ECAB Recap: Students pitch website, fashion company startups

Mississippi State University’s Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board (ECAB) held its October meeting Friday, where board members listened to two people present their business ideas.

This particular meeting was held in Cadence Bank’s board room in downtown Starkville, rather than its usual meeting place, a room in McCool Hall.

E-Center Director of Outreach Jeffrey Rupp said this change made the meeting “have a very professional feel to it” because it was being hosted by a bank.

Other than the change in location and catering, the meeting was ran the same as usual.

Both ideas pitched were student-run. Kevin Lin pitched the idea CampGem, while Calvin Waddy presented his company, Thrive Island Clothing.

“CampGem is a marketplace primarily for international students,” Rupp said. “It’s a place to connect with other international students, learn about places to live, housing, selling and buying both new and used textbooks, getting plugged into the community, things such as that.”

Lin, founder of CampGem, brought the business to ECAB’s attention in an attempt to make the site more well-known and improved.

Lin described his company as “a one-stop website” for students.

“Students are able to trade their items on CampGem, and they can also check their life-related information here such as local part-time jobs, bar and restaurant events, and things of that nature,” Lin said.

Because there are many international students throughout MSU’s campus, Lin said this website can be useful to many in their everyday lives.

On top of all the other things that can be done through CampGem, there is also a university forum where students can discuss their academic and lifestyle questions.

The company asked the board for $2,000 in funding, and the board decided to grant them the money.

Lin said he plans to use the money for the growth of the company by spending $900 on advertising, and $750 on a website upgrade. He said the rest of the money will be spent on customer development.

“After our business is mature at MSU, we will expand to other universities,” Lin said. “In addition to the website, we will develop our app for students in the future. Our goal is to expand our services to all universities in the USA.”

In addition to Lin’s presentation, Waddy pitched his company, Thrive Island Clothing, which is focused on fashion. The company is focused on serving a consumer base of young women.

Waddy, senior business administration major, recognized the ECAB pitch meeting as a great opportunity for his company in terms of resources.

Waddy is a co-founder of the company, along with Shelby Baldwin and Brandon Johns. Waddy described his position as doing “a lot of the day-to-day operations, along with the other co-founders.”

These three co-founders brainstormed the idea of Thrive Island Clothing in May, and the business officially kickstarted the following month.

Waddy said the company has run for about four months, but has seen much growth.

“In these past four months, we have gotten over $130,000 in sales, we’ve got about 3,000 ambassadors worldwide and we’ve sold to about 30 different countries around the world,” Waddy said.

Now, Waddy wants to continue building the company, and create easier and more efficient shipping methods.

“Our new goal is to hit a quarter million dollars in sales by the end of this year, which is very doable; and in the future, we’d like to transition fully from the drop-shipping model we’re currently using, to holding our own inventory and creating our own clothing collection,” Waddy said.

As an attempt to further their plan of action, Thrive Island Clothing asked and received $2,500 from the board.

Waddy said the money awarded to Thrive Island Clothing will go toward transitioning its collection to be at its headquarters in Starkville.

“We just received space downtown in a partnership building, so we’ll be holding all of our inventory there,” Waddy said. “We have suppliers all around the world that are currently shipping what’s been purchased directly to the customer.”

Next month’s ECAB meeting will take place Nov. 16 in a location to be determined.

“We are going to have about 25 students from Heritage Academy, a high school in Columbus, sitting in and watching us, so we are going to have to be someplace that can handle that many people,” Rupp said.

Because both students presented their ideas thoroughly and had a reachable progress in sight, they were each awarded the amount they asked for from the board, and plan to use this money to further improve their businesses.

“The board felt that both student startups had done their homework and had potential to grow,” Rupp said.

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