Electronic entrepenuership hits University of Washington
Some people get jobs. Others make them.
Five University of Washington juniors did just that when they created a company that teaches people how to build, post and maintain a Web site in six hours.
Web Your Head began as a school assignment, but because of its success, the undergraduate business students are planning to buy the company’s assets from the UW and expand.
“This is what you come to college to do,” said Chris Adams, 21, the company’s vice president of marketing. “You come to work hard and learn.”
The students met in September in the business school’s Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation course, “Creating a Company.”
On the first day of the two-quarter class, Shannon Hauser, the original instructor who’s now running the Mercer Island-based Returns Online retail-returns company, warned students about the time and dedication the class required, recalled Web Your Head chief financial officer Nelson Adams, 21.
The class was launched in 1998 with a $15,000 grant by Wells Fargo bank, said Connie Bourassa-Shaw, managing director of the Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. During the first year, companies that students formed to export wrinkle cream to China and lip balm to England-ideas that didn’t work out in the course’s short time frame-nearly depleted the fund.
In the 1999-2000 school year, teams were able to break even, but not profit.This year, all four student teams made money and replenished the fund. Two groups set up marketing and business-consulting firms and a third published a UW-area dining and entertainment guide.
At the beginning of the course, students networked their way onto five-member teams.
Chris Adams and Nelson Adams, who are not related, Matt Boisen, 21, and Will Lavery, 20, gravitated to 20-year-old Anna Chu’s idea to teach the intricacies of the Internet.
Chu serves as chief executive officer of Web Your Head, while Boisen is its chief technology officer and Lavery is chief operating officer.
After figuring out a business plan, the students took on the task of turning the idea into reality-getting licensed, making business cards, ordering matching polo shirts with the Web Your Head logo, putting fliers on cars in parking lots, finding a Web host and finally, along with Microsoft’s donation of Front Page software and teaching supplements, getting the Web classes going.
Their Web course was originally eight hours over two days. But the entrepreneurs found a single, six-hour class worked better with people’s schedules. The 50 students so far have been small business owners, professionals, teenagers and children.
Tony Cheng, vice president of Seattle-based Netstar Communications, took the class along with the telecom management company’s customer-care representative, Bethany Crowell. “We were novices,” said Crowell. “For us, we were using it more to have the tools to make changes or expand a basic Web site.”
With healthy profits in three months, the founders of Web Your Head decided they’d hit on something big, both with the classes and a consulting business.