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5 of America’s coolest college start-ups


payment programs you may be elligible for


don’t wait until your senior year to try it


Our readers weigh in on how much salary should factor into choosing a major


Take look at 5 of America’s coolest college startups, and get to know the students behind them by Abigail Tracy


Inspired? Taking your idea from concept to start-up by Paul Graham


“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” Oscar Wilde


What the government is doing to educate students about loan repayment options and programs. by Johnathan Dane


If you’re not sure what you want to do after graduating, an internship could help you get on the right track by Jon Fortenbury


Overwhelmed? Check out these tips for beating stress during finals by Jon Fortenbury


EDITOR’S NOTES As the father of two boys in college, I find I’ve become rather interested in stories about the direction of higher education these days. When Abigail told me she was going to write about college students seeking to fix problems through start-up companies that capitalized on their passions, my ears immediately perked up. To a parent, careers that might one day bring a big paycheck and be worthy of an investment of thousands of dollars in tuition seem like the sure way to go. But I know better than that. Kids don’t necessarily pursue the degrees their parents think might be the most promising. Even when they do snag a lucrative major, they don’t always chase the highest-paying job, and that’s OK, as painful as it might be for my wallet to admit. In my experience, success flows from what we can be the most passionate about. Back in my college days I pursued a double major in math and journalism. The math was mostly to appease my father, the mechanical engineer. But I thought it might also distinguish me from other aspiring journalists. Of course, I also wanted to play soccer.

H&N POLL With ever increasing college costs and a dizzying array of degree options, students and parents often feel they need to focus as soon as possible on setting themselves up for the best possible job after graduation. They need to take into account how a degree and set of skills are going to potentially pay off once Junior graduates–and 10 to 15 years down the line. So we wanted to know:




I was lucky enough to find my perfect match at American University here in town, where I got to do it all, double major and kick a ball. Unfortunately, a goalkeeper kicked me back and broke my jaw, interrupting my semester and ending my pursuit of a double major. I stuck with journalism, perhaps because the major in those days was rooted in the liberal arts. As a journalism student, I’d spend my summers literally

knocking on doors at the National Press Club, asking for someone, anyone, to take me on. I’d work for free doing whatever needed to be done. Now, working for free is not much of a return on investment. But I was happy, living my dream. For me, that made all the difference.



26.2% SAY





SAY 21.8 %




YOU SAY: “Income is very important, but it is very unlikely that you will get very far, or be happy, unless you choose a subject which you like and have a natural propensity of doing very well.” AMBER BARNEY Columbus, Ohio


GENERAL MANAGER Katherine Poecze


Editor-in-chief Dan Beyers


Creative Director Jodi Peckmen

Managing editor Annie Zaleski

Lead Designer Autumn Mariano

Junior editors Ricky Vigil & Amber Wade

Production Director John Millin

Contributing editors Alex Ortega & Brendan Manley


Design Team Eric Sapp, Eleanor Scholz, Bj Viehl & Lenny Riccardi


Marketing Director Dawn Marsh

Website Design Robin Banks

Social Media Coordinator Mike Ford

Videographers Andrew McMahon & Maggie Sapp

Marketing Assistant Kate Cole

Digital Layout Martin Rivero


Abigail Tracy / John Fortunbury / Johnathan Dame Michele Bird / Chris Martin / Matthew Theissen Evan Perigo / Aubrey Welbers

CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Jared Scott / Emily Zemler / Luke Jaxon Trevor Kelley / Douglas Sonders / Arthur Dent Kevin Davis / Jessie Kelkenberg



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announce, is our featured staff member this issue. Her article on college startups really opened our eyes to a few of the many brilliant ideas that are blooming on our college campuses. SCHOOL: Emory University HOMETOWN: Canton, Ohio FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR SCHOOL?

I’d say the people. Southern hospitality is real, and the faculty and staff here really aim to help students succeed not only in school, but also after graduation. IF YOU COULD HAVE A SUPER POWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Teleportation, hands down. FAVORITE ARTICLE THAT YOU’VE WRITTEN?

