By PETER JI
For The News-Letter
Hopkins Student Enterprises (HSE), headquartered in Whitehead Hall, has supported student entrepreneurs with eight successful businesses since 2006.
Businesses that HSE has helped build include Hop and Shake, a smoothie kiosk in the Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center and the Blue Jay Cleaners, a student-run janitorial service. HSE also runs Blue Jay Bay, an online marketplace that allows Hopkins students to exchange used furniture.
“We strictly employ hundreds of undergraduate students. They’re actually the highest-paying positions on campus as well, paying between $9 and $20 per hour. A manager makes between 10 and 30 percent of the business profits. We have businesses that exceed $200,000 in revenue annually,” junior and HSE CEO Noah Presler said. “There’s no other place on campus where you can become an employee, become a manager and join the executive team. You learn a lot more than you do in the classroom about entrepreneurship.”
Presler joined the organization when he was a freshman, creating Hop and Shake in collaboration with other students. In his time as CEO he has used his entrepreneurial skills to found three other businesses in the past year. Currently HSE manages eight student-run businesses.
“We offer student entrepreneurs the ability to develop their business ideas,” Presler said. “We inject a one-time cash injection for that business, and once we start profiting from that investment, and once we pay back the costs, we go to create the next business. We sustain all the HSE businesses by continuing to do that.”
HSE is entirely managed by students, and it operates without University funding.
Junior Mike Wang founded Hopkins Creative Design (HCD) when he was a freshman and is currently its chief creative officer and general manager. HCD designs many of the Hopkins logos that have a ubiquitous presence on campus, on T-shirts and the Internet for example. To him HSE was instrumental in his ability to apply his passion for creative design to creating a business.
“I was doing a bunch of random graphic design work, and I caught the attention of the old [HSE] CEO. He reached out to me and told me that HSE would be interested in having me join the team, maybe by making a parent visual design company,” Wang said. “I was interested, and they had me do a business plan, an interview, and once I was in I got all the resources I needed to start a graphic design and apparel business.”
The HSE team is currently gearing up for the sale of holiday sweaters in early December. They are setting up an online pre-order system that will allow them to better anticipate demand after the 75 sweaters they had ordered last year sold out in less than 10 minutes. This year students participated in selecting the final design through a vote.
Presler, along with junior and Chief Technical Officer Max Yeo, implemented the pre-order page and payment system for HCD’s holiday sweater sale. Yeo emphasized that website design is an important part of HSE’s work.
“I’ve been with HSE for 11 months now… All these eight businesses had good business plans, and they were functioning very well but they were lacking on the technical side. I revamped the HSE site and later created Blue Jay Bay’s website… It’s a business that relies heavily on the website,” Yeo said.
HSE hopes to make the holiday sweater sale a new Hopkins tradition. The team improved the organization of the event, at which they plan to serve hot chocolate in addition to sweaters.
Wang spoke about how HSE is preparing for the sale.
“The first and last people who voted for the design got the sweaters for free. It’s a way to get people excited. We’re running pre-orders through Johns Hopkins Paywire,” Wang said. “We’re reaching out to parents and students, and we’re getting a lot of pre-orders that way. Ultimately the plan is to after we get a good number of pre-orders, we’re going to print a limited amount of sweaters that haven’t been called for, and we’re going to sell them during our sale… People who pre-ordered it are going to pick it up.”
In addition to operating several businesses HSE also provides students an educational opportunity. One does not need a background in business, marketing or web development to approach HSE with an idea or proposal.
“All you have to do is to come up with an idea. We’ll organize a team that’s fitting for the pitch topic. We’ll listen to the idea. We don’t expect extensive lists or projections at that point. We’ll help you evaluate the idea,” Presler said. “After that we’ll look at projections and either accept or deny you from there. If accepted we’ll give you full funding to start your businesses, including insurance, location and [employing] students.”