Young entrepreneurs share stories, advice



Article Published: Feb. 17, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Young entrepreneurs share stories, advice

Young entrepreneur Graham Bunn speaks at last year's Young Entrepreneurship Symposium.

Photo submitted



lauren@mountaintimes.com

The Young Entrepreneurship Symposium (YES) returns Feb. 23 to the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center and, according to director of the Center for Entrepreneurship Bryan Toney, it's a must-attend event for anyone interested in tackling the business world.

"We hope (attendees) will be inspired to potentially go up and do something entrepreneurial," he said. "Hearing these stories will demystify the process and help people understand what happens when you start a business."

And speakers like SustainU Clothing founder Chris Yura can back up what they're talking about.
Yura, who went to Notre Dame on a football scholarship, started as a model. The company came out of his observations about the fashion business.

"I started to see a lot of inconsistencies as far as what companies were putting out there and calling green," he said. "Behind the scenes ... it wasn't adding up to what they said it was."

So he started his own sustainable clothing line.

"We make 100 percent recycled American apparel," he said. "We use domestic production and domestic fabric to make apparel for colleges and universities as well as companies."

And it's gone from just an idea to a company that contracts with 106 universities, including Appalachian State.

But Yura doesn't want to just talk about starting a business. The 30-year-old says entrepreneurs have a responsibility, and it's not just about capital. "This generation has got a lot of important decisions to make," he said.

He hopes to spread the idea of sustainability, encouraging business owners to think about their carbon footprints.

He does have some advice for people wanting to be entrepreneurs.

"Ask questions," he said. "Call as many people as you can. Maybe eight out of the 10 people won't answer, but those two people that do ... it's invaluable information ... and people are surprised when you have the guts to call them."

Other young entrepreneur speakers have a personal connection to Appalachian State University. Take speaker Brandon Adnab, a 2006 ASU graduate and co-founder of Direct Digital LLC, a company worth tens of millions of dollars.

"I started a company about two years ago," he said. "We manufacture and sell vitamins and supplements."

He hopes to encourage other entrepreneurs to work hard and set realistic goals.

"Anything is possible as long as you work hard and believe in the fact that you're going to succeed," he said. "When I started my first business, I had, like, $10,000 in savings, so pretty much nothing, and I did very well because I worked hard, and I believed it would work out."

But it also takes planning, the 26-year-old cautioned.

"You have to have a real strategy for how you're going to make money," he said. "A lot of people come up with ideas and they think they're great ... but ultimately, to start a successful business, you have to have a clear path on how you're going to make the money."

Know your market.

"A lot of the reasons a lot of businesses fail is a lot of people have a great idea, but they have no idea how they're going to make money out of it," he said.

And the speakers are just part of YES.

YES happens Feb. 23 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center. The event, sponsored by Back Yard Burgers, is open to the public, but registration is required. Visit http://www.business.appstate.edu/yes to register and call Julia Rowland at (828) 262-8325 for more information.

In addition to the speakers, the 2011 Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner will be announced at the end of the symposium. That winner will receive a $2,500 scholarship.

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