Friday Future Leaders: Sarah Schupp, Founder of University Parent Media|
Do you remember that first time your parents came to visit you in college and you literally had zero clue of where to take them for dinner? They made the trek all those miles and you surely could not take them to the same corner store that you frequent for late-night sammies. It is one scenario that happened to many of us during college. Another scenario was the pestering phone calls from our parents who wanted information: When is graduation? What time does orientation start? What hotel should we stay in? What are your housing options for next year? What should we do while you’re in class? What is this health outbreak we’re hearing about? As agitated as you were when getting peppered with these questions, you knew you couldn’t fault them. They just wanted information about your big campus life, and they didn’t know where to get it. So, logically you’re their point person.
Getting a Leg Up On Your Future-And Sharing it With Your Folks
When Sarah Schupp was in college like so many of you are right now (and most of us once were) she experienced the scenarios outlined above and thought there might be a business proposition there. This is a girl who used to get detention for selling candy to her classmates on the bus, so it was really no surprise that she had barely made it out the University of Colorado at Boulder before she had a solid business plan in place and ready for funding. University Parent Media (UPM) was born out of Sarah’s senior project for her entrepreneurship program at the Leeds School of Business.
UPM’s goal was to create free handbooks, newsletters and digital content for parents about all the information they wanted to know regarding the institution their kids were attending. From local eateries, to grade timelines to the best local moving companies, UPM brought all the information together in one place for the universities to offer parents.
UPM acts as the liaison between parents and universities, who badly want to ease the transition for both parents and students but who often do not have the funds to sink into such resources. UPM works with the schools participating to gather little-known resources about the campus and then work to distribute guides for schools to use in recruitment, orientation programs and admission blasts. This model and service, which sends out about 100,000 mobile friendly newsletters each month, will soon launch a products division this fall for thing like laundry bags and care packages.
Working Together with Universities
UPM has been an obvious need for academic institutions, as now nearly 200 campuses nationwide are working to provide this information and services to their parents. Sarah started in 2007 by borrowing from a bank, in 2009 she raised a small amount of funding from local angel investors and has been running on revenue ever since due to advertisers who can’t wait to reach this demographic of readers. UPM is projected to see $2.4 million in revenues this year–Much to the excitement of Sarah, who told Inc. that she is shocked anyone took her seriously when she launched her business with a bare-bones parent guide and a website from GoDaddy.
For an idea that began while Sarah was nothing more than a student trying to navigate her college experience, it is incredible what she has created since then with UPM. She has been named BusinessWeek‘s 25 Entrepreneurs under 25 and Inc.’s 30 under 30; A far cry from hawking Skittles and Milky Ways on the way to school.
When the ideas come, Sarah’s story proves that it is worth the time to let them germinate. Business ideas are all around you, often in the problems, obstacles and needs in your life and the lives of those close to you. Whatever the idea may be, test it out through class projects like Sarah did or conversations with mentors or over wine with girlfriends. Ideas can and will become reality if you follow thought with action –no matter how early in the game you might be.