VERMILLION, S.D. -- What better way to learn about business than starting your own company? Students at The University of South Dakota’s Beacom School of Business are learning the next best thing – by being a part of the startup of a new company.
About2Buy.com, a new company specializing in the coordination of Internet social commerce, is the brainchild of Siouxland businessman Brad Gunderson. Gunderson, who developed an idea to strategically enhance the online shopping experience for millions of social network users, reached out to the Beacom School of Business to help develop his business and, more importantly, work with young entrepreneurs to get his business off the ground.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity for students, to get them on board,” said Gunderson, formerly of Gunderson’s Jewelry, a Sioux City, Iowa and Sioux Falls, S.D., based business. “It’s a way for students to see the makings of company, from the concepts and investment platforms to the execution and strategies of carrying out a financial plan.
“It takes what students are learning in the classroom and affixes those ideas to a real business,” added Gunderson, who sold his interests in the family jewelry business four years ago and started working on this new venture.
USD students working with Gunderson don’t disagree. Casey Franken, a finance and economics double major from Harrisburg, S.D., is the CFO of The U’s Entrepreneurship Team, an organization dedicated to promoting the advancement of entrepreneurship in South Dakota through network building, local business and organization consultation, and club-related business operation.
“This is the most exciting opportunity any college student will be offered in their time here at USD,” said President of the E-Team Dustin Jeschke of Aberdeen, S.D. “We are creating new ways of doing business that can change the way we conduct business online forever.”
Added Franken, the E-Team, which meets on Wednesday afternoons at Beacom Hall, is always looking for projects like this. “We strive to be a very active organization, always looking to help entrepreneurs in the area,” he noted.
Franken says the E-Team has been working with Gunderson for a little more than a month. “This project became available because Brad is one of our new incubator clients and we’ve been up and running ever since.”
As an Incubator Client, Gunderson reached out to Lisa Bryan, Entrepreneurial Studies Instructor and chair of USD’s Entrepreneurship Program, and the Southeast Entrepreneurial Resource Center at the Beacom School of Business. Bryan has been instrumental in lining up E-Team members who contribute a broad range of talents to the project. In fact, E-Team members are not strictly business majors and students range in experience from freshman to senior.
“About2Buy.com is exactly the model we are looking for as an incubator client,” explained Bryan. “We encourage our entrepreneurs to work together with the community and USD students and staff. We are very excited about the future opportunities for About2Buy.com.”
Students have been assisting Gunderson with everything from monitoring social sites to projected earnings once About2Buy.com is ready to launch, which is in the planning stages now that Gunderson is in the process of assembling an executive team. Once the executive team is formed, the next phase of operations for the company includes lining up investors and telling them about the unique concept that is About2Buy.com.
“It’s creating a broad new industry,” Gunderson described About2Buy.com. “It’s very flexible, allowing consumers to take control of the process.”
In a nutshell, About2Buy.com will be an Internet marketplace for shoppers looking for deals on all types of items, including electronics, clothing – anything that retails online. While the concept isn’t new, the experience will be as shoppers will gain the upper hand in terms of price, selection and availability due to About2Buy.com’s ability to uniquely coordinate the Internet social commerce marketplace.
Franken and his E-Team cohorts have visualized the concept and see the whole concept as a winner – for the consumer and for their future. There are also the possibilities of working with Gunderson as interns or in a full-time capacity once the company launches later this year.
“It’s an extremely valuable experience because we’re taking all concepts and principles from the classroom and applying them to a real project,” Franken said. “When you take something from nothing and begin to put everything together, it’s a pretty valuable learning experience.”