Weightlifting club success story shows the ups and downs of on-campus clubs
Some students join clubs; others start clubs. Others take their clubs to a completely different level, even off campus.
Nicholas Horton, a graduate student studying game theory, turned the on-campus weightlifting club he started into his own business when he took it off campus three years ago. Horton now runs PDX Weightlifting, a club based on membership (and associated) fees located in SE Portland.
Although Portland State was where his club originally started, Horton said that he ran into some difficulties in starting and maintaining a club on campus. After being given the opportunity to bring his weightlifting club to the local Loprinzi’s Gym on weekends, Horton realized it would be better for him to move his club off campus.
“I didn’t have to deal with PSU red tape,” Horton said. “And I wanted to have club members from places who weren’t at PSU.”
It is understandable that, at some point in the rat race, people like Horton would choose different hurdles to clear besides club regulations, though Horton’s club-to-business story can be seen as a club “success story.” By overcoming club difficulties, what was once just a club can be turned into the post-college fulfillment of an interest.
However, that is not to say that those hurdles should be downplayed. The expectations of clubs on campus are not necessarily conducive to everyone’s goals. Even with the potential long-term gains, starting and maintaining an on-campus club cannot be brushed aside as being an easy feat.
To start a club, SALP requires hopefuls to fulfillcertain criteria from the get-go. Students must have five club members (three of whom should be dedicated to group leadership), complete an application write a mission statement, list proposed club activities and create a tentative budget for the year. After all that, the potential club must meet with a SALP advisor to go over the criteria and discuss any needs of the club.
There is also the aspect of keeping a club running after it starts. Horton noted that another difficulty was trying to set up meetings that fit people’s schedules and keeping people coming back. “I actually found that people would be much more flighty in an on-campus club than an off-campus club,” Horton said. “I don’t know what that is. Maybe because on campus they feel that they’re not obligated.”
This lack of obligation could come from the view that joining clubs is simply a good way to make friends and connections while on campus. This is true for some people based on their interests. But not everyone ends up showing that ultimate assertiveness by taking their interests in club activities all the way to complete entrepreneurship.
However, there are many possibilities in-between that can be beneficial for students. Simply realizing what one’s interests are or finding prospective applications for pre-existing interests are some positive aspects of on-campus clubs.
When Horton started the campus weightlifting club, he too was just pursuing his interest, not concocting any business plans. “I had originally started the club simply because there was nothing like it in town. I would have actually preferred at the time to join someone else’s club and have them teach me,” Horton said.
Horton is now supporting himself by running PDX Weightlifting, but he urges caution for students looking into turning their own interests into a business. “The first thing for anybody would be to ask themselves if that’s the life they want to live, because there’s much easier ways to live,” said Horton.
Part of this warning comes from the fact of Horton himself is dedicating much, much more than the 9-to-5 work standard. Horton gets up on a typical day at 5 a.m., writes blog articles and other promotional material to keep his business abuzz on the net, answers e-mails, finally goes to the gym from 3 to 8 p.m., and spends about 10 to 12 hours doing similar work on the weekends.
Horton advises club members interested in taking the off-campus leap to “just go for it no matter what and not care if you’re failing, because…you’ll have one good idea that really works and a hundred that don’t.”
If the intense marketing and long hours of a business are not attractive, club interests can lead to other paths. Horton points out that skills and interests developed in a club setting can be put to use in someone else’s company, leaving you free from the responsibilities of running your own business entails.
But students interested in making that leap of faith should give it a shot. While Horton’s story may be the exception rather than the rule in the economy we have today (50 percent of new businesses fail within the first two years; 75 percent fail in the first five), it is still encouraging and a tale from which to learn. Hard work and ingenuity can pay off, as proven by Horton.
Starting a company is filled with obstacles. No matter how different someone’s goals are—running a business, starting a club or discovering a passion, for example— there will be hurdles. The key is to finding out which of these hurdles need to be taken out of the picture and which ones can be overcome to find success.