When Bradley Ericson was a sophomore at Drexel University's LeBow College of Business he had a simple idea: rid the world of paper receipts by introducing a digital version. After learning about the massive amount of waste created by paper receipts--which have an average lifespan of a mere three seconds--Ericson decided to enter Entrepreneur Magazine's College Entrepreneur of 2009 contest.
Needless to say, Ericson was able to stand out among the hundreds of bright applicants and clinch the top prize. Since, 3SecondReceipts has landed its first client--Drexel University--just a few months after launching.
We recently caught up with Ericson to talk about how he won, why college students should enter this year's contest and how winning has affected his business.
Being named Entrepreneur Magazine's College Entrepreneur of 2009 has brought more opportunities and invaluable publicity to my business than any other award I've ever received in my lifetime. Entering this competition will give one college student with an amazing idea, a passion and determination to succeed, a step ahead of the competition and a big jumpstart to their career as an entrepreneur.
What tips do you have about filling out the application? How did you set your application apart from the rest?
Be yourself. Since incorporating my business in 2009 I have told myself one rule: always be true to yourself. I never want to run a business that didn't directly reflect my personal beliefs. So in your application be yourself, brag a little bit about your accolades and be confident. Growing up my parents never told me I couldn't accomplish any of my goals. My oldest brother scored a 1580 on his practice SAT and he told my father he wanted a perfect score on the real SAT. My dad told him to be realistic because no one gets a perfect score. My brother ended up scoring a perfect 1600 on the national exam and my parents have encouraged me to reach for the stars and achieve my dreams.
Once you were chosen as a finalist, what did you do to get people to vote for you? How did you leverage social media?
I owe a lot of the credit to my school, Drexel University for the support they put behind me in my pursuit of being named College Entrepreneur of 2009. It was really great seeing an e-mail from the college's administration or the dean of the LeBow College of Business and seeing links to "Vote for Brad" attached to the signatures of their e-mails. Drexel even bought the domain voteforbradericson.com. They had me speaking at college events and business lectures all over Philadelphia. I used every resource I had: friends, family, my school, my hometown, the network of entrepreneurs in the city. I used a ton of social media during those six months. My Facebook and LinkedIn connections all saw me promoting the contest everyday for those six months. This contest was the only thing on my mind during the duration of the contest--I was even promoting it on my blackberry while on vacation.
What would you say to someone who might be hesitant to enter because they think they have no chance of actually winning?
Ironically, I think I finally submitted my application as the days to apply were winding down and I waited so long because I thought the exact same thing--that I had no chance in competing with older college kids across the nation. But if you are really passionate about your business and you really want to do something extraordinary put yourself out there and be heard. Be passionate and be heard.
How has winning the contest helped you in your entrepreneurial endeavors?
I can't begin to describe all the help winning this contest has had on the development of my business. I connected with an incredible partner who is working with me full-time, I've gained a huge amount of respect in my industry and even had two partnership offers from our biggest competitors. I've had a tremendous amount of respect and accolades at Drexel and even won a couple scholarships. Most importantly, this contest has given my team an incredible amount of leverage when dealing with investors, clients and partners.
What does the future hold for you?
I'm absolutely thrilled about what 2010 will bring. My partner is graduating from Drexel and will be working full-time with me on the venture. I'll also be taking my six-month internship time and using it to focus solely on my business. We'll finalize our deal with Drexel and expand to a few other schools that we are talking to in the Philadelphia area. Earning some revenue to pay for school is an exciting thing. We hope to expand our management team and board of advisors this year. I'm just living the life I've imagined.