2011 Coolest College Start-up List
Minimalist, and hip, wheels.
This isn’t your run-of-the-mill pair of wheels. While most of their fellow University of Southern California students were getting around on beach cruisers, mountain bikes, or skateboards, Jonathan Shriftman and Jake Medwell were craving a cooler transit solution. A fixed-gear bike is a bicycle without a freewheel, meaning the vehicle cannot coast, and can be slowed without brakes. Shriftman and Medwell began hawking “fixies” for $310 each—far below market competition—last year, and have moved more than 1,000 new minimalist bike in bold colors onto the streets of Southern California.
Old Hollywood style, naturally.
True You Cosmetics
With an old-Hollywood vibe and an en mode composition—antioxidants, vitamins, and lots of organics—True You Cosmetics are designed to make their wearer feel special even before they’re worn. True You was created by Jessica Truesdale, a senior at Spelman College in Atlanta, and launched in October 2010—though the idea and business plan were years in the making. The products come with names inspired by ladies like Josephine Baker and Marilyn Monroe, and come ensconced in a suede engraved case, giving the products an extra sheath of elegance.
Raymond Lei was tennis club president in high school. With a tournament approaching, he set out to have t-shirts made for his team—but failed to find any custom options that fit his budget. He founded ooShirts, set up a website on which customers could upload custom designs and place orders for dozens of types of clothing, from ladies fleece pants to an American Apparel 50/50 T-shirt. The business is centered on efficiency, quality assurance, great customer service, and low prices. Lei, now a sophomore business major at Berkeley, has made more than $2 million in sales.
Put simply, the Toepener is “a nice strong piece of aluminum that essentially allows you to open the door,” says its inventor, University of Minnesota senior Max Arndt. After working with manufacturers around the upper Midwest, Arndt and his classmates in Entrepreneurship in Action have created about 20 prototypes, and have been tweaking the design slightly this semester while aggressively pursuing sales. Now the Toepener, which retails for $49.95, can be found in restaurants and bars around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Fifty units have sold so far, and a shipment of 500 is in the works.
Miss O & Friends books
When Juliette Brindak was a kid, she liked to draw “cool girls” to amuse her little sister, Olivia (a.k.a. Miss O). Now, her style of illustration is used all over her website, MissOandFriends.com, which is über-popular with tweens. It’s also spawned this set of books for girls aged 8 to 14, which include stories about boys, bands, sisters, and an adventure to Italy, mostly written by an author who worked on book spin-offs of the ’90s TV series Full House. They’re sold online for less than $10 each.