UGA students from all over campus, 114 in all, came to the Student Learning Center last November for a chance to be a part of “American Idol” — Terry style. The occasion was the inaugural event of UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur, a campus-wide competition that is the brainchild of Terry entrepreneurship program director Chris Hanks (BBA ‘90), who says students quickly learned how much skill and stamina is required to transform creative ideas into a successful marketplace product.
“At first, it’s pure enthusiasm,” says Hanks, who, with the aid of venture capitalist Rob Bearden, put the students through five months of preparatory seminars. “The fact that we have an entrepreneurship presence garners a big response. But when we got down to work, that’s when we started seeing who was really serious.”
When the dust settled, eight UGA teams faced off in a business plan competition for a prize of $500 and the title of UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur. But thanks to Hanks and Terry, all of the finalists were winners; before the competition phase had even begun, the top eight business ventures had generated $212,000 in combined revenue shortly after opening for business.
Top Entrepreneur’s three finalists — Krasidy LLC, SEC Excursions, and Anofit — epitomize what young entrepreneurs are capable of when mentored by an experienced businessman like Hanks, and a forward-thinking B-school like Terry.
Hayden Kramer and Wesley Miller’s passion for music and technology began as classmates at North Springs High School, routinely experimenting with digital music software in a makeshift studio in the basement of Kramer's mother's house in Roswell, Ga. Years later, this opportunistic duo used the resources of Top Entrepreneur to turn their musical passions into their venture, Krasidy LLC.
Krasidy’s flagship product, Studio App, is an iPhone application that retails for $7.99 and allows users to record, mute, delete, or layer vocals over instrumentals in a song. Studio App was an immediate hit — ranking No. 4 among iTunes’ “Top Paid” items on its website — with more than 3,000 user downloads in just two months.
“Top Entrepreneur helps you organize your thoughts and ideas. That’s the hardest step,” says Kramer, who sees immense value in getting key questions answered by experienced Terry faculty and alumni. “Just being around people who have that business ambition speeds up the process of being proactive.”
Kramer was so focused on the seminars he forgot there was a competition. When Miller confirmed Krasidy would have to present its business plan to a panel of experts, Kramer panicked. “I said [to Miller], ‘We don't even know how to present!’ We’re two science majors and all that business terminology and vocabulary that business students learn and present in class every day is new to us. If you want to know about DNA replication, call us. I thought we were going to embarrass ourselves.”
Miller was far more confident, if not a bit cocksure about the whole thing. “He said, ‘This product is awesome, we’re top paid on iTunes...they’re going to give it to us. It's in the bag.’ Meanwhile, I’m sweating bullets,” says Kramer.
However, their roles reversed the night of the competition. After Miller and Kramer watched the first entrepreneurship team present to the panel, it was Miller who had second thoughts about going through with it.
“After the first team presented, Wes nudges me and says, ‘Let’s just go. You were right, we are just going to embarrass ourselves,’” says Kramer, who was determined not to let his fears get the best of him. “I said, ‘No–no. We came here, I borrowed shoes from a friend, and we’re going to do this!’”
Fortunately, no one heard Kramer and Miller’s misgivings and the judges were so impressed with Studio App that they awarded Krasidy the competition’s top prize.