June 12, 2013

Student entrepreneur on a roll


Jay Clouse is an entrepreneur on the move, literally.

He spent three days on a bus with total strangers developing a business plan and pitch.

Clouse was the only college student to represent the Midwest region on the national Start-Up Bus tour in the spring, and one of only a handful of undergraduate students competition-wide.

Clouse’s team placed second out of 35, something he says was an experience of a lifetime.

Participation in the annual event is by invitation only, said Clouse, followed by an application process.

The competition brought together 152 forward-thinking entrepreneurs from six cities across the nation. Clouse and his teammates had three days to conceive, develop and pitch a business plan during a bus trip that began in Chicago and ended in Austin, Texas. In the final round, Clouse and his team pitched to investors.

“The bus was our office,” said Clouse, whose team worked on a plan to launch a self-publishing business. “It lacked space, but there was a lot of energy and an incredible sense of urgency.”

The StartUpBus was the culmination of a school year immersed in entrepreneurship activities for Clouse, including the Business Builders Club event IdeaPitch, founding his first start-up, and projects in the Finance Services Industry Cluster.

He hasn’t slowed down much during the summer.

After returning from a backpacking trip across Europe in May in which he visited 10 countries, Clouse plans to spend the remainder of his summer break promoting other entrepreneurs in central Ohio. He is writing stories about emerging businesses for an online, and soon print, publication called Columbus Startups.

The summer job gives him an opportunity to combine his two main interests, entrepreneurship and writing.

“I actually started out as a journalism major,” he said. Then, he joined the Business Builders Club. “After that, I had a passion for start-ups,” said Clouse, the incoming president of the club.  Since switching his major from journalism to marketing, he has already launched one business.

MarketOSU (OSU, in this case, stands for “only students use”) is an online portal where students can buy and sell items from each other, such as textbooks, concert and athletic tickets. The student-only market matches prospective buyers and sellers. The system includes a watch list, which automatically generates an email when a desired item is listed.

“Many students were using Facebook as a place to exchange items, but I found it frustrating and disorganized,” Clouse said.

That was the spark behind MarketOSU, which currently has over 4,000 users. He believes the concept can be expanded to other universities and continues to work to improve the service. However, Clouse is not ready to limit himself to his own business interests, but helping others.

“I also see myself working as a small business consultant,” he said, “But whatever I decide, I want work that has real impact.”