This article was originally published in The Daily Pulp on December 3, 2013.
Julien Meyer, a senior at the University of Central Florida, has been making waves as a young entrepreneur. The young man began a DJ service at his school and then started a student discount company, collegeTKTS. Now, Meyer has begun to take his business nationwide and is doing well enough that he recently endowed a scholarship at UCF – a rare thing for a current undergraduate to do.
The Daily Pulp recently caught up with Julien to discuss his business interests, life as a young entrepreneur, and his thoughts on young people in the American economy.
Q: Julien, tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get interested in business management?
A: I got my start in business at a young age. In the fourth grade, I used to bring an extra bag of chips to school and would have a bartering station at my desk, where I would trade the chips for different items, such as for desserts or “bucks,” which were used to trade in for toys at the end of the year. In the sixth grade, I started selling gum and candy at my middle school, where both were banned, and started to turn a serious profit for a sixth grader. From this point on, I had always been interested in new business ideas and started various ventures throughout the rest of my grade school days.
Upon graduation from Pearl River High School, I had a successful iPod/iPhone resale business and took this experience with me to the University of Central Florida. My first year at UCF, I started DJing for the university and at some of the local bars. During this time, I noticed a lack of organizations who serviced house parties and other local events and so I started a staffing company where I would staff bartenders, DJs, security, door workers, and more to various people around UCF.
In August of 2012 I decided to take my entrepreneurial endeavors to the next level and started my first real company, collegeTKTS LLC. The idea for collegeTKTS was to work with local bars and venues around the UCF area and sell concert tickets and bar covers at discounted prices to any college student that had a .edu email address. This would benefit both the venues, as they would be reaching their target market of 18-24-year-olds, and would also benefit students, as they would be saving money on events, which they previously would not have been able to attend.
After seeing some success in the nightlife industry from collegeTKTS LLC, I reached out to another local marketing firm in the UCF area called CollegeStack.com to partner on some marketing events with us. CollegeStack.com is responsible for printing out coupon books for college students and distributing them free of charge on the UCF campus. The owner of CollegeStack.com was looking to sell and after a 6-month buyout, collegeTKTS LLC officially acquired the CollegeStack.com brand to our portfolio in January of 2013. At this time, we increased our workforce from 2 employees to 15 employees. In May of 2013, we decided to apply to the UCF Business Incubator program to help take the company to the next level, and at this time I also started Meyer Group Enterprises LLC as a holding company for various entrepreneurial endeavors, which I was looking to pursue.
After being accepted into the UCF Business Incubator, I moved the collegeTKTS LLC/CollegeStack.com offices out of dorm rooms and officially into Research Park at UCF. In October of 2013, after starting the franchise process to expand the CollegeStack.com brand in New York City at schools such as IONA College, NYU, and Manhattan College, we started the MyUCards.com program. This program is essentially a simplified version of CollegeStack.com coupon books, in that we sell discount cards to students that last until the end of the school year and students can use the discounts over and over, as opposed to just one-time-use coupons from our CollegeStack.com coupon books. In addition, we donate a percentage of all proceeds from each and every single MyUCard purchase directly back to non-profit student organizations.
Q: You”ve been busy! Let”s unpack things a bit. Did you find it difficult to secure clients for your first companies, since you were still an underclassman?
A: Yes, at first it was very difficult, and I was going door to door almost everyday when I wasn”t in class to try and find clients for my marketing services. I believe this is a part of the struggle that all entrepreneurs must go through though. If I hadn”t the ambition/desire/passion to make things work and to find clients, I definitely wouldn”t have been able to realize the success that I”ve seen today. I started with only 1 client, and worked my way up to 6 clients before launching the collegeTKTS.com website in 2012. Fast forward to the present, and we now have 60 clients that we service in the Orlando area.
Q: Once you graduate college, do you want to continue in the entertainment and hospitality industry, or do you want to explore other business fields?
A: Upon graduation next semester (May 2014), I plan to continue growing collegeTKTS LLC and our brands CollegeStack.com and MyUCards.com, as well as rolling out some additional projects in early 2014 which will expand our reach within the hospitality industry. In addition to having a passion for the industry from an early age, the majority of my work and business experience comes from within the hospitality industry, and I believe you need to focus on your passions in entrepreneurship, as the road to success is seldom an easy one. In addition, I plan on pursuing my MBA next fall (2014) and focusing on Finance Excellent discussion! To me it still seems like it all depends on the context: on an aggregate level Money and free-credits-report.com serve the same PURPOSE which is ultimately what matters unless we are simply counting how many angels are currently dancing on this particular pin. & Entrepreneurship. In the future, I would like to own a chain of hotels and resorts and look forward to putting my experience, both entrepreneurial and within the hospitality industry, to making this dream a reality.
Q: What I find interesting about your career so far, Julien, is that you have largely created your own sources of employment, rather than taking jobs at other companies. The optimistic tone you”ve shown so far in this interview also stands in contrast to a lot of people our age, who are desperate to get any sort of job after graduating from college, never mind starting a company. Could you talk about your thoughts on this post-recession economy and the opportunities for Millennials to work as entrepreneurs?
A: I’m going to break my answer down into three sections.
