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Friday, October 20, 2017

Student entrepreneurs bring in the green

The answer for your needs might lie with one of three businesses run by MU students and recent graduates.

Nov. 30, 2007

MU Bail Bonds gets students out

of sticky situations

It's 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and MU junior Josh Kayser is expecting to receive calls from people he's never met.

Kayser is the sole owner and agent of MU Bail Bonds, a business he said can be stressful but is "pretty interesting."

Kayser started MU Bail Bonds last year to help students and other Columbia residents when they find themselves in prison. Kayser's inspiration came from the amount of time he had already spent bailing his friends out of predicaments.

"I was always the go-to guy for friends when they got arrested, and I looked into it and thought it would be a perfect business opportunity for me," Kayser said.

And so far, he said he's been pleased with the result.

"I get calls everyday," he said. "Some weeks I'll write 20, and some weeks I'll write two. Generally, the calls from students are on Thursday, Friday and Saturday."

Although Kayser said he caters to all types of people and students make up only a third of the people who use his service, he is frequently content with his interactions with students.

"As long as you're a student, I'll pretty much write it, and we'll work it out later," Kayser said. "Students are honest and are good for the money. If I don't know them, I know someone who knows them."

It was because of the students that Kayser saw a market for himself in bail bonds.

"Most bail bonds people are not the type of people students would like to interact with," Kayser said. "I'm an approachable alternative."

As a one-man business that frequently helps MU students and Columbia residents, people might wonder what will happen to MU Bail Bonds when Kayser graduates.

He said he hopes his graduation won't be the end of the business and is looking for someone from Jefferson City or Boonville to help him out.

"I haven't decided what will happen after I graduate," Kayser said. "I'd like for it to stick around, somehow, someway and keep growing."

In the meantime, if someone gets trouble with the law, Kayser is ready, even at 4 a.m.

"I don't really sleep anymore," Kayser said. "I kind of take a bunch of short naps."

MU juniors sell eco-friendly couture

There are few businesses out there that can combine trendy clothes, savvy accessories and contemporary products with a plan to save the environment. But two MU students are now working to market this concept within Columbia with a new company called Factory Green.

Seniors Jack Short and Daniel Lyons, who are both pre-med biology majors, began discussing a business in which they could sell clothing, accessories and products that are mindful to the environment but still appeal to a young generation.

"There hasn't been a company that has marketed a 'going green' company toward our generation," Lyons said. "We're essentially trying to corner that market."

The idea stemmed from the two seniors' study abroad experiences in Europe, where there has been an electrifying emphasis on going green, Short and Lyons said.

"The unique thing is, we're trying to say that you can do it different ways," Short said about the fashion-friendly angle of their eco-conscious products. "It doesn't have to be boring."

Lyons and Short will launch their Web site, Factorygreen.com, on Feb. 1. From there, customers can view photos of students utilizing the products and proceed to the virtual checkout line with the peace of mind that comes with having purchased merchandise that is kind to Mother Nature.

To help with the company, Short and Lyons are using undergraduate students from almost every school at MU.

"We received a tremendous amount of assistance from undergrads," Short said. "We have so many resources available to us and have a great showing of people."

Both Lyons and Short underline the distinctive qualities their products will have. Merchandise will come straight from hundreds of small businesses that specialize in making one or two products. Textile and apparel management and graphic design students will produce much of the clothing. The clothing choices will not be determined by "some 55-year-old man, but chosen by our target market," Lyons said.

Not only will students get to sport the trendy looks while "going green," they will be able to save a little green in their pockets. Although the specific pricing has not yet been set, Lyons said the products would be within the budget of an 18- to 25-year-old college student.

"Who says you need to be on the high-end market to do good for the earth?" Short said.

A portion of profits will go to the Water for Life Foundation, an organization that goes to developing nations to help them create clean water initiatives.

Six alumni and a lot of cell phones

When former Missouri Students Association President Brian Laoruangroch finished his term in 2004, he had two things to deal with: broken cell phones and a little time on his hands. By meshing the two together, Laoruangroch emerged with Green Mobile, a company that combats the problem of having to repeatedly buy expensive phones by selling refurbished phones.

"I realized that cell phones are being sold on eBay for a lot cheaper," he said. "That's a market opportunity."

Laoruangroch started his business on eBay.com during summer 2005 then moved the operation to downtown Columbia.

For the next six months, the business made more than $500,000 in revenue, selling nearly 5,000 phones. But Laoruangroch wanted to expand beyond an online business.

"I decided I wanted to take it to the next level," he said.

He began to open stores, and from there, he secured five members from his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha. He held half of the ownership of the company in his hands, while the other five had the other half.

"When I chose those five people, I picked people I trusted, people that invested time," Laoruangroch said. "They were the most active guys I knew."

Laoruangroch and his five business partners opened their first Green Mobile retail kiosk in Columbia Mall and opened a second branch in Champaign, Ill., in September. Between these two stores, Laoruangroch has his vision set on success and expected a total revenue of about $750,000 within one year. He is endeavoring toward another six stores by the end of 2008 with a plan to go nationwide in the next two years.

"We all have diverse backgrounds," he said. "We do everything ourselves, designing our own commercials, marketing, refurbishing, accounting, financing, everything, because we have the education and street smarts to do it."

Laoruangroch said there were difficulties in the beginning, but after two years of mastering the business mindset and working with close friends, things are running smoothly.

"This is the one thing we're all passionate about," he said. "We're living our dream right now. It's not a bad deal."

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