Magazine showcases entrepreneurial students

Brent Skoda said he was only 20 years old when he went to the treasurer of CBS to ask for $3 million to start his business,

Although Skoda did not get the funds from CBS, he did raise that money by contacting other investors. Skoda, a junior general studies major, said the treasurer told him he liked the idea, but he could not give him the money because no audience for Skoda’s product had been determined.

Skoda, along with senior strategic communication major Whitney Williams, was one of two students featured in an Inc. article titled “America’s Coolest College Start-ups 2010.”

Inc. is a magazine designed to help entrepreneurs start, run and maintain their businesses.

Lauren Folino, an intern for the magazine, said the article featured nine currently enrolled undergraduate students with start-up businesses from across the country. Featured students represented eight schools, including Harvard University, Syracuse University, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Carolina.

David Minor, William M. Dickey entrepreneur-in-residence at the Neeley Entrepreneurship Center, said he thought the school’s representation in the article showed the quality of the students and of the entrepreneurship program at the university.

Skoda said he got the inspiration to start his business after transferring to the university from Wright State University in Ohio, where he played baseball. A regular at the University Recreation Center and a familiar face at local restaurants, Skoda said many students working out at the Rec Center asked him to create customized workouts and suggest healthful options at various area restaurants. Skoda developed the site as a free service to create customized workouts and provide nutritional information to subscribers, he said.

“It’s a virtual trainer and nutrition guide,” Skoda said. “It builds video-based workout routines, so you could go on and you could get a customized workout routine.”

Skoda said the site’s database features nutrition facts for food at more than 605 restaurant chains and offers various options including the choice of either a male or female trainer, sports-specific workouts and workouts to target specific muscle groups. He said he wanted to create a free service for students because they typically cannot afford a personal trainer.

The site is also available via iPhone, so subscribers can take their workouts with them to the gym.

Skoda said one of his goals was to customize the site for universities. The University of Oklahoma has more than 5,700 subscribers to their customized version of Skoda’s site,

He said he is waiting for university officials to come to him, and while he would love to customize the site for the university, he is concentrating on larger schools with larger advertising audiences.

Williams said she has maintained small-scale side businesses since she was in elementary school. She said she was inspired by Italian artisans to create her current jewelry business, Tramonti, during her freshman year in college. She said her parents loaned her money to begin her jewelry line. After returning her parents’ investment, she said she used some of the profit from her sales to create more jewelry.

Williams said her goal was to create high-quality pieces at low prices because she liked low-maintenance, versatile pieces. Since then, she said, she has sold her line in boutiques, online and through trunk shows, where she brings samples of her collection to a group and allows them to buy her pieces.

Williams said she hopes to sell her product in boutiques and eventually expand to selling in department stores after graduation.

“Going forward, I love this so much I want this to be my career,” Williams said.

Though the business began as a way to earn extra money while in college, Williams said she hopes to later expand the line into a lifestyle brand that would include clothing and shoes in addition to jewelry.

She said she will rename her line the Whitney Williams Collection later this month and will launch a new Web site by early April. She said she decided to rename the collection because many people could not spell Tramonti, the Italian word for sunset.

Other featured enterprising endeavors included a cookie-making business, an SAT preparation site and a textbook rental service.

Brent Skoda

Whitney Williams