Five students will not be participating in the mad dash for jobs after graduation. Instead, they will be creating jobs for themselves.
A business plan headed by students called U-Exchange won first place at the third annual Springboard Business Plan Competition and will receive aid to get it up and running.
The purpose of the competition is to encourage young people to bring forward their ideas to the larger business community.
The U-Exchange team is comprised of juniors Tatenda Furusa, T.J. Neuman, Tyler Fryer, senior Collin Schaefer and MBA student Helena Racicka.
Team leader Furusa said, “U-Exchange is a classified market place that allows college students to buy and sell much easier and faster. In addition, it offers local businesses the opportunity to advertise and connect with students about their promotions and deals.”
With the development of a Web site and a central storefront, U-Exchange will provide a place for students to buy and sell textbooks, furniture, electronics and other personal items.
U-Exchange won a prize package worth $120,000. The package includes a $10,000 cash prize, an additional $15,000 of seed capital and an office space at PeoriaNEXT Innovation Center.
“It’s a response to a need in the market, and we are offering a solution to meet that need,” Furusa said.
Fryer said the Web site will also help people who are moving.
“At the end of each academic year, tons of people are moving out of houses, dorms and apartments, and they have things they don’t need anymore and don’t know what to do with,” he said. “This is a problem that is going to keep happening each year, so why not provide a place to exchange items?”
Management informational systems major Neuman said Bradley will be the first market on the site.
“We also plan to expand to [Illinois State University] and other colleges in the area,” he said.
Each team member played an important role in developing the business plan.
International business major Schaefer said, “I helped with the advertising plan and figured out how we are going to get our business out there. I also did some research about online advertising to bring us up to speed on how it all works.”
Fryer said he worked on the marketing plan and helped develop more ideas to propel the business forward.
Neuman aided with the Internet portion of the plan by creating screen codes, hard coding, developing some of the web designs and helping with the operational plan.
Racicka helped out with the financial planning, time management and making sure everyone stayed on track.
Furusa coordinated everyone’s activities by making sure scheduling and timing was correct.
“I made sure we got things done by pushing everyone really hard, moderating our activities to make sure we reached our goal, and making sure everyone had fun, as well,” Furusa said.
He said he and his team members will be working hard to bring U-Exchange to reality.
“This is our job search,” Furusa said. “We are creating jobs. You never know if the business is going to grow or if it will flop. But hopefully this is where we’ll be at in our mid-20s.”
Springboard was initiated in fall 2006 by Alexis Khazzam of Junction Ventures LLC, a local entrepreneur, who donated $200,000 dollars to the program.