Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have become household names in recent years, as they’ve enabled the launch of such products as the Pebble Watch and the Veronica Mars movie. According to Business Insider, now university students are cashing in on the trend, with “the number of GoFundMe campaigns specifically mentioning ‘tuition’ having risen 4,547% from 2011 to 2014.”
With the increasing cost of university tuition, it should come as no surprise that students are unearthing whatever revenue streams they can.
While some students turn to crowdfunding to help with tuition costs, others question why they should have to wait until graduation to start their own business. Five of these enterprising students shared with HostGator how their online businesses grew from ideas to cash cows.
1. Pandy Apparel
Founded by Kate Delossantos, University of Maryland at College Park
Kate hopped on the crowdfunding trend to test the viability of her business idea. “Back in the summer of 2015, I held a successful Kickstarter to print my very own line of clothing. After I sent out the clothing to my backers, I was really happy and excited that people liked the clothes I made. That’s when I decided to start my own online clothing store, which I named pandy apparel.”
In addition to designing the clothing, Kate creates all the graphics and photography for the site and codes the layout. She credits this experience for helping her decide her college major. “After putting so much work into it, I realized that this was the kind of thing I was really passionate about, and I changed from a computer science major to an art major.”
2. Board Blazers
Founded by Greg Rudolph, Arizona State University
They say all it takes is one good idea, and in Greg’s case, that idea was based on something as simple as duct tape. Greg is now a graduate student pursuing his MBA, and he still marvels at how one innocuous observation grew into a worldwide business:
“After I spotted a student who had duct-taped Christmas lights to his skateboard riding around the Arizona State University campus one night in 2011, I was inspired with the idea for Board Blazers LED Underglow Skateboard Lights. I risked most of my personal savings and started the company while an undergrad at ASU at age 20 in March 2012. Since then, the company has grown surprisingly to sales in all 50 states and 35 countries around the world. Our lights have been featured at SXSW, by celebrity Casey Niestat, and by pro skater Tech Na$ty.”
Founded by Ashley Olafsen, University of Massachusetts Amherst
When they were just teenagers, Ashley and her best friend Lexie Phipps founded MOVE, which stands for Motivate. Overcome. Value. Empower. The duo is “dedicated to working with middle and high school aged girls on body image, media, self esteem, mental health, and more.”
4. Ace Work Gear
Founded by Max Robinson, Imperial College London
Max had made a hobby out of building websites for fun, but it wasn’t until a friend introduced him to e-commerce that he considered doing something similar.
Based in Fife, Scotland, Ace Work Gear sells and ships hardware tools and workwear to construction businesses worldwide. “It took me quite a while to build the site properly and I had to find a company that was willing to rent the website from me, but I’m very happy with how it turned out and continue to make updates and adjustments on a weekly basis. I’ve even been able to use the website as part of my college portfolio!”
5. Game Learners
Founded by Ravel Charles, Northeastern University
Game Learners serves as an online resource to help gamers and parents tap into the educational power and health benefits of video games. Not only did Ravel start Game Learners as a student, but he was also inspired by one of his classes.
“I realized how similar one of my favorite video games was to the concepts I learned that day in my Project Management class. That day I learned about the project management life cycle and managing a project. As I was learning about it I realized that the concepts came easier to me because it was very similar to how I play Franchise Mode (Called MyGM Mode) in NBA 2K16 and manage my own sports team. In the video game, the owner of the team will give directions and I will have to make sure to complete them in a timely fashion, with goals that needed to be achieved along the way. This is similar to managing a project in real life. From there, I thought, how can other children benefit from this type of learning?”
Ravel keeps the website open-source and free for members, making money off of advertising.
Bonus Entrepreneur: HostGator
HostGator was originally founded in a dorm room in Florida Atlantic University. We’ve since grown to be a global provider of web hosting and related services with over 500 employees working out of offices all over the world!
Are you inspired by these student entrepreneurs? Start your online business today with your very own website from HostGator.
Amelia Willson is a freelance writer, content marketer and SEO strategist who helps businesses succeed online. A graduate of Wellesley College with a degree in English, she landed on a career in marketing where she spends her days trying to crack the code of Google’s mighty algorithm and blogging for various online publications. When she’s not busy working, you can find her running around Austin, Texas, with her dog Rockefeller or blogging about Disneyland.