Students create business to earn $$

By Katherine Johnson, Cathleen Leitch and Jess Scanlon

Paul Tye, junior, works on his instructional driving website E-Commerce at Starbucks.
Junior Ashley Firstbrook begins a sketch of a girl with more of her artwork surrounding her.
Plutomic, a website intended to help others design their own webpages, was created by junior Andrew Westfall and his friend Ben Chiappetta.

As students, it’s imperative to find ways to support your lifestyle. Some students find jobs on or off campus, but 10 percent of students in the business school who are entrepreneurial studies majors have decided to create their own businesses, according to Dr. Ron Cook, entrepreneurial studies chair.

“We’ve had a fair amount of success in our student entrepreneur program,” Cook said. “It was a specialization under general business and it became a major in 2006. Subsequently, it went from 30 people taking the focus to about 100 now.”

Cook explained the reasoning behind the increase of students in the entreprenurial studies program.

“I think the economy has something strongly to do with it. The bad news is that we’re in a recession, but the good news is you’ve reduced the opportunity cost to get involved in your own business,” Cook said. “Most of entrepreneurship in this country is what we call ‘opportunity-based,’ which is that you have a choice, and your choice is to pursue this because the opportunity is there, compared to doing something else. The opportunity cost is taking that risk.”


Paul Tye, an entrepreneurial studies major, has started his own business to help aggressive drivers lower their high car insurance prices.

Tye works in the automotive insurance industry and is a junior at Rider. The idea of creating his own business came to him over the summer and he has been diligently working to create E-Commerce since then.

E-Commerce is an online defensive driving course that can be taken by anyone who wants to improve his or her driving or reduce premiums.

While Tye is the creator and president, he has invested in some help from a website development company and several Ivy League students.

“Basically, anyone who is a bad driver has to take the course and it’s already validated by the state of New Jersey, so if they pass the course they get two points reduced from their license,” Tye said.

The need arises from customers needing to take driving courses, but complaining that they don’t have the time. To accommodate these people, Tye decided to create a six-hour online course.

“All they have to do is take this course online and then they’ll get an insurance reduction on their premium for three years.”

The course teaches drivers the basic New Jersey driving laws and offers techniques on how to prevent accidents. Those who pass the course can get a 5-10 percent discount on their premiums.

E-Commerce is solely an online business, which makes things a bit easier to manage.

“The reason I launched the E-Commerce website is because of less overhead,” Tye said. “The thing that’s great about [it] is the self-efficiency.”

For Tye, starting the company was simple.

“I just went ahead and took the courses I needed to become a driving instructor,” he said.

After attempting two unsuccessful business ideas, the recent Rider transfer came to the school for the entrepreneurial studies program to give himself the knowledge needed to own and run a company.

According to Tye, if you put yourself out there, success will come eventually.

“If you want to own your own company, why be in accounting? Go into what gets you to be your own boss.”

Self-employed artist

Ashley Firstbrook is a junior history major who also finds time to create art.

Firstbrook draws for fun but also makes a small income from commission from some of her artwork.

When a piece is ordered by someone, an artist, writer or other individual produces it for a set fee. Upon the completion of the work, it becomes the property of the owner.

Her current clients are her friends and schoolmates. Her business venture came from her first client, friend Drew Templeton, who Firstbrook credits as being the one who suggested that she take up commissions. Templeton expressed that she merely offered to pay for the work.

“Drew recommended I stop giving stuff away for free,” Firstbrook said.

Firstbrook decided to start selling art to make some extra money, but is aware that her clients are students and young adults who don’t have unlimited incomes. This is reflected in the amounts she charges.

“Twenty dollars is the maximum charge,” Firstbrook said.

The fee seems cheap compared to the quality.

“She draws beautifully and I really want to commission her myself sometime,” said sophomore Jennifer Fanders, Firstbrook’s roommate. “She has very little free time because of her hectic schedule, so she gets very few chances to work on her art.”

Firstbrook also mentioned she is crunched for time. She was originally a marine science major and had the challenge of balancing her commissions with her lab work, but has now declared her history major.

Cook explained that new business ventures have lifestyle costs in addition to financial ones. Therefore, Firstbrook’s feeling of being pressed for time is understandable.

She is new to taking commissions and her only investments into her new venture are a pack of computer paper, a tin of Prismacolor colored pencils, mechanical pencils and a gel pen. Firstbrook also has experience with this, having previously worked at Clark’s Hallmark, designing custom invitations for a variety of events.

Plutomic Hosting

People hear of website servers all the time. However, many do not know what it takes for a website to be accessible and the details that go into launching it.

Andrew Westfall, a junior entrepreneurial studies and computer information systems double major, knows what it takes and aspires to help others be web-accessible.

Five years ago, Westfall and his friend Ben Chiappetta, who attends Thomas Edison State College, channeled their combined interests in computers into a profitable business. Their idea has lead to their new company, Plutomic Hosting.

The company’s main function is providing the hardware and software that makes it possible for a website to be online. This includes providing a domain name, helping the website function and other various types of hosting that may be required. The business offers specific packages depending on how busy the owners of the site intend for it to be.

Their business isn’t a brick-and-mortar business, but rather a virtual office, where all interaction with clients occurs through their business website.

“I enjoy working in my own business,” Westfall said. “Although there are not any defined office hours, we do operate two separate offices where we monitor our hardware and network 24/7.”

Westfall and Chiappetta operate the majority of business from their homes, but the bulk of the hardware that they use is located in an office in Central City Philadelphia.

Westfall and Chiappetta are the sole employees of the company. When needed, however, they bring in outside agents — consultants or computer engineers — to help them with any issues that arise.

The company is successful with numerous state universities and local businesses when they’re in need of a website host provider. However, at the present time, no one at Rider uses Westfall’s services.

After college, Westfall plans to use his knowledge to continue the business and hopefully expand to a point where it becomes extremely profitable.

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