Adam is an entrepreneur majoring in Film Editing at Columbia College Chicago. In between classes Adam has found the time to form his own tech start-up company. Adam opens up for the first time about the company and their plans to revolutionize the way customers interact with businesses.
Tell us about yourself.
I'm an entrepreneur and student at Columbia College in Chicago. I've been in Chicago my entire life. I used to attend DePaul University as a business major. In my spare time, I developed a habit of editing videos for my youtube channel. I was becoming increasingly bored at DePaul while falling more and more in love with film editing, so I decided to switch schools to pursue a degree in film editing. It's one of the best moves I've made in my life. If you're not doing what you love, you're wasting your time.
Tell us about your start-up.
I am working on a tech start-up called Yella Rewards that helps businesses understand their customers. We provide a platform for people to voice their opinions about their shopping experiences, and give them rewards for their valuable feedback. Our customers are the businesses, and we are targeting the large chains. We are working on getting a deal with one of the largest quick-serve chains in the world. We are still in pre-production, and our team is working tirelessly to build the product so we can test it out at small businesses before we roll it out to larger clients.
We recently just moved our offices to the Merchandise Mart. We are in a 50,000 square foot co-working space specifically built for digital startups called 1871. It's fantastic, and I urge anyone to take a tour of the space.
How has your time at Columbia helped prepare you/motivate you to start your own company?
I owe a lot to Columbia. The atmosphere and style of the university encourages out of the box thinking. I feel as though most universities mold your brain to think in one direction. If you are a law student, you have to read books upon books of laws, and are required to memorize these laws and learn to "think like a lawyer." The same is true for business students, medical students, etc. At Columbia, you can comfortably embrace the creative energy in your brain and are encouraged to tap into it and utilize it. The combination of Columbia’s creative atmosphere and my passion for technology has allowed me to think of numerous outside the box business ideas in the tech space.
On a more practical note, Columbia is an art school, and art/design has become an increasingly essential part of any business. Being surrounded by art and great design at Columbia, I have a MUCH better grasp on how a product can look good or look terrible.
How has the department specifically helped you in the advancement of your career?
My entrepreneurship professor, Jason Stephens, recently read an article to us explaining that anyone can make anything now. It's the design that sets products apart. This is very true in my field, as most tech startups begin with a splash page before the product is ready. You have to capture your audience to gain interest in your product before it's even ready, and the best way to do that is to have a beautifully designed web page. This is also true in product development. Entrepreneurship is a fantastic course to take, and I recommend it for everyone. It teaches you how to think like an entrepreneur and prepares you for the adventure of starting a business. The best part is that you get to start an actual business in the course. You team up with classmates and compete with other groups in the class and the entire department to try to make the most money. At the end, all profits go to charity and everyone gets the hands-on experience of building a business. It is very similar to starting a real business. You have to build a marketing strategy, sales strategy, keep track of finances, and figure out the product or service you want to sell. Every student in the class is emotionally invested into their business, and I think the reason is because every person naturally wants to succeed in seeing their ideas and hard work getting validation.
Do you feel more prepared to enter your field/start your own company having a general marketing/business background?
Absolutely. One of the things we've learned in Entrepreneurship is to manage your emotions when starting a business. The reason being that there are many highs and lows you will experience. It is inevitable. In our class we call that the "entrepreneurship rollercoaster," and anyone who has ever started a business has experienced it. Had I not learned about these concepts, I believe I would have been more emotionally distressed during the setbacks of our business, whereas now I brush it off and say to myself "Ah, the old entrepreneurship rollercoaster."
Any advice for new students?
You are surrounded by extremely talented people. Network, and build relationships. School is the last chance you will get to have free networking every time you go to class. After you leave school, you have to go to actual events or parties to network. Utilize the opportunity you have by being at a university, and start building a network. It's not just students you can build relationships with, but also the professors. They love when students come talk to them for advice or to bounce ideas off of. These are professionals at what they do, and they are willing to lend you their time and their wisdom. Utilize it. Embrace the artistic atmosphere of Columbia and work it to your advantage, and don't think for a minute that because you go to an art school that you cannot start your own business in any field.
For more information about Yella Rewards, you can contact Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.