SAN FRANCISCO, U.S.A. While most college students are currently dreaming of the long summer days they will be spending at the beach, a few recent graduates from across the U.S. are dreaming bigger — and better. As a student, starting your own company is not a daydream, and neither is doing social good with that very enterprise.
Nicole Koedyker, 22, and Maria Allison, 22, founded Forsei Consulting in October 2013 as part of the Entrepreneurship Co-Op program at The Close School at Drexel University. In addition to resources and office space, this program provides eligible students with $15,000 in support of their ventures.
Forsei Consulting helps other small businesses to solve social and environmental issues in their surrounding community, and to become B Corp certified. “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk,” according to the official bcorporation.net website. “It’s amazing how we can help formulate how a business can make a difference,” said Allison, who will be graduating in the spring with a Bachelor of Science in business administration.
But the realization to start a business, let alone the financial support, does not always come during college. A graduate of Pepperdine University with a degree in broadcasting, Nicole Flowers, 32, felt unfulfilled with what she thought would be her dream job: appearing on television in New York City.
Inspired by Blake Mycoskie’s book “Start Something That Matters,” she started Hiip, a start-up selling bags worn on the hip. In the same vein as Mycoskie, for every bag sold, a Hiip kit consisting of toiletries, socks and other essentials, is given to a homeless individual. Since its launch two years ago, Hiip has “been able to give out hundreds of kits to the homeless,” said Flowers.
Business Professor Peggy Takahashi at the University of San Francisco comments on the ‘against the grain’ attitude these graduates have. “Typically students will work for a couple of years in an industry that’s related to what they want to do and start from the ground up. First, learn the ropes on someone else’s nickel, earn some money, and after a couple years then they’ll start.”
But the corporate rat race is frequently making it work the other way around. Tony Portugal, 25, a graduate from the University of San Diego with a degree in international business, similarly began a career “doing the grind” of corporate America, but yearned for a healthy lifestyle and a job that promoted sustainability. The latter has become the focus of Cacoco, a start-up he launched in San Diego last March with two other partners — Liam and Gabriel — to become, according to Portugal, “the three musketeers of chocolate.” Their main product uses the whole raw cacao bean to produce drinkable chocolate.
Dr. Jonathan Allen, associate professor at the University of San Francisco in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, points out that, “Data suggests that the millennial generation is more willing to go after the balancing act of the people, profit, planet bottom lines over higher salaries.”
Does it sound utopian? Maybe, but the graduates’ dreams certainly don’t end here. Koedyker and Allison want to B certify ten more companies by the summer through Forsei. Flowers wants to see her bags at festivals and create a Hiip caravan by next summer, and Portugal is striving to grow Cacoco into a company that supports and promotes sustainability and a healthy lifestyle.
With the average student debt rising by the minute, current students are stressed about final semester hoops and life after college. But as a word of advice, Koedyker says, “Ignore student loans and do what’s right.”