For a magazine writing class junior year, I wrote a feature on the executive director of the Metro Atlanta Task Force

for the Homeless and the Task Force’s pending eviction due to a chain of lawsuits. The Task Force had been involved in dozens of legal battles with the defense that city officials and representatives from organizations some of which included the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Centralized Atlanta Progress and Emory Healthcare had been conspiring to shut the shelter down by cutting all of its funding. Many detractors argued that the Task Force was not paying all of its debts to the city or even sufficiently helping homeless citizens find jobs and housing. It was interesting to interview someone who had to face up to the possibility of losing what they said pulled at their heartstrings and to be able to really get to know the person behind the controversy. Abigail is all set to graduate in SPRING OF 2014, we wish her the best!




FLASH FOOD RECOVERY MATCHING FOOD WITH TUMMIES, DIGITALLY Flash Food Recovery uses a smartphone app to help get excess food from restaurants, hotels and convention centers to the people who need it most.

BRIGHT IDEAS! This is Here & Now’s 2013 roster of the five most promising dorm-room incubated ventures, and the tech-savvy, app-happy, socially-conscious undergrads who back them. See how a chocolatier, a seamstress, a well-drilling humanitarian, a former stutterer, and a group of food delivery boys (and girls). have made it big as this year’s coolest college startups. by Abigail Tracy photos by Luke Jaxon

Americans throw out about $165 billion in food each year. Yet some 16.7 million U.S. children live in “food insecurity”-neither they nor their families are sure where their next meal is coming from. To Eric Lehnhardt and the Flash Food Recovery team, that sounds like a huge social problem--but also, a compelling business opportunity. What if restaurants, sports venues, hotels, and convention centers could be convinced to donate their perfectly-good leftovers--and if the people who needed better access to food could be alerted via text message while the food was still at its freshest, tastiest, and most nutritious? Lehnhardt started working on this problem during an applied engineering class at Arizona State University, in which students were asked to work on a problem that was relevant to Phoenix. That city has the fourth-highest rate of childhood food insecurity in the country. Its community center, which often provides free meals, is only about three miles away from the sports venues, hotels and convention centers that could potentially donate food. And according to a 2010 report from the Centers for Disease control, about 70% of people living in poverty have access to a phone. “They’re really on to something and it’s definitely gained momentum,” says Zachary Schaeffer, a successful restaurateur who has been mentoring the company through the school’s incubator. “They’ve had a lot of publicity, which helps reinforce the idea that this is a real problem.” The team has raised about $30,000 through business plan competitions and the school’s incubator. Within a year, Lehnhardt wants Flash Food to be live in two cities. “I think this could grow very quickly,” he says. “The team is very capable, very knowledgeable, and very engaged with both sides now. This is the team to do it.”

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SOUL SCARF COMBINING FASHION AND PHILANTHROPY Celeste Currie’s SoulScarf appeals to women who have a budget consciousness and a social consciousness Celeste Currie, now a junior at Syracuse University, never imagined herself as an entrepreneur, but her business definitely has a lot of heart. SoulScarf’s mission is to knit together the threads of fashion and philanthropy one customer, one charity, and one scarf at a time. For every thick wool infinity scarf that Currie

WATER DROP SHOP SELLING PRODUCTS WITH A PURPOSE Drilling clean water wells abroad inspired Josh Weingart to employ Kenyan shoemakers to make sandals he can sell with the purpose of funding more wells For Josh Weingart, merely launching a company was not enough. His desires extended beyond money and success-he wanted to create a product with purpose. Reflecting on his time abroad drilling clean water wells in Kenya and learning about sustainability practices in Australia; Weingart conceived an idea. In September 2012 that idea became a reality when he founded the WaterDrop Shop.

sells, she donates 20 percent of the proceeds to a charity of the customer’s choice, tagging the neckwear with a small heart. The company was founded in October 2012, and by the end of December, it had already donated slightly over $2,000. Given her background in community service, “Bringing a charitable aspect to the company was a no-brainer,” Currie says. The hard part was choosing which causes her company should contribute to. The process involved equal parts business smarts and her own philanthropic leanings. “I had to keep crossing off charities that had too many rules and regulations for giving,” Currie says. Eventually, she connected with four causes that fit both her passions and her restrictions: the ASPCA, Feed the Children, Project H. Design, and The Breast Cancer Society.  SoulScarf, like most start-ups, evolved from a frustration. Unable to find attractive wool scarves for under $80, Currie decided to start making her own, pricing to suit young women with social consciences and a budget. “Given what I’ve seen so far in Celeste’s ability to understand trends, and how to get into the market through multiple channels, I think she has a really strong chance,” says John Liddy, one of Celeste’s mentors. When Currie graduates next year, she hopes to throw herself into SoulScarf full time.  Says Currie: “We’re ready to go to the next level.”

