Cupid’s Cup 2009 & 2011 Winners: Where are they now?

The Dingman Center’s signature event, the UMD Entrepreneurship Invitational is tomorrow! The event feature’s Cupid’s Cup, a business competition where 5 student or recent alumni entrepreneurs pitch their businesses in front of a live audience for a chance to win $25,000 from Under Armour Founder & CEO, Kevin Plank.

This post features 2 previous winners, both of which are still operating their winning businesses. Amanda Nachman of College Media Group won top prize in 2009 with her uncensored guide to college life, College Magazine. Brothers Adam and Eric Van Wagner won Cupid’s Cup in 2011 with their dorm-sized regrigerator rental service, My Fridge Rental.

Cupid’s Cup 2012 will be held Friday March 30th from 2-4 PM in Hoff Theater. Keep reading to see what these past winners are doing now.

Amanda Nachman '07, College Media Group

How has your business grown since you won Cupid’s Cup in 2009 ?
We expanded our print reach to over 14 campuses and brought on national brands including Vitamin Water and ihome. Then in 2011 we moved to a digital platform and launched daily content on CollegeMagazine.com. In just a year we now reach 2 million college students online from universities nationwide. We’ve also run national contests including our “Wish I Had Known Freshman Year” postcard contest and the Kembrel Hipster photo contest. We recently had an article go viral, receiving national media coverage and just last month we were highlighted on The Conan O’Brien Show.

Have you had to pivot with your current business plan?
I had to pivot completely by cutting our print publication and redeveloping our online presence along with our media kit and editorial and sales systems. Our print business model did not have the growth potential that we could experience online. We’ve already proven that by moving online, we have surpassed our reach in print.

How did you know it was time and what steps did you take?
I knew it was time to pivot when I realized that students were spending more and more time online and that our guide could reach more college students more effectively in that space.

What advice do you have for students or young alumni looking to start their own business?
I have three pieces of advice for young entrepreneurs:

  1. Follow your passion and spread your enthusiasm to rally support. If you are passionate about your idea, you will be able to trudge through the challenges and also recruit others to help the business succeed.
  2. Find mentors in your industry–they are an invaluable resource.
  3. Start small, prove your concept, and then grow your business. Otherwise you’ll burn out fast.

Eric and Adam Van Wagner '11, My Fridge Rental

How has your business grown since you won Cupid’s Cup in 2011?
Our revenues increased by 35% the year after winning Cupid’s Cup. We established new vendor agreements with various schools and have been able to develop relationships with similar companies to help grow our business.

Just being a part of the Cupid’s Cup has been a very helpful tool for our business. The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship has been and continues to be an instrumental source of advising for our company. Even if we didn’t win the competition, I know that just going through the process would have been worth it because of the time and effort the Dingman Center puts in and their true dedication to helping young entrepreneurs thrive.

Have you had to pivot with your current business plan?
We have definitely had to pivot our current business plan, in fact it is something we strive to do and is a continuous process. We are always adjusting to new factors that come into play, as well as attempting to find a better or more efficient way to run our current processes. We never settle.

How did you know it was time and what steps did you take?
One of our major pivot points happened soon after we had won the competition and we acquired a new contract with a school. Most of the previous inventory that we purchased had been ‘used’, and we were able to buy at a very discounted price. But for this new school and for growing at the rate we planned to, we knew that we had to get financing and restructure our procurement and growth processes a little bit. We needed the ability to purchase more expensive new units. Again, being part of Cupid’s Cup was very influential with this because of their partnership with BB&T. Through these connections, we were able to acquire a loan at a very low rate, and now have a solid business plan and financial model in place for any new school we happen to form an agreement with.

What advice do you have for students or young alumni looking to start their own business?
The thing that always motivated us about starting a business was knowing that whatever work we put in to it, we were going to directly gain out of it. There is no sitting around and hoping everything falls into place. If you have a passion and are willing to put the work in, go for it. For students, this is a great point in your life to think about starting a business because the time and resources that are available now are exponentially greater than what you will have in the future.

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