Bryan Young, a senior at North Carolina State University, and his business partner, Matthew Laster, may still be hitting the books in college, but they have already developed a successful service to bring solutions and success to businesses who need a strong push in the technology direction. Business Empire Consulting Group gears their focus on web design, marketing, sales, and operations management.
YOUNG MONEY: Tell us about your company.
BRYAN YOUNG: Business Empire Consulting Group provides consulting services and an interactive virtual textbook/learning management system. Our consulting service focuses on helping our clients’ build their brand around the customer experiences and this may come in the form of build/improving their website or coming in and completely re-adjusting their operations. The interactive virtual textbook(Business Education Extension aka BEES) looks to teach from practical experience instead of theories to help individual’s go beyond the definition of a problem and actually recommend solutions for what students learn in college classes. We actually started as an online business magazine in August 2008 and then made the decision to switch our business model to consulting and an educational resource in May 2009. The combined experience of our executive team reaches well over 20 years. We’ve worked with companies as small as your local one man-shop and as large as those in the Fortune 500, with annual revenue exceeding $5 billion.
YM: What gave you the idea to start this business?
BY: By the age of 19 my trucking company had reached $5 million in revenue, a fleet of 22 trucks, and over 30 employees. The rapid growth of my company and downward turn of the economy had my financial advisors telling me to consider filing for bankruptcy at the age of 20. It was at that time that I realized that college classes were teaching from theories not practical experience and the things they were telling me should work, weren’t. I met Envier Capps who is now the Director of NC State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative and her methods and philosophies helped me avoid disaster as they opened me up to being willing to change. I restructured the company so that the drivers made a bigger profit than the company and heard many tell me that was the dumbest decision ever. Those companies went out of business and my company didn’t go bankrupt. As I started to share my story more others, many of whom I had never met, came to me for advice as professors were sending my peers to talk to me. I decided to start a website to help them because so many people were contacting me for assistance. Last May we decided to start getting paid for our knowledge.
YM: Where did you get the funding for your business?
BY: Our business is completely self funded. I no longer work with the trucking company but as I made my exit from it I started to fund Business Empire. To accommodate the expected growth of our interactive virtual textbook we are considering outside funding.
YM: What was the hardest thing you encountered while starting your business?
BY: Many of our clients are old enough to be our parents or even have children that are older than Matt and I. Matt and I knew that once people talked to us they’d realize that our experience and knowledge far exceed our age. Early on we had to lower the price of what we knew we were worth just to get a few clients under our belts. In that process we had a company try to take advantage of us and the knowledge they thought we lacked when it came to payment for our services, but we stood our ground and learned from the situation.
YM: What surprised you the most?
BY: Matt and I talk all the time about how “unreal” all of this still feels! We changed our business model in May and our consulting service at the moment this month alone has generated $20,000 in revenue and our interactive virtual textbook has already pre-sold to be used by 3,000 students in college business programs. We’ve also generated interest to grow to other academic departments and as a training tool for corporate employees. We did it all from word of mouth advertising and simply using our creativity to find ways to spark others interest in what we were doing.
YM: What would you do differently?
BY: Nothing! Matt and I were introduced to each other through a mutual friend last October and we clicked instantly. We’ve seen our concept adapt and change over the past year and have grown with every client interaction.
YM: Is this your first business?
BY: No, this is actually the fourth business that I have started through self funding. At 8 years old I used my lunch money to by candy at wholesale prices and sell it at school. At 12, I used my allowance to buy a lawn mower and built a successful lawn care company. At 17, instead of buying my first car I brought an 18-wheeler to start a long haul trucking service. Then right before my 21st birthday I launched Business Empire Magazine which has become Business Empire Consulting Group.
YM: How many employees do you have?
BY: We currently have 9 employees and will hire 5 more over the next 2-3 weeks. In May we moved into an office and then moved out of it so we are also in the market for office space again.
YM: How do you get your name out there and get customers? What has been your
most effective marketing technique or tactic?
BY: Actually when Matt built the new website I came up with this crazy idea to create a buzz for our old site. We had 400 t-shirts with our company logo and website, 500 friends put up a cool slogan with a link to our website on their facebook status, and we had 1,000 flyers made with a guy looking down with his mouth wide open and looking down that said “I can see your business” with a link to our website on the bottom. We put that flyer above every male bathroom stale on campus. Matt and I had his fraternity brothers, friends, professors, and random people all participate on in wearing the shirts, putting up the status feeds, and we woke up at 6 a.m. to put the flyers around campus before the lunchtime rush. Within the first hour 17,000 people rushed to our website and shut down our server for about 30 minutes. Our hosting company gave us a slap on the hand for the stunt and NC State Alumni were beating down our door to bring our creativity into their company. This guerilla and viral marketing campaign that we launched back in January was really the only one we’ve done and it only cost us $2,000. We then started getting campus media attention and I started speaking to business class at NC State and that has kept our client list steady.
YM: What effect has the recession had on your business?
BY: The recession has made me the dumbest person in the right room. I mean that in a good way as it has allowed me to surround myself with individuals who are all very talented for pennies on the dollar. When we made the decision to finally go forward with consulting the type of clients my team had worked with included Terminix, CondeNast, Cartoon Network, Progress Energy, TruGreen, Merry Maids, and American Home Shield and that is only naming a few of the bigger ones. We recently hired Kathy Roberts who has 20 years of operations management experience as our COO, she is the only person over 28 on our staff. The key players in our operation all were making well over six figures before joining us and they we’re willing to take huge pay cuts for equity in our company.
YM: If you could offer one piece of concrete advice to other people, what would it be?
BY: A vision is only as good as the team you put behind it. As a consultant I come across many people of all ages with good ideas, but it is the execution of those ideas that makes the difference. I always tell people to dream is to be a great thinker, but to achieve is to be great at executing.
YM: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
BY: Empower failure and use it as your greatest learning tool. So many people give so much power and effort to avoiding failure and you can only imagine what would happen if they gave that same amount of power and effort to their dreams and goals. In that regards starting a business during college or at a young age is an excellent opportunity because you have plenty of time to learn from any mistakes you make and start over if necessary. As you get older you’re weighed down by mortgages, kids, and other fixed expenses that are present for most in their youth.