One of my personal missions in life is to always remain optimistic and have a positive outlook on life. Whether this comes from my Catholic faith, the way I was raised, or from the friends and family I surround myself with does not really matter. Optimism is an independent viewpoint and we can all choose the way we decide to look at a situation. No matter how bad a situation is or how negative things may seem, each and every single one of us can decide how we are going to react to a situation. I believe that, in this world, we get one chance to live and should make the most out of every second of our precious lives. If your outlook on life is negative, you are almost assuring yourself negative results.
My advice to those who are interested in entrepreneurship is this: “Start Something. You”ll never know if you don”t try.” Too often in this post recession economy do we allow our nerves and the discouraging remarks from those around us to prevent us from taking the plunge and starting something.
I”m not saying entrepreneurship is easy by any means. As a matter of fact, there is rarely such a thing as instant success (even though it may seem that way with the recent growth of tech companies) and there is a lot of hard work, time, and effort that goes into building up a business. There have been times in my career when I haven”t been able to make payroll or pay vendors and have had to resort to allocating personal funds to keep my business afloat. I”ve seen my bank accounts drain, fill, and drain over and over again, and the road itself is very rocky. In addition, I had friends smirk and laugh in my face when I told them I was starting a business.
My point here is that sometimes you just need to take the constructive criticism and use it to improve upon or change your idea, but don”t let it discourage you. Don”t let the economy discourage you; don”t let friends or enemies discourage you; don”t let statistics discourage you; don”t even allow your fear and nerves to discourage you. Sometimes the best decisions in life are the ones that seem totally irrational. Once again, “Start something. You”ll never know if you don”t try.”
Post-Recession Economy and Millennials
Personally, I believe that our age group is the best time to start a business. I may be biased, as I have no experience being 60 years old, but nonetheless I have my reasons to believe so:
1. You can start a business these days for next to nothing. – Long gone are the days when a 10-year lease at a brick and mortar shop was the only we [had] to plunge into small business. These days, our generation can hop online, purchase a domain for as little as $0.01, and start a business. The fact that our barriers to entry are so low with all of the new technology in the world is, in my opinion, one of the best reasons for Millennials to chase their dreams and go after an idea for a business. Personally, I started my business with $500.00 in August of 2012.
2. You can be broke in your 20″s! – Let”s face it. As 20-something-year-old college students most of us already know what it feels like to be broke or almost broke. What”s the worst thing that can happen if you try to start a business and it fails? You”re broke again, you lose the $50 you put into marketing your start up, and you go back to work and recoup your losses in a few weeks. People always tell me that they don”t have the $500 they need to pursue their idea because they can”t tie up those funds… My advice: Don”t go out to dinner for the next two weeks, skip going to the bar for a week, and pick up some overtime shifts at work. If you want something bad enough, you can make it happen. Personally, I was working two jobs and going to school full time before and during the start up of my business so that I could have the extra finances necessary to keep the business afloat and to grow.
3. The economy means nothing to me. – As a blanket statement, I don”t really believe that, but in this post-recession economy too many of us use the economy as an excuse to not take action. “Oh, I can”t find a job the economy is so bad these days”; “I can”t start a business, the economy is so bad right now, people just wouldn”t spend on my product or idea”; “Maybe when the economy gets better I”ll be able to start my business or chase my dream job.” Don”t base your life on the economy. It”s not worth it and oftentimes these phrases are not true. Sure, the post recession economy may make it a little bit more difficult for us to go after our dream jobs or to gain those first few clients for our start-ups, but this economy does not make it impossible! Whether you”re interested in getting a job or starting a business, my advice is this: You dictate your life path and your success, not the economy. Make the choices you want to make and reach for your dreams. Dreams are only dreams if you allow them to remain as dreams; dreams become realities when you make them realities.
Q: This desire to push Millennials, our peers, to succeed in business – is this desire what inspired you to endow a scholarship at UCF?
A: Yes. My whole goal with the scholarship was to pay for a student’s books so that I could free up some funds for them to pursue some sort of entrepreneurial endeavor. Students applying for the scholarship are asked to provide an essay explaining how freeing up some of these funds would assist them with their dreams and ambitions. The students don”t need to necessarily apply the money to starting a business, but perhaps purchase a new suit to interview for a dream job, or to invest in a computer that will help them reach their dreams. The whole idea with the scholarship is to find a student who has ambition and an entrepreneurial spirit. I hope to continue donating scholarships as my business continues to grow.
Q: I’ve heard that you”re working on a book project. Can you update us briefly about that?
A: Yes. As of late 2012, I started working on my book titled The Push You Always Needed (working title). I want to put a book into the hands of young entrepreneurs to inspire them and show them that it”s possible to succeed as a young entrepreneur, even when those around you may not be giving you the credit or support you need to try and do something bold, like starting a business. I want this book to spark interest into the minds and hearts of aspiring entrepreneurs and I want it to be that final push that they need to go ahead and start chasing their dreams, whatever they may be. The book proposal has been sent to a few literary agents and is currently under review. The project is somewhat on hold, as I have not found the time to run my businesses, attend school, and study for the GMAT at the same time. When my time frees up, I will continue moving forward on the project, as it is something I am very passionate about.
Julien, thank you for participating in this interview. Best of luck with CollegeStack.
The cover photo was taken by Steve Williams. Source: