Provo has become a top location for entrepreneurs. A recent study found the Provo-Orem area to be the number one spot for entrepreneurship among small and mid-sized metros. Students launching businesses are some of the main contributors to this success.
John Rampton of Entrepreneur magazine said BYU is noted particularly for the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship within the Marriott School of Management.
“In the last five years alone, BYU grads started 60 companies and raised more than $17 million in funding,” Rampton said.
BYU entrepreneurship professor Gibb Dyer said many students want to start a business because they see friends and role models doing it and BYU creates a great environment for students to pursue this goal.
“At BYU we give them experience in our courses to: 1) Come up with a good business idea, 2) Test and validate the idea, 3) Launch the idea as a new business, and 4) Grow their businesses,” Dyer said in an email.
Many have taken the opportunity at BYU to develop a startup while being a student.
Shane Ball is the founder of Stay Wear, a clothing brand that is all about people staying true to who they are and want to be.
Ball said with a culture of openness to creativity, Provo is a great place and college is the perfect time to start a business.
“Start as soon as you can, so you can make mistakes and learn,” Ball said. “I wish I would’ve started a business when I was younger, before more responsibilities happen after college.”
Ball was inspired by his parents who each had their own business. He said he was in his first year of the accounting program when he started Stay Wear in 2014.
“It was tough,” Ball said. “Somehow I was able to get through my homework and also ship orders when I needed to, but it did make some late, late nights.”
A background in accounting and skills such as marketing, sourcing and logistics has helped Ball understand financial statements and manage the company efficiently.
“When I first started, I didn’t know any of these things very well, but after learning from my mistakes, I began to improve on my skills and knowledge and have been able to see quite a lot of growth with the company the past year,” Ball said.
Dylan Higginson, Casey Richmond and Sean Kimball were three friends who lived together while attending BYU and started a surf lifestyle brand called Mako two years ago.
Higginson said balancing school and a startup was very difficult, but they sacrificed to make it work.
“Starting a business in college was pretty awesome because we could get real experience in the areas we were studying and the things we were learning about in school,” Higginson said.
Higginson expressed gratitude for the Marriott School and the opportunities, insights and motivation they gained from clubs and programs provided.
“We got to connect with other student entrepreneurs and bounce ideas off each other,” Higginson said. “We were also able to compete in different entrepreneurship contests and actually were able to win money to help fund our business.”
Higginson said he encourages students to pursue a business or idea they are passionate about.
“We personally knew very little about manufacturing clothing and running a business, but we just went for it and learned through trial and error,” Higginson said.
According to Higginson, starting a business in Provo is easy due to the large amount of entrepreneurs and students to help, but scaling it is difficult.
“I would advise entrepreneurs to branch out of Provo once their business has been created,” Higginson said.
As of November, late night delivery service Chip Cookies has been baking in Provo. The three founding partners are BYU Marriott School of Management alumnus Sean Wilson, exercise science senior Stephen Wirthlin and undeclared major Chris Wirthlin.
Chris Wirthlin said balancing school and a startup would not be possible without the help of his partners, family and team.
“In a way, a startup feels a lot like you’re taking a full class load, where you are a student and teacher,” Chris Wirthlin said.
Stephen Wirthlin said he encourages students to be smart and just start, but to be ready for trials that come along with a startup.
“You will hit a wall of discouragement when you have 50 hoops to jump around and all this red tape,” Stephen Wirthlin said. “Prepare for it and push through it.”
Sean Wilson said Provo is such a unique place filled with people who love new ideas and are not afraid to try something different. He said the city itself is also supportive and makes it possible for startups to succeed.
“For instance, our kitchen, The Potluck Kitchen, is a local startup facility that is specifically designed to help businesses get off the ground,” Wilson said.
Wilson said Chip Cookies is working toward new cookie options, a permanent location and expansion. The brand hopes to become a household name one day.
“We have also found the ideals and lessons we learn from BYU ultimately make top-tier people who have great ideas and work ethics,” Wilson said.
Jacob Chung is the owner of Five Sushi Brothers, which is another late night company that delivers sushi. Along with his co-owner and brother, Ammon Chung, they were able to create a restaurant with a twist to help ‘night owls cure midnight munchies.’
Chung said being a student and a business owner is busy and nonstop. However, school has helped immensely with business endeavors. As a marketing major, Chung is enrolled in classes in which he can take concepts and apply them to the company.
“It related directly to entrepreneurship because marketing is the key to any business,” Chung said. “How can a business be successful if nobody knows about them?”
Chung said he has learned a lot from this experience so far and has goals set for the future.
“Being a young business, there was a lot of trial and error,” Chung said. “However, we would not be where we are today without the mistakes we have made.”
While Provo is an innovative and creative place for college dreamers to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, Chung emphasized the importance of demand.
“Make sure there is demand for the business you are starting,” Chung said. “Don’t do what you think consumers need, find out what the consumers need.”