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Partnered with African manufacturer Maasai Treads, the seven-person company enlists Kenyan locals to produce sandals from recycled materials such as old tires that it then sells on the U.S. market. Weingart plans to use WaterDrop’s profits to build water wells in African communities. Watching the success of such companies as TOMS with its one for one model, the 22-year-old Weingart hopes to create a similar movement. “Seeing how just one product with one purpose can go so far, I am excited about our potential,” says Weingart, a senior at Illinois State University. WaterDrop has teamed up with an organization that can build clean water wells for a fraction of the cost by relying on community members to help with the hand dug wells. Hoping to have the first well in progress by the end of March, Weingart says providing these communities with clean water is the free-trade company’s primary goal. “Clean drinking water in Africa is something we hear about all the time. It is a problem and WaterDrop has a viable solution,” says Dr. Doan Winkel, a professor at Illinois State University. Weingart says the company has sold about 85 pairs of sandals since its September launch and he hopes to expand into other products and communities in time. “I like to dream big,” says Weingart. “My goal is to become the No. 1 place for people to come for products with purpose.”

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BALBUS SPEECH SPEECH THERAPY IN YOUR POCKET Jack Mc Dermott wants to give people with speech disorders something he never had: therapy that’s cheap and accessible Jack McDermott says he’s happy he stutters. Not because it’s easy, by any means, but because, as a business owner, it gives him a unique insight into his customers’ needs. He’s the founder of Balbus Speech, a Boston-based maker of speech therapy apps, born out of McDermott’s own experience. Growing up, McDermott would take a train 45 minutes from

JAMA COCOA THE STARBUCKS OF CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES John Hopkins student Jamasen Rodriguez wants truffles to be indespensable--a new latte for urban sophisticates Until last month, Jamasen Rodriguez used the cramped communal kitchen of his sophomore dorm at Johns Hopkins as the site of production for his new truffle company. Obsessed with chocolate since age 10, Rodriguez was turned off by how pretentious most chocolate shops seemed. The idea of more casual experience along with a high-end product inspired Rodriquez to create the Starbucks of chocolate--Jama Cocoa.


his home outside Boston to his speech pathologist’s office, which cost McDermott’s family anywhere from $200 to $400 an hour over the course of his 15 years in therapy. When Apple launched the App store in 2008, McDermott realized there could be a better way. It really clicked for me,” he says. “I was like how cool would this be if I had software in my pocket and could do speech therapy whenever I wanted?” In 2011, entering his sophomore year at Tufts University, McDermott launched Balbus Speech. Its two apps, Speech 4 Good and Fluently, are both based on currently proven speech therapy technology. The apps have now been downloaded nearly 10,000 times, and while other speech pathology tools like delayed audio feedback machines can retail for thousands of dollars, Speech 4 Good and Fluently cost just $15 and $10, respectively. Keeping costs low has paid off. After just a year in business, Balbus Speech turned a profit, generating $20,000 in sales in 2012. McDermott, now a junior at Tufts, says his next step is to build an enterprise app for speech pathologists, already a huge portion of his user base. After that, he has his sights set on the wider world of special education. “The more our products can facilitate the special education experience,” he says, “whether they’re geared towards speech impediments or not, the more successful we will be.”

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For now, Rodriquez sells his truffles wholesale to five restaurants around Baltimore and to consumers across the country through his website, where he sells over five thousand truffles a month for two dollars each. Rodriquez is dreaming big. He has put together a team of three full-time employees to help build what he hopes will eventually become a national chain of Jama Cocoa shops. “I want to open as many shops in urban centers as possible and micro-brand each one to embrace the culture of that city,” says Rodriguez. “Each one will be way different.” Rodriguez believes that connecting with local artists will be the key to making these chocolate cafes into such cultural chameleons. “We want to reach out to young, budding artists and, in doing that, they can become an important marketing channel for us,” says Rodriguez. Next up? Rodriquez just signed a three-year lease on an old Italian ice shop in Baltimore that will be used as his first commercial dessert kitchen. With the ability to produce chocolate on a mass scale in the new space, Rodriquez is hoping to lower his prices even further. Within the next year, Rodriguez hopes to buy several kitchen tools specifically designed to make truffles. Rodriquez is eying Soho for the first Jama Cocoa shop, which he hopes will open in the fall of 2014.

