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College Students Turned CEOs

Entrepreneurs aren’t waiting to graduate to start a business.

By Deanna Pan, Intern, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As college sophomores, Ian Bowman-Henderson and Niklos Salontay dreamed of instantly linking real-world objects to the wealth of information and conversations about those objects online. Last November, the magazine-journalism majors, now seniors at Ohio University, launched Flare Code, a company that creates quick-response bar codes that may be placed on any item -- say, a magazine page or a business card. Smart-phone users who scan the code are automatically directed to relevant Web and social-media content, and can chime in about the material that pops up. This fall, the company’s first client, Ohio University’s public broadcasting station, will debut Flare Codes in the student newspaper linking back to station-related content.

Fierce job competition has encouraged enterprising undergraduates to launch businesses. Some 13% of 1,635 students and recent grads surveyed in January by the Youth Entrepreneur Council (YEC) and Buzz Marketing Group said they’d started a business in college. Students should take advantage of college resources. Ohio University and many others offer start-up funds through business pitch competitions. The Flare Code partners won a $20,000 state grant from Ohio’s New Entrepreneurs Fund. They’ll compete for $200,000 more as part of a boot camp for entrepreneurs. “This money is what’s going to take us from a college business to a real company,” says Bowman-Henderson, who plans to graduate, too.

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