Title: Business Student & Business Owner: SUNY Student Entrepreneurs
The Pettis Family Business Plan Competition is an annual event held by the SUNY Brockport School of Business and Management in which students create and present a business plan to a group of local business experts. Applications for the competition closed on March 17, 2021, and all teams that passed the screening round will be presenting their business plans on April 9 to the business experts — with the first place team securing a prize of $2,000.
While many business students participate in this annual competition, which gives them an opportunity to dream big, a handful have already turned their dreams into reality by starting a business while earning their degree.
Hear from three of SUNY Brockport’s student entrepreneurs:
Hayden Schreier ’20: CryptoTV
Hayden Schreier started his sophomore year looking for a part-time job. Without a car, he was stuck looking for work within walking distance from campus, but his search was unsuccessful. After returning home for a holiday in 2017, Schreier started talking to his friends about Bitcoin and its latest surge in value.
“Crypto really felt like something that I could get involved in, so I turned to YouTube to learn more, but I wasn’t able to find anything on how to buy, trade, and use crypto,” Schreier said.
But Schreier wasn’t frustrated that he was unable to find out more. He saw his opportunity to start a business.
Schreier researched monetization on YouTube and ran calculations looking at larger channels, realizing that many of the content creators were making six- or seven-figure salaries. Even if he only received a fraction of the number of views that these larger creators were receiving, he could easily make a yearly income equal to a part-time job.
“I only had $40 to my name, so I went to Walmart to buy a poster board and green construction paper that I taped to the side of my computer chair in my dorm to create a green screen,” Schreier said. “I decided record my journey with cryptocurrency daily. Teaching the basics of the market and recording technical analysis for my channel.”
Schreier described the first few months of creating his channel as a “grind.” In order to monetize his channel, YouTube required him to reach 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time. Every day he uploaded a video, and every day his subscriber count would climb. After six months, he reached his goal.
“Once my channel was monetized I finally saw all of my hard work begin to pay off,” Schreier said. “I was making a couple hundred dollars a month by the end of my sophomore year.”
In 2019, Bitcoin plummeted in value, falling from its peak of nearly $20,000 in 2017 to $3,500. With the “bubble” surrounding the crypto market bursting, Schreier saw a decline in viewers. He continued uploading a video to his channel every single day as Bitcoin slowly recovered from its fall.
Schreier graduated from SUNY Brockport in 2020 and started working in marketing at Cloud9Exotics while continuing to upload to his YouTube channel. He stuck with cryptocurrency through its ups and downs until Bitcoin skyrocketed in value in 2021, reaching all-time highs of nearly $60,000 and bringing cryptocurrency back into the attention of the mainstream media.
According to Schreier, he has made nearly $250,000 since the beginning of 2021 from his channel and investments in cryptocurrency.
“When people start to get doubts in their mind, they don’t commit to something, even if they are passionate or believe in it,” Schreier said. “A lot of my friends started a channel when I did, but they gave up after a short time. If you have commitment and dedication toward something, you can make it.”
Jacob Lesswing: Optimal Fitness Training
Senior Jacob Lesswing began working as a personal trainer in 2019, but like many others, he felt uncomfortable going to the gym during the COVID-19 pandemic. But during this time, many people were still looking for guidance on health and nutrition. Seeing a gap he had the skills to fill, Lesswing created Optimal Fitness Training, a 12-week online program dedicated to losing weight in a sustainable and meaningful way.
“Anybody can help you lose 15 to 25 pounds, but the hard part is doing that in a way where the person can actually keep the weight off,” Lesswing said.
Lesswing’s program focuses on the “Optimize Your Life Strategy.” Instead of focusing on the goal of losing weight by cutting out nutrients and overworking your body, his strategy relies on creating a sustainable nutrition and workout plan that fits not only the goal of the client, but their schedules as well.
“I specifically work with busy people who let themselves go physically because they take care of everything in their lives besides themself,” Lesswing said. “The program is all about accountability, and the group aspect of the program is important to that.”
Lesswing virtually works with clients from all around the world that sign up for his program. The clients use an app that allows them to log daily nutrition and workouts that they can then share with the other members of the program.
“A lot of people know what they need to do, but it is hard to hold them accountable,” Lesswing said. “The group aspect helps with this because they can share when they finish workouts or meet nutrition goals, and other users can comment and react to it.”
While Lesswing still works as an in-person personal trainer, he has enjoyed the switch to working online and hopes to pivot his business to 100 percent online in the future.
“In person, there is a limit on how many people I can help and train in a day,” Lesswing said. “But online, I can help so many more by creating a program they can stick to.”
RJ Taylor: Contracted Parcel Delivery Service
Senior RJ Taylor started his college career at SUNY Brockport in 2010 as an accounting major. Like many students, he started college right after graduating from high school and soon realized that he lacked the motivation to continue his studies.
Taylor decided to take a break from school — a break that lasted nearly a decade before he returned to Brockport as part of the online degree completion program with a renewed passion as an entrepreneur.
“I realized that I was only a few semesters off from completing my degree, and I knew that I couldn’t justify having student loan debt without a degree to show for it,” Taylor said. “The first time around, I lacked direction and purpose, and that affects everything you do. Coming back, I have a purpose and reason to be here.”
During his 10-year absence from college, Taylor began working at Feck Mailways, a contract delivery service that bids on government delivery projects. Taylor realized that he could take what he had learned at Brockport and his time in the delivery industry to start his own delivery service and bid on government contracts.
“I currently have two contracts with the United States Postal Service and three of my own employees,” Taylor said. “I pick up the mail from a hub in Bath, NY, and then my employees deliver the mail box-to-box in the surrounding area.”
Taylor initially struggled in college nearly a decade ago, but since returning in 2020, he has made the dean’s list and the dean’s list with honors in back-to-back semesters. But the balance between running a business and earning a degree doesn’t come without its struggles.
“Nothing happens without sacrifice. Most days I am up from five in the morning until midnight trying to get everything done,” Taylor said. “Being organized is really important for me to balance everything. I schedule blocks of time to work on specific assignments based on due dates and class time.”
Taylor continues to apply what he has learned at Brockport to his business today. He said that he still uses a database that he created as part of a project in a management information systems course to help estimate the cost and finance of his jobs.
Taylor plans to graduate in May 2021 and continuing bidding on more government contracts while utilizing his degree to help his business stay on track as it continues to expand.