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Freshmen Entrepreneurs

It wasn’t even two weeks into our college experience when our lives completely changed. I, Haley, was originally an English major and had no idea what I wanted to do in the future. Enrique, my business partner, was going into business because he wanted to learn how to start up a car shop. All it took was one hour in CEO (Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization) and we had quickly discovered our entire life’s passion: Entrepreneurship.

We originally began with The Boyfriend Store, an online store of gift suggestions for boyfriends who don’t know what to buy their girlfriends. It was a rough process. We had no idea how to build a website, we didn’t know anything about business, and we had a very disproportional view of the start-up life reality. Through our process of learning, building, making mistakes, and even failing we eventually switched from The Boyfriend Store into The Husband Store, an online store of gift suggestions for their wives. Through further customer testing and development we began to notice the pain that husbands generally don’t have time to plan dates for their wives, giving them no alone time or romance. After analyzing this data we began to develop a pivot which we now call Unforgettable Experience. Unforgettable Experience will be a website to help respark or maintain a couple’s romance, through pre-planned dates and events, offering an easy solution for husbands and boyfriends to create an unforgettable experience with their significant other.

Haley Cymbalak and Enrique Gandara at the International Business Model Competition held in the Harvard Innovation Lab.

The process we briefly described above was what we presented at Harvard in the beginning of May 2013. The International Business Competition is quickly gaining popularity as it promotes a business model versus a business plan.  Business plans take time and generally are filled with guesses and predictions. In addition to that, a start-up product and service continually develops, adapts, and changes, so no first business plan actually works in the market. This year there were almost 1400 applicants from ten different countries and only twenty eight were chosen to compete at Harvard. We submitted our model online and were one of the twenty eight chosen to compete.

Going to Boston to represent Whitewater was an amazing experience. First off, Boston is an absolutely gorgeous city. We spent time walking through the Freedom Trail, trying food at different restaurants, and seeing as much as we could of the beautiful city. I’m a seafood lover, so of course I tried as much fresh seafood as I possibly could. Harvard itself has a beautiful campus and we had the privilege to walk through part of the campus and Science school.

The International Business Model Competition was held at the Harvard Innovation Lab. Networking with other students and schools was a great opportunity. In addition, Nathan Furr, author of Nail It and Scale It, and Alexander Osterwalder, author of Business Model Generation, were also present and judges of the competition. Both of these entrepreneurs play a key role in the reformation of entrepreneurship and are the reason so many start ups are successful today. It was an honor to meet them. Our ten minute presentation went very well and we couldn’t be happier with it. We were told that we followed the model perfectly and even had some judges tell us that they would use our service. Only four teams were taken to the final round, and although many told us that our name was brought up several times in the judging room, we were not one of the four. To us, though, having the opportunity to be a part of this competition was a win already. No one had heard of our small town Whitewater campus, and we were proud to tell others from around the world where we came from.

Thank you, Whitewater, for such an amazing start to our college career. If I had to guess where I would be today a year ago, I wouldn’t have even been close, but I think that this is a lot better than what I would’ve ever wanted in the first place.

Thank you to Enrique Gandara and Haley Cymbalak for providing this post.  Good luck with your business!

About Jolene Check

Marketing Specialist for the College of Business and Economics.
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