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You need three things to create a successful startup: to start with good people, to make something customers actually want, and to spend as little money as possible. Most startups that fail do it because they fail at one of these. A startup that does all three will probably succeed.

PEOPLE What do I mean by good people? Are they an “animal” at what they do? What it means specifically depends on the job: a salesperson who just won’t take no for an answer; a hacker who will stay up till 4:00 AM rather than go to bed leaving code with a bug in it; a PR person who will cold-call New York Times reporters on their cell phones; a graphic designer who feels physical pain when something is two millimeters out of place. Choose people who will put the hours necessary to get the job done. It’s no coincidence that startups start around universities, because that’s where smart people meet. Don’t force things; just work on stuff you like with people you like.

CUSTOMERS You hear all kinds of reasons why startups fail. But can you think of one that had a massively popular product and still failed? The only way to make something customers want is to get a prototype in front of them and refine it based on their reactions. Be sure you’re marketing to the right crowd. If the people you’re trying to sell to don’t want it, think about if some other group might, be able to change your plans on the fly. How do you figure out what customers want? Watch them. No matter what kind of startup you start, it will probably be a stretch for you, the founders, to understand what users want.

MONEY To make all this happen, you’re going to need money. Some startups have been self-funding-- Microsoft for one-- but most aren’t. I think it’s wise to take money from investors. When and if you get an infusion of real money from investors, what should you do with it? Not spend it, that’s what. In nearly every startup that fails, the proximate cause is running out of money. Usually there is something deeper wrong. But even a proximate cause of death is worth trying hard to avoid. Spending your money slowly. Do this by encouraging a culture of cheapness. Aim for cool and cheap, not expensive and impressive.


Want to learn more about creating a successul startup? Visit


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Pad ou

“Even as we work to bring down costs for students, we have got to offer students who already have debt the chance to actually repay it.� President Barack Obama

STUDENT LOANS The Department of Education is launching a new initiative this fall to make struggling student borrowers aware of the various federal repayment and forgiveness programs available to them and how to use them. by Johnathan Dame photos by Emily Zemler


President Barack Obama addresses college students at the University of Buffalo this past August

onya Nasser thought she had maxed out on federal student loans going into her freshman year of college. Unaware that her mother was eligible for a federal Parent PLUS loan, Nasser took out a $14,000 private loan. “We ended up getting a private loan because we didn’t understand the process, my mom hadn’t gone to college before,” says Nasser, a junior at St. John’s University. Nasser learned a year later that her mother could have taken out a federal Parent PLUS loan at a much lower interest rate. The Department of Education is launching an initiative to help students avoid those types of missteps. In this case, the Obama administration will be focusing on the other end of the process: repayment. The department will soon begin proactively reaching out to struggling student borrowers to make them aware of the various federal repayment and forgiveness programs available to them.



ven as we work to bring down costs for students, we have got to offer students who already have debt the chance to actually repay it,” President Obama said during a speech at the University of Buffalo in August, when he announced an array of policy initiatives to lower the cost of college. There are currently about 1.6 million students enrolled in incomebased repayment programs, which allow borrowers to pay back loans as a percentage of their disposable income. At the same time, 2.1 million borrowers are in default, many of which might have been eligible for a federal program. “I think a big majority of students don’t know about paying back their loans or programs that are out there because we never see the information on campus,” says Joshua Carter, a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso who will graduate with $30,000 in loans. Greg Young, a 28-year-old doctoral student at the University of Buffalo, was thinking about applying to a federal repayment program after he graduated from the College of Saint Rose in 2007. “Frankly, I was really confused in trying to figure out which program was the best, and I wasn’t sure where I could get some advice on it,” he says. Young was able to defer his loans because he went back to school, but will need a federal repayment program to help pay off his $40,000 of debt. “I think this education campaign is really great because I don’t think the information is out there,” Young says about the Obama administration’s new outreach plans. Betsy Mayotte, director of regulatory compliance at the non-profit American Student Assistance, says that informing borrowers about repayment options is only half the battle, the process can prove to just as much of a struggle.


