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Passion to profession: USU entrepreneurs work hard at what they love

December 14th, 2015 Posted in Arts and Life

By Mekenna Malan

LOGAN — Young people are consistently told, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” While many university students search for careers that will match their aspirations, student entrepreneurs simply create their own.

“Sometimes the idea of getting through school is discouraging,” said Sage Killian, a Utah State University sophomore. “You have to take classes and do things you feel disinterested or unpassionate about. When you find a way to turn your passion into your career, it feels liberating and meaningful.”

Killian is one of many full-time USU students who have started their own businesses while attending school. With her mother, Maridee, Killian runs the essential oil accessory product line MyBase out of the family’s kitchen in Pleasant Grove.

Brandon George at work in his ceramics studio.

Brandon George at work in his ceramics studio.

Another entrepreneur, junior Brandon George, handcrafts stone hookah bowls sold around the world.

Senior Seth Christensen owns and operates Christensen Genetics, a genetics program for beef cattle in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.

These three students found a way to turn their passions into profitable businesses, and took the initiative to begin before graduation.

“I’ve been doing ceramics since my sophomore year of high school,” George said. “Since then, I did ceramics at Utah State and am doing a double minor in art and entrepreneurship. It all started when one of my friends asked me to make a bowl for him, and he said it was the best bowl he’s ever seen or used. After that I made a few more, started selling them, and got involved with the entrepreneurship program. Once I saw the potential, I really went for it.”

For George, the relaxing hobby of throwing pottery has evolved into a demanding business. Stone Hookah Bowls are sold largely out-of-state and in Europe, Australia and Hong Kong. Creating batches of about 40 bowls a month, George balances creative freedom while satisfying consumer demand.

All three entrepreneurs say time-management is essential to keeping their lives balanced.

The key to keeping creativity alive after it becomes a source of income, Killian said, is to keep the two separate, leaving time for purely creative endeavors.

“I’m passionate about health and helping people, so I find ways to do that outside of work,” she said. “I allow those efforts to be separate from my essential oil business. That way, both things feel like something I get to do, not something I have to do.”

Killian believes that being a student entrepreneur, however, does create a massive “have-to-do” list.

“Being a student business owner is definitely something that requires more effort,” she said. “When you are your own boss, you make your own deadlines. You have to be more on top of your time because if you aren’t aware of how you are spending your day, your business will fall through the cracks.”

pitches his cattle genetics business on YouTube.

Seth Christensen pitches his cattle genetics business on YouTube.

Like Killian, Christensen uses intense time management to keep both his business and his grades afloat. Having worked with cattle since he bought his first cow when he was 11, Christensen now manages a group of bulls that are mated to produce a higher genetic-value offspring, bringing in a higher quality genetic base. His company focuses on selling to high-end beef distributors in San Francisco and New York.

“Running this business is insane, absolutely insane,” Christensen said. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every Sunday afternoon I plan what I’ve got coming up in the week. Between classes, church commitments, business opportunities and other obligations, I usually have around 120 events from Sunday to Sunday.

“The most important thing is to have it all planned out. If I don’t get the weekly planning in, it falls apart.”

A student entrepreneur’s work never ends, but Christensen, George and Killian agree the flexible schedule is worth the never-ending hours.

“If my friends are doing something awesome during the week, I can go,” Christensen said. “I have the freedom to bring in different employees to fit my schedule. I’m always doing something, but it’s always something that I want to do. I get to choose.”

And for these young business owners, this is only the beginning. Entrepreneurship can be the beginning of bigger things, and George says crafting hookah bowls is not the only company he hopes to manage in the future.

“I want to be a serial entrepreneur, and I like to think this is just my first business,” he said. “I’m using this as a boost to have capital for some other businesses later in life.

“I would encourage budding student entrepreneurs to find a niche market,” he said. “The best way to stay passionate about your business is to cultivate a hobby you already love and find a way to make money in it.”

Killian and Christensen plan to extend their entrepreneurship skills after they graduate as well. While MyBase was created in part as a college fund, Killian plans to extend her business long after she receives her diploma.

“Short-term, I want it to pay for my college,” she said. “Long-term, I want to make it my career.”

Christensen says too many students who dream of opening businesses make excuses, when they should take steps toward achieving their entrepreneurial dreams.

“Don’t believe your excuses about not having the money or time,” Christensen said. “Anyone can come up with a reason you cannot. Find reasons why you can.”


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