Student entrepreneurs start companies as undergraduates

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Most students come to college with the intention of finding a career when they graduate, but some Lehigh students are getting an entrepreneurial head start during their undergraduate years.

From passionately working to earn money for a cause to Mountaintop projects and communities of likeminded individuals, Lehigh undergrads Kira Gobes, ’18, Will Kuehne, ’17, and Minni Kim, ’16, are not waiting until the end of their college careers to pursue entrepreneurial ventures.

Gobes, along with two of her high school friends, is a co-founder of Omnia Prints, a sticker company that donates 15 percent of their profits to Camfed, a charity that works to improve education for women in Africa.

“My friend Cecilia likes to draw really cool designs, and we thought ‘Hey we should make stickers out of these.’” Gobes said. “But we didn’t want to just sell stickers because that’s lame. We wanted to put meaning behind it, and my friends (that I work with) and I are really passionate about getting women the education they deserve.”

At the moment, Gobes sells stickers on Etsy and in person to those around Lehigh that are interested and is trying to reach as many people as possible so that Omnia Prints can donate as much money as possible to Camfed.

Kuehne and his team also have a meaningful idea behind their project called Kelpy.

Created as a sustainable development project in a class last semester, Kuehne and five other students created Kelpy, which also became a Mountaintop project, to address the abundance of nitrates in the Mississippi Delta.

“We looked at kelp as a possible solution for reducing nitrates, and people use it as food,” Kuehne said. “It’s a huge product in Asia, but kelp farms are just starting to pop up and there isn’t a market yet.”

Kuehne explained that most of the kelp products in America come from Asia and do not target the American palate. The Kelpy team has been partnering with local chefs to create a healthier kelp product more desired by Americans.

Kim’s entrepreneurial venture is a little different than Gobes’ and Kuehne’s.

Kim is a founder of Flow, which he currently describes as a “community of people that really appreciate a certain type of music that is in the intersection of hip-hop and electronic music and also really like to dance.”

Started as just some friends listening to good music and having a good time, Flow has become Kim’s way to add a new option for students bored of Lehigh’s current social scene.

“People I didn’t know would come up to me and ask, ‘What is this?’ (at early Flow events),” Kim said. “They thought we were a well established group of people, and I realized there is so much power in people being connected in this way. That’s why I wanted to put it under a brand and make it more established.”

Further down the road, Kim would like to build Flow into its own creative enterprise, allowing Flow events to be an opportunity for artists to release music or present videos and not just a party.

“When you go into the experience, I want everything to be made by people in Flow,” Kim said.

Of these three projects, Kelpy is the only one that currently working with the Baker Institute, which “aims to foster the entrepreneurial mindset that leads to creating value in the world,” according to their website.

The Baker Institute provides resources to students who want to start their own business, and also hold events to inspire students of all disciples to be entrepreneurial, Lisa Getzler, the executive director of the Baker Institute, said.

The institute’s most prominent competition is their EUREKA! competition.

The EUREKA! competition grants about $75,000 divided amongst various winning teams per year, and the Baker Institute will continue to work with students who win the competition until the graduate, said Getzler.

“Winning the EUREKA! competition is a real possibility,” Getzler said.

Several entrepreneurial projects that started at Lehigh have grown into businesses. EcoTech Marine and Krass & Co. are two of the most successful ventures started by Lehigh students, Getzler said.

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