education in colleges urging kids to get involved in start-ups and use their creativity to build new businesses.  Here is a list of some of the most successful businesses that have spawned from college students, right in the dorm room, and grown into massive successful projects.

1.  FedEx

While at Yale, Phil Knight put together wrote a paper for an undergraduate course, outlining his idea behind starting a logistics company.  His thought process was that as the world changes and became more automated, logistics would have to adapt as well.  His teacher gave him a C, and thought the idea was outlandish.  FedEx profits nearly two billion dollars annually.

2.  Napster

Shawn Fanning really made a name for himself when he started the first peer-to-peer media sharing company while he was an undergraduate student at Northeastern in 1999.  He transformed the music industry indefinitely, temporarily bringing nearly every record label to their knees.  When business was good for Napster, they had over 80 million users.  Countless businesses were pioneered on the basis that Napster first displayed.

3.  Wordpress

Two freshmen students, Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg, decided to build an opensource web interface that would allow people with minimal technical skills to easily build websites.  Wordpress was started in a University of Houston dorm room, and now millions and millions and millions of websites are built on this platform (including this one!).

4.  College Hunks Hauling Junk

The business idea was simple – college kids have tons of junk that they need to get rid of at the end of every semester, so lets get some big trucks and haul it out for them.  Omar Soliman submitted the businesses plan into a contest and won $10,000.  They have expanded the business and now make the bulk of their cash from franchising nationwide.

5.  Insomnia Cookies

At University of Pennsylvania, Seth Berkowitz knew people late at night craved cookies.  He started baking them and sold them around campus late at night.  Perfect idea for students studying after hours and in need of a snack.  He opened a retail store in New York in 2004. and now has 40 bakeries nationwide.

6.  Reddit

The Reddit story is complicated and full of big time acquisitions and mergers.  The site, which as of June 2014
has about 113.5 million monthly unique visitors, was first started by two University of Virginia students in 2005 (Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohania).  The website has become one the major internet hubs for content sharing and interaction.  But the simple of idea of bringing together a Yahoo Discussion board type forum into one site spawned right out of college.

7.  Facebook

I can’t write a blog post about this topic without including Zuckerberg.  The social media giant was born in a Harvard dorm so that Mark Zuckerberg could meet girls, and now worth over 65 billion dollars.

8.  Nike

All college football fans know that University of Oregon has the coolest uniforms, week after week, because Nike’s Founder Phil Knight
is an alumni and massive donor to the football program.  While in school, Phil Knight decided there had to be a way to utilize outsourcing to build a shoe company that produced more affordable shoes than what was available at the time.  In 1965, he started Blue Ribbon Sports with his trac
k coach, and the company later developed into Nike.

9.  Tripod

Tripod was started in 1992 by two Williams College students, headed by Bo Peabody.  It started as a website providing practical advice to first time college students, and then developed into a site allowing people to easily make websites.  In 1998, before the dot com bubble burst, the company sold to Lycos for 58 million in stock, which Peabody cashed out after the company’s value went up tenfold.  A year after he cashed out, the bubble burst and many dot com companies lost about 99 percent of their value.

My point for writing this post is to point out that college should be a time when kids should take advantage of their creativity and freedom.  Once people get into the corporate world and start getting accustomed to their 9-5 schedule, they quickly fall into a routine and lose sight of their potential.  And it’s really pathetic.  What business schools need to preach to their students is innovation and entrepreneurship.  There are so many tools available to get started making money online and it is easier to spend money today than every before – you just need to start building up your idea, and the sooner the better.

Photo credit to Tax Credits on Flickr

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