Young entrepreneur matches college students with small businesses
Sean Coleman has been an entrepreneur since he was a child, hiring out to do woodworking projects for family members and even outsourcing his chores to his sister and friends for a fraction of what he would be paid. By the time he was in high school he had taught himself graphic design and was successfully advertising his services on eBay.
At 23, Coleman is now the CEO of his own company, OrangeSlyce.com, an online service that matches college students with small businesses that have freelance projects and short-term work they need done. The Barrett Honors College student will graduate Dec. 17 from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering with a degree in computer systems engineering and a dream of continuing to form new businesses.
By doing freelance graphic design and Web development for small companies, Coleman has helped finance his college education and also has developed a client base of more than 100 businesses across the country. He recognized there was a need for a streamlined way for small businesses to locate and hire talented students with flexible work schedules.
He applied for and got a $2,000 grant from the ASU Entrepreneurship Advantage Project to launch OrangeSlyce, which took off this fall and has landed Coleman on the Arizona Republic’s list of “35 Entrepreneurs 35 and Younger.”
His vision for the company is to provide students with opportunities to gain real-world experience with different companies before graduation. Students can seek project-based work related to their major, allowing them to gain experience and also make extra money.
“We see college students as a completely untapped workforce,” says Coleman. “They are very talented, yet they don’t get to utilize the skills they are learning at school. We’d like to expand this to colleges across the country.”
Coleman credits two ASU faculty members with giving him particular help: Thomas Duening, who taught him what investors look for in his entrepreneurship for engineering class, and Adrian Sannier, his thesis mentor, who “was amazing, very motivating. He opened my view of the world,” Coleman says.
One thing he has learned is that $2,000 doesn’t go nearly as far as he thought. Coleman has had to seek out other funding and dip into his savings to keep OrangeSlyce open for business.
“Most of all, I’ve learned that starting a business takes passion and perseverance,” he says. “If I had listened to any of the dozens of people who told me I was on the wrong path, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”