Like most UW students, 22-year-old Jeremy Schwach tries to keep up with his courses while maintaining a healthy balance between work and social activities. Only one thing makes Schwach stand out from the crowd-he works for himself, and makes a lot of money doing it.
Schwach is the owner and CEO of Mad-Bus, a company that charters coach busses to transport students between Madison and the Twin Cities area. Originally from Mendota Heights, Minn., Schwach realized getting home from Madison to Minnesota was a bit of an ordeal. Greyhound, with a schedule that was not student friendly, was the only alternative to driving.
The discovery of this problem led Schwach to develop a transportation service geared toward student needs. Schwach's round-trip transport service runs at different times around key holidays and breaks, and offers convenient pick-up locations around campus. To avoid long stops and to compete with BetterBus, another student-run bus chartering service, Schwach provides free snacks including chips, crackers and soft drinks.
\This year we have a partnership with Red Bull and anyone who rides gets a free Red Bull in addition to free snacks,"" Schwach said.
Because Schwach has run all aspects of the business since his freshman year, he has learned to adapt to many situations. The experience has allowed him to learn the ""hard way"" about professional communication, accounting, the legalities involved in owning a small business, and especially time management. His grades suffered due to the time commitment and he did not get into the School of Business. However, according to Schwach, the whole process was an invaluable learning experience.
Schwach devised a hotline that relates up-to-date information about the whereabouts of the buses to parents ready to pick up their kids at their destination.
""I used to do everything by hand which was tedious and hard to keep track of,"" Schwach said. ""Now we've moved to a completely electronic automatic system.""
Schwach uses profits to pay for tuition and, due to the company's success, has expanded to University of Minnesota (Gopher Bus) and has a partnership at the University of Indiana (Hoosier Bus). He now hires ""independent contractors,"" students who live in Mad-Bus pick-up areas around campus to put up posters for a commission.
Graduating in May 2005, majoring in Consumer Science & Affairs with a Business Certificate, Schwach plans to keep the bus company running after he graduates for the time being.
When asked for any tips for other potential entrepreneurs, Schwach asserted, ""It's all about being proactive; kids come to me all the time with great ideas, but they don't do it. I think they should give it a try because they have a good chance at success. You just have to learn a balance.""
Colleges all around the country are experiencing a surge of interest toward entrepreneurship.
""More and more students are demanding more classes and extra curricular activities around entrepreneurship,"" said Larry Cox, director of the Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship in the School of Business. ""It's a topic that's becoming increasingly more important among undergraduate and graduate students.""
As a result, the UW-Madison School of Business is offering more entrepreneurial classes at the graduate and undergraduate level. Senior Andy Shannon and Management major, plans on opening his own business one day and has taken a few entrepreneurial classes in the Business School.
""It's nice, because the classes are almost always cross-listed with classes from my major,"" he said.
Shannon hopes to facilitate the creation of an undergraduate entrepreneurship major and if successful, he will be the first to graduate with a major in Entrepreneurship at the School of Business.
Dave Eckhardt, an economics major at UW-Madison who plans on going to law school, created his own business with his best friend, Joe Stussi, who attends UW-Milwaukee, last summer as a way to make more money at a summer job. Three weeks into summer, the two were bored with their jobs-Eckhardt, in landscaping and Stussi, an office assistant-and decided to quit, to the chagrin of their parents, and start their own high-end garage flooring company, Omni-flooring.
Eckhardt explained they got the idea from Stussi's uncle who did the same thing in the west, where demand for their product and service is higher due to the climate.
""We hone in on a very special clientele, people who are crazy about keeping their garages clean,"" Eckhardt said. Essentially Eckhardt and Stussi apply a chemical laminant to garage floors that protects the floor and makes it easier to clean and gives it a shiny gleam ""that enhances the whole look of the garage.""
The company got started through posting flyers, but the product seems to market itself in high end neighborhoods through word-of-mouth. The job earns high profits, requires only four to five hours per job and can only be done in warm weather.
The experience provided Eckhardt with a lesson in entrepreneurship. ""You have to find your niche, your own uniqueness,"" he said.