In the sweet sounds of retail the only thing better than hearing cash registers ringing up student cash purchases is the whooosh sound of credit cards being swiped at local merchant establishments. Retailers don’t care how they spend it, just spend it if they can. Purchasing power at its best. But there’s a whole other side to students that some cities, including ours, is trying to tap into. That’s the production side; students generating new ideas, new services and best of all new businesses. They may start small but don’t underestimate the power of small giants — heck Bill Gates started in a garage.
The good news for the City is that Kent State is working harder than ever to engage the student body with the community both as a consumer and producer. The hotel conference center and the other downtown revitalization efforts, including Mr. Burbick’s Phoenix project, are all about creating more opportunities for students to keep their money in Kent. If we’re keeping it real, we’ve got to keep it local for student cash-ola.
On the production side the Center for Entrepreneurship has been planning ways to get business students a chance to test their wings before they leave the nest. These student run businesses will have space dedicated in the Phoenix project which means you’ll be able to shop at student based stores in Kent this summer.
It’s my understanding that the University is sponsoring an entrepreneurship competition to select which student businesses get a chance to fly in the new retail space. Here’s a note that I got from one student looking for some of my feedback to her business idea:
I am in the process of entering a Retail Store Competition that is
hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurship & Business Innovations at the
University. This competition will eventually select one individual student to
start operating their venture in a future retail facility located in downtown
I am entering the competition pitching an Eco-Friendly Art Studio
concept. This business would allow individuals of the community an inviting
facility, the opportunity to have fun at an Eco-friendly art studio, while
enhancing their creativity through artistic expression.
I have done research and determined the importance of artistic
expression (especially in youth) and believe this to be a primary drive of the business. I feel that there is a need in the community for an additional recreational youth facility, especially with an increase in the
number of children that are “in need” throughout the region.
I have a passion for this business concept because I truly believe it
would better unite the greater Kent community. Not only would it
recreationally cater to youth, it would provide activities to *attract the
community*downtown, such as: art shows, contests, street shows, etc.
In addition, all activities at the studio would be focused on conservation
and Eco-friendly considerations. Almost all products and supplies used
& sold would be non-toxic, organic, and/or ‘green’. I feel that this
would educate and create awareness of a futuristic green economy
throughout the community.
If you don’t want to wait until summer to support a student business swing by the Kent Free Library and drop in the Bookends Cafe:
Bookends Cafe @ The Kent Free Library
Kent Free Library patrons who think nothing goes better with a good book than a good cup of coffee will now be able to enjoy their favorite beverage, as well as other drinks and snacks, in the Bookends Cafe.
The Library’s Board of Trustees partnered with budding entrepreneurs from the Kent State University College of Business Administration’s Center of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation program, who will manage and staff the cafe.
KSU’s Department of Dining Services will supply items such as coffee, tea, and cold drinks as well as a selection of cookies, brownies, biscotti, and fruit.
According to Julie Messing, Director of the Center, the library’s cafe is the first of a number of student-run businesses that will be located on and off-campus. “This is a student-driven program providing extensive experiential learning. Students will get college credit or be paid for working at the cafe–but not both at the same time.”
John Ryan, president of the Library Board of Trustees, says, “I know our patrons will enjoy having a cafe at the library. This is a great partnership for us and for the entrepreneurship students at Kent State University.”
In case you’re wondering what sort of economic impact all this might have, I’d say that in the beginning it will be fairly modest but take a look at the kind of numbers for student run businesses out of UMass that has 35 years of program experience:
- Dollars of Revenue for all Student Businesses:
- FY08 $756,700
- FY07 $708,000
- FY06 $741,900
- FY05 $787,300
- FY04 $746,773
- FY03 $752,961
- FY02 $738,602
- FY01 $726,354
- Student Payroll – Self Funded:
Years in Service
- FY08 $274,900
- FY07 $258,000
- FY06 $243,000
- FY05 $240,000
- FY04 $247,000
- Bike Co-Op: 16, since 1990
- Campus Design & Copy: 16, since 1990
- Earthfoods: 30, since 1976
- Greeno Sub Shop: 23, since 1983
- People’s Market: 33, since 1973
- Sweets & More: 31, since 1975
- Sylvan Snack Bar: 35, since 1971
- Tickets Unlimited: 20, since 1986