Editor’s note: Previous versions of this story contained a misspelled name. The executive director of the Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center is Troy D’Ambrosio, not Tony D’Ambrosio. This article has been modified to reflect that change. We regret the error.
This year’s Student Entrepreneur Conference had an array of speakers who talked about their successes, failures and the “do’s and don’ts” of starting a business.
The event was hosted at the eBay headquarters in Draper. The SEC is entirely run by approximately 15 students, said Nick Roberts, one of the events organizers and a senior in marketing and international studies. Roberts said the conference was not paid for by the student body.
“eBay was gracious enough to cover the entire event,” Roberts said.
At the end of the conference a raffle drawing was held. The prizes included two Lagoon tickets, baseball hats, Outback Steak House gift cards and two round-trip tickets to anywhere in America on Jet Blue.
Roberts said the conference is “entirely privately funded.”
One of the key speakers at the event was Scott Paul, a former MBA student at the U. Paul has been successful in business, running an app company and also a product line. Paul created a metal case meant to secure iPads in public spaces such as shopping stores called “Full Metal Jacket.” Paul said his company brought in $5 to $6 million this year.
During his presentation, Paul insinuated that his business hasn’t been all success. In a PowerPoint he showed that for almost every success, he has had one failure.
Many of his new ventures have been in the app market, which he said is a quickly evolving field.
“We’re learning as we go, but fortunately these bigger companies are forgiving because they don’t know much about mobile,” Paul said.
Paul said he funded his businesses as an undergraduate student in 2003 by taking his student loans and investing them in Apple, much to his wife’s dismay. He said he noticed that people were walking around with this new invention called an iPod, so he took a chance and invested.
Paul attributes some of his company’s success to riding the Apple wave.
“Demand of Apple products pushed us in a direction that we couldn’t fail,” Paul said.
Paul said his true strength is not in management, but in innovation. He said he is gifted in the ability to spot social tends early on.
Jared Steele, a senior in operation management, appreciated Paul’s insights and advice.
“It was important to see the perspective of starting a business from somebody who recognizes their own strengths,” Steele said.
Cargiff Gerharet, a senior in finance at Westminster, said he was happy he made it to the event.
“I came down because I’m an entrepreneur in the works, and I’ve learned so much,” Gerharet said.
Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director at the Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center, said 320 people registered for the event, and about that many attended. He said the conference drew college students from all over the Wasatch Front.
“It’s been a more diverse crowd this year, and that was really nice,” D’Ambrosio said. “We had more women this year than we’ve had, which is nice to see.”
The closing speaker at the event was Cindy Sorley, the owner of Stitchery X-Press. Stitchery X-Press is a Utah-based small business that sells cross stitch patterns and other collectibles online.
Sorley told a story of how she was having a difficult time financially, and at the age for 41 she discovered she was pregnant. Around that time she began to sell stitching patterns online. Over the years she has grown her business considerably and now, she said, she generates $10,000 a month selling items on eBay. She said last year she made $120,000 and worked roughly 16 hours a week.
She advised to students at the conference to “find what works for you” and “get outside of your comfort zone.” She also told students to sell products outside of the United States. She referred to this strategy as “Global and Mobile.”
Sorley said she does 41 percent of her business sales with international clients.