Last March, Reid Gahan and his friend Jacob Shiohira decided to start their own on-campus ice cream delivery business, Ice Cream Bro. They began selling pints of Blue Bunny and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for around $4, delivering the ice cream to students at their dorms or apartments. The sophomores from the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln never thought their idea would take off.
“I didn’t think it would reach the level that is has so far,” Gahan said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but seeing the smile I bring on people’s faces when the ice cream comes to their door, that makes all the work worth it.”
But following that dream comes a balancing act.
Running a company while dealing with college life — the stress, deadlines, hard work and studying that come with it — isn’t a challenge most know on campus. But for a certain amount of students at UNL, it’s a reality they’ve embraced with open arms.
When Gahan first started running Ice Cream Bro, he ran into many problems.
“At first, there were a lot of unknown things,” Gahan said. “We didn’t have a specific group of target customers, we weren’t well known and some people didn’t even believe we were real. Sometimes I would deliver to people’s dorms and they would open the door and be surprised that I actually showed up.”
Even now, as Ice Cream Bro delivers weekly on Thursday and Friday nights, garnering a large following in the process, Gahan still faces obstacles.
“Scalability is a big problem. Right now it’s me and two other guys delivering ice cream from my dorm,” Gahan said. “Even with the huge freezer we have right now, our inventory is limited.”
Taking harder classes as well as finding more efficient ways to deliver ice cream add to the stress of the job, but Gahan said that doesn’t discourage him.
“I really love having a business. Working through the problems can be fun,” he said. “The feeling of making other people happy through bringing them ice cream is the best part for me.”
Reid has also utilized social media as a valuable marketing tool in his business endeavors. Ice Cream Bro’s Twitter gained more than 900 followers in less than seven months of operation, and the Facebook page has risen in popularity, as well.
“Having a social media account with a solid following provides credibility for a business,” he said. “I routinely run specials through Twitter and actively engage with our audience on there.”
Gahan said his next step with social media is to get Ice Cream Bro active on Snapchat.
“One roadblock to moving into other social medias is creating original content that is worthy of being shared, and I think that’s another challenge that makes the job even more fun,” he said.
Gahan isn’t the only student to have initial struggles when starting up his company. Brendan Batliner, a sophomore computer science major, has had a lot of entrepreneurial experience in his past. In high school, he took part in an entrepreneurial program and also did workshops for startup companies. In the summer of his senior year, he interned with a startup company in Chicago called TechStars, a program accelerator.
When Batliner arrived at UNL, he and a friend from high school began to collaborate on a meeting scheduling app. They created a prototype, but it wasn’t until several months later that their company, Omnipointment, became official.
“After we created the company, we were really optimistic about things,” Batliner said. “We thought the app would be perfect for busy college students because it enables them to manage meetings and times in an efficient way, plus it works on phones and laptops so it’s really easy and convenient.”
Now that Omnipointment is up and running, Batliner said his life has become much more hectic and busy than before.
“It’s much more difficult to balance priorities because a year ago it was just working on it in my free time. Having the obligation to have momentum and keep selling the product clashes with school, social life and other priorities,” he said.
Batliner said he wants to take his company even further by introducing a feature that allows professors to be more engaged with students’ schedules.
“Starting this month, we will be rolling out collaboration reports to professors that students are working with this semester,” Batliner said. “This will allow professors to get more insight into how groups are collaborating in class through data that they can access.”
This can help professors better target students that need help or design better projects for classes, he said.
Batliner said the hard work yields great results, and that he would recommend entrepreneurship, or at least an endeavor related to others’ majors, during their time in college.
“The skills you learn in startups are more well-rounded and applicable to any job,” Batliner said. “For me personally, I feel so much more capable after going through the experience of running a company, especially early stages, designing a product and listening to customers, prioritizing time, setting goals and stages, and these entrepreneurial ways of thinking that can be beneficial to any career.”