For many UC Davis students, starting a business may seem like an impossible task. But for one group of student entrepreneurs, not only is creating a business possible, it’s something they can do even before they get their diplomas.
Members of the Junior Entrepreneurs and Investors Club recently formed a club dedicated to selling Clean Cart Systems – a sort of dishwasher for shopping carts. Executives of the six-year-old business gave Davis students the rights to sell the systems in Yolo County.
“Creating a business is generally the stuff you deal with after you graduate,” said Avnish Brar, a junior managerial economics and communication double major and public relations manager of the club. “But we can do this while we’re still in school. The stuff we’re learning in class, we’re actually doing it right now.”
Clean Cart Systems presented students with this opportunity at one of JEI’s entrepreneurial workshops. For Baryo Dee, senior managerial economics major and president of the Clean Carts club, the experience of starting a business with fellow students was too valuable to pass up.
“I think it’s very unique in that as students we can start our own business,” Dee said. “At other internships, you’re going to be helping someone but you’re not going to be actually doing the task yourself. In this case we’re actually doing the task ourselves.”
The club currently has about a dozen members and is structured like a real business. Members specialize in jobs such as finance, marketing, computer graphics and sales.
Clean Cart executives act as the group’s mentors by providing business advice and guidance to their student counterparts.
“They basically helped us build our infrastructure. A lot of our analysis came from them already and a lot of marketing ideas they already had. They’re basically like our backbone, our heart and soul,” said Osaretin Ogbebor, senior psychology major and marketing director of the club.
Andrew Waag, sophomore managerial economics major, said he joined the club because it gave him the opportunity to take on a high-responsibility position in a real company.
“It allows students to get firsthand experience at the ground floor of a startup company, so that they will have the confidence and skill to possibly start their own business down the road,” Waag said in an e-mail interview. “There isn’t a class at UC Davis that teaches you how to write an employee handbook, or what goes into a personnel file; that’s why it’s important to develop practical skills in addition to the theory you learn in school.”
Though they haven’t made any sales yet, Brar said the group plans to generate interest in Clean Cart systems by surveying local grocery stores and providing a free trial.
People don’t often realize how dirty shopping carts can be, Brar said.
“They have more bacteria than elevators and toilet seats,” Brar said. “Grocery stores use some kind of sanitizing stuff but that doesn’t really clean the shopping carts; it’s basically like if you put sanitizer on your dirty dishes. It doesn’t really work.”
The environmentally-friendly system cleans each cart in 10 seconds or two minutes, depending on the setting. Stores that purchase the system can choose to put their company logo on the machine.
Club members have already begun to learn the real-life skills necessary for creating a business from the ground up.
“I have learned that starting a business is hard,” Ogbebor said. “I’m learning how to write by-laws, how to write a business plan and calculate a market and actually have estimates and calculate the profit after revenue.”
Brar said that they plan to talk to a lawyer soon to file their business as a non-profit. Profits from sales would go back to students in the form of scholarships and internships.
The club is currently recruiting new members of all majors. A job posting will be available on the Aggie Job Link within the next few weeks.
“This is a unique experience for UC Davis students, something that you’re not going to get anywhere else on campus and we’re looking for as much help as we can get,” Dee said. “We are looking for people that are passionate, that see potential in the opportunity we have and are willing to work to make sure that dream comes true.”
ERIN MIGDOL can be reached at email@example.com.