Student entrepreneurs master the Internet market
Published: Friday, April 16, 2004
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
John Pham and Bryan Hammond earn more money in a month than the average college student earns in four years of college.
Pham, a junior, and Hammond, a freshman, are full-time undergraduate students in the Whittemore School of Business Economics. They both live in the dorms. They both eat in the dining halls. They both have pretty typical collegiate social lives. They both try hard to be as "normal" as possible.
And they both own and run their own, separate Internet businesses and make enough money to pay for their education, plus a lot more.
Pham makes his mark
Pham created Azurik, Inc., a company that buys technology products in bulk and sells them on eBay, as well as to large companies like Dell, IBM, Sony and Canon.
Pham started the business in part with money he made in 1996 when Microsoft bought the rights to a Web site he had created with his AOL screen name so they could market an Xbox game by the same name. The rest of the money was a loan from his father, who owns his own chemical and manufacturing engineering company.
He admits it wasn't easy to get the business started.
"The problem is, when you're young, not a lot of people trust you with a lot of money," Pham said.
He makes about $50,000 in revenues a month on eBay sales alone and another $25,000 through consultations and sales to corporations, but he wants a degree to fall back on.
"My friends don't appreciate all my hard work," he said. "They ask for money like it's nothing to me-they don't realize how many hours I have to put into this. If you slack off at all and lose touch with your customers, you lose business."
Pham uses his credit cards for so many business purchases that he was offered an American Express Centurion card, also known as "the Black Card." This credit card cannot be applied for. It is offered to credit card users who spend more than $150,000 annually.
It costs $2,500 a year and comes with an unlimited credit line, a personal travel counselor and a personal concierge, as well as many other perks like travel benefits and retail privileges.
Pham sometimes makes use of these perks, which he says add up so that the card pays for itself. Fifteen hours before kick-off on Super Bowl Sunday this year, for example, he decided he wanted tickets to the game. He got in touch with his concierge, and the tickets were overnighted to him with plenty of time left before kick-off.
Pham hopes to retire by age 35 and spend his time doing what other retired people do, without the physical limitations of an older body. He's on the right track to being able to do so, and he's not the only one.
Pham and another student with whom he's working are finalists in the "High Growth Division" of this year's Paul J. Holloway Business Plan Competition for their plan regarding the future of Azurik, Inc. The competition is an annual event that honors students who submit the most feasible plans for starting, acquiring or expanding a business venture.
The students create their plans for credit through the course Management 732/832, Explorations in Entrepreneurial Management, or through independent study.
The "Lifestyle Division" of the competition features smaller ventures, and the business plans from the High Growth Division are expected to result in highly successful, publicly well-known companies.
The three finalists in the Lifestyle Division of this year's competition have created business plans for a kids' day camp, an adventure spa that will offer spa treatments that coincide with adventure activities such as hiking, horseback riding or skiing, and an upscale and focused physical fitness facility geared toward women.
A company that coordinates the buying and selling of used textbooks and a company that operates a fruit juice and healthy snack bar, which would be located outside of the Whittemore Center, are the other two finalists in the High Growth Division.
The judges for the competition, which will take place on May 7 at Holloway Commons, will include UNH alumni, investors and successful entrepreneurs.
The winning team from each division will receive $4,000, and the runner-up teams will receive $900. Through competing, each team, including Pham's, will get recognition by the media that might also be beneficial to them and their business plans.
"Student entrepreneurs are high-energy, fun, bright people," said Mike Merenda, management department chair and strategic management professor, who teaches Management 732/832 and chose the finalists for the Holloway Competition. "They're self-motivated and outgoing, and they're able to get excited about their business and energize other people about their business concepts."
Hammond spies a business opportunity
It is too early in Bryan Hammond's college career for him to enter this competition, but he may find himself a finalist during his junior or senior year.
Hammond first got excited about computer software at age 12, when his father gave him a book on the subject. It began as a hobby, but he learned the concepts and got better at creating software as time went on.
By age 17 he was ready to start his own security and privacy-related software business.
"I saw an opening in the market, and it looked interesting," Hammond said. "Nothing out there did what I envisioned. The products lacked features I thought they should have. They were buggy and had a lot of errors."
He created a Web site, and within 24 hours he had made his first sale. His products, which allow access to one computer from another and Internet tracking, are used by spouses to prove whether or not their significant others are cheating, by parents to monitor their children's Internet use and by businesses primarily to track employee productivity in the workplace. They can be found at www.exploreanywhere.com. About 90 percent of his business transactions take place online.