The process of applying to repayment programs can be cumbersome, she says, and the Department of Education simply doesn’t have the resources to guide everyone through it. Nasser says she might want to apply for a repayment or forgiveness program but doesn’t have the “slightest clue” where she should start. “Especially if you are a firstgeneration student, you don’t ever go through a workshop that explains to you, this is how you are going to pay for college,” she says. “Borrowers that are past due get a ton of phone calls and they get a ton of mail, and a lot of the time they don’t answer the phone and they don’t open the mail,” Mayotte says. WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW If you just don’t think about them, they’re not real­-- right? That’s how many students tend to think about the thousands or -- in extreme cases -- hundreds of thousands of dollars they borrow in student loans over the course of higher education. After graduation, most students are entitled to one six-month “grace period” to get a job before they must start their federal loan payments, according to the National Student Loan Data System. But when time’s up, reality sinks in -and faster that you could expect. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, however, estimates that one-fourth of the American workforce may be eligible for repayment or loanforgiveness programs, the Associated Press reported last month. Figuring out which loan forgiveness programs you qualify for can require some legwork, but you could be surprised by the number of options, says Betsy Mayotte, director of regulatory compliance at, an

“Especially if you are a first-generation student, you don’t ever go through a workshop that explains to you, this is how you are going to pay for college.” Donya Nasser Junior, St. Johns University

“Frankly, I was really confused in trying to figure out which program was the best, and I wasn’t sure where I could get some advice on it.” Greg Young Doctoral student, University of Buffalo

organization that authored “60+ ways to get rid of your student loans.” “When we counsel people, what we get all the time is that people don’t know all these options exist, these lower payments, these programs,” Mayotte says. “They think it’s either you pay (your student loans), or you get in trouble. And it’s just not like that.” Many humanitarian and publicsector jobs are eligible for loan forgiveness, Mayotte says, so that “borrowers can follow their passions instead of their bills.” That way, someone who wants to be a public defender, for example, will not be deterred by an expensive law degree. There is no way to escape student loan debt scot-free, many federal programs require qualifications, research and lots of fine print. But doing your homework can pay off, Mayotte says. What’s the first step? Simply talk to your loan provider, Mayotte says. Loan providers are very familiar with federal programs and will be able to help borrowers determine which programs make sense for their circumstances. Below are four ways borrowers can have their federal student loans forgiven through government programs. 1. Become a public school teacher in a low-income area. Thanks to the government’s Teacher Forgiveness Program, up to $17,500 of your federal Stafford loans or the entirety of your Perkins loans can be forgiven in exchange for five consecutive, full-time years as a teacher at certain low-income elementary or secondary schools as outlined. 2. Join the military. From the Army to the National Guard, each branch of the military has its own student loan forgiveness program. Forgiven loan amounts usually depend on the level of rank achieved. Those interested should contact their preferred branch to learn about their options, Mayotte suggested.

3. Apply for the Income-Based Repayment Plan. Just about everyone should consider applying for the Income-Based Repayment Plan, Mayotte says. The program adjusts students’ monthly loan payments to be no more than 15% of their “discretionary” income (the amount of money they make that falls above the federal poverty level). Take, for example, a recent grad who makes $20,000. Because the federal income level within the contiguous United States is $11,490, he only makes $8,510 in discretionary income. Under the IBR, he would only have to make payments that were 15% of that $8,510, which equals about $106 a month. It’s entirely possible, Maylotte says, that some graduates make so little that they qualify to make $0 payments. After 25 years of making these adjusted loan payments, the borrower’s remaining balance can possibly be totally and completely forgiven. 4. Get a public service, government or non-profit job. Those who borrowed money under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan program can apply to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. In this program, full-time employees in the public service or non-profit sector can have the remainder of their outstanding debt forgiven after they successfully make 120 qualified loan payments. What kinds of jobs qualify as public service? “Any employment with a federal, state or local government agency, entity, or organization or a not-for-profit organization that has been designated as tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service under section 501,” according to the U.S. Office of Education’s federal student aid website. With all of this knowledge, it should be possible to keep student loans from completely ruining your life.

H&N 13


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