From College Dorms to Business Empires


These days, it seems as if everyone is inventing something. Whether it’s the Dipr (a plastic utensil used to dunk an Oreo into milk without any mess) or the Paravelo Flying Bicycle (a combination between a paraglider and a bicycle), creativity is in. And apparently it’s in colleges too, because young entrepreneurs Catherine Cook, Alice Brooks, Jennifer Kessler, Bettina Chen, Keeley Tillotson, and Erika Welsh have all started innovative and successful businesses right from their very dorm rooms.

Featured in the CNN article “Ladies who launch: Dorm room startups,” these women have turned their ideas into concrete reality. Catherine Cook, a recent graduate from Georgetown University, created a website called MeetMe during her college days. The purpose of the website: connect people who have never met, similar to a dating website, but without the romance. Just after her college graduation in 2011, the website was purchased by Quepasa Corporation for $100 million.

Students of Stanford University Alice Brooks, Jennifer Kessler, and Bettina Chen loved to play with Legos, chessboards, and saws (yup, saws) during their childhood. Although traditionally male toys, the Legos and chessboards and saws galore had them excited and interested about math and science at a young age. During their college days, the women aspired to spark an interest in a younger generation of girls in STEM subjects just as the toys (and dangerous tool) did for them. But just how did they do this? Their answer: Roominate, a kit that lets children design, build, wire, and decorate their own interactive rooms. Not only does the trio have loyal backers, but they have also raised more than $85,000.

When Keeley Tillotson and Erika Welsh ran out of peanut butter on a stormy day at the University of Oregon, instead of putting on their rain boots and jackets to go buy more, they decided to use a food processor, a bag of peanuts, a little honey, and a dash of cinnamon to create their own delicious masterpiece. Soon enough, everyone and their mother wanted a taste of the Wild Squirrel Nut Butter. Even successful businesswoman and investor Barbara Corcoran wanted a taste, and offered the girls $50,000 for the product, but they refused wanting to take control of their company’s future. Today, the now five flavors of Wild Squirrel Nut Butter are sold at hundreds of grocery stores across the country.

It is safe to say that these girls are walking poster children of what creativity and hard work can achieve. And quite literally do I mean “children.” So often is it assumed that one must finish with school before focusing on the bigger picture, before focusing on the things that make us happiest and excite us the most. But these young entrepreneurs have proven that age is really just a number, and if you find something that electrifies you, there’s no reason not to pursue it right away, even with all the essays and midterms. Stories like these inspire and truly allow one to dream big.

Eniola Akintade

Tufts University

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