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College 'Trep of '09 Dishes On How He Won

By Kara Ohngren Prior

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

bradley.jpgWhen 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.

Why do you think college students should enter this contest?
Being named Entrepreneur Magazine's College Entrepreneur of 2009 hasbrought more opportunities and invaluable publicity to my business thanany other award I've ever received in my lifetime. Entering thiscompetition will give one college student with an amazing idea, apassion and determination to succeed, a step ahead of the competitionand 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 myselfone rule: always be true to yourself. I never want to run a businessthat didn't directly reflect my personal beliefs. So in yourapplication be yourself, brag a little bit about your accolades and beconfident. Growing up my parents never told me I couldn't accomplishany of my goals. My oldest brother scored a 1580 on his practice SATand he told my father he wanted a perfect score on the real SAT. My dadtold him to be realistic because no one gets a perfect score. Mybrother ended up scoring a perfect 1600 on the national exam and myparents 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 thesupport they put behind me in my pursuit of being named CollegeEntrepreneur of 2009. It was really great seeing an e-mail from thecollege's administration or the dean of the LeBow College of Businessand seeing links to "Vote for Brad" attached to the signatures of theire-mails. Drexel even bought the domain voteforbradericson.com. They hadme speaking at college events and business lectures all overPhiladelphia. I used every resource I had: friends, family, my school,my hometown, the network of entrepreneurs in the city. I used a ton ofsocial media during those six months. My Facebook and LinkedInconnections all saw me promoting the contest everyday for those sixmonths. This contest was the only thing on my mind during the durationof the contest--I was even promoting it on my blackberry while onvacation.

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 toapply were winding down and I waited so long because I thought theexact same thing--that I had no chance in competing with older collegekids across the nation. But if you are really passionate about yourbusiness and you really want to do something extraordinary put yourselfout 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 onthe development of my business. I connected with an incredible partnerwho is working with me full-time, I've gained a huge amount of respectin my industry and even had two partnership offers from our biggestcompetitors. I've had a tremendous amount of respect and accolades atDrexel and even won a couple scholarships. Most importantly, thiscontest has given my team an incredible amount of leverage when dealingwith investors, clients and partners.

What does the future hold for you?
I'm absolutely thrilled about what 2010 will bring. My partner isgraduating from Drexel and will be working full-time with me on theventure. I'll also be taking my six-month internship time and using itto focus solely on my business. We'll finalize our deal with Drexel andexpand to a few other schools that we are talking to in thePhiladelphia area. Earning some revenue to pay for school is anexciting thing. We hope to expand our management team and board ofadvisors this year. I'm just living the life I've imagined.

Kara Ohngren is a freelance writer and part-time editor at YoungEntrepreneur. Her work has appeared in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Huffington Post and Business Insider.

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