McGill Student Entrepreneurs
“People don’t realize that the person who owns your local bakery, your local print store, they are all entrepreneurs” – Artus Barris, Co-Founder of USB Plus
When people think of entrepreneurship today, they can get caught by the accomplishments of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the many more entrepreneurs like him that turned brilliant ideas into a reality. Entrepreneurship is often associated with groundbreaking apps like Uber, Facebook, Instagram and so on. However, the truth is you do not always need a disruptive idea to become an entrepreneur. There are millions of entrepreneurs among us with simple ideas that can make a difference. Two of these are McGill student co-founders of USB Plus, Mariana Ramos and Artus Barris.
Inspired by companies like Uber and Airbnb with their low fixed cost structure, Ramos and Barris decided to start USB Plus, a seller of superior computer memory solutions. After their class in Information Systems, they discovered how feasible it was as students to start a company. With mostly variable costs, if the project fails, you do not have to pay for it the next day and thus encounter minimal losses. With that in mind, USB Plus does not own much of its value chain. Similar to Uber and Airbnb, Ramos and Artus do not own any warehouses or factories for production. Even their products are manufactured and distributed by their partner NuImpact. NuImpact has contracts with various associations that have connections with companies who are interested in promotional products. However, they had trouble reaching end-users. With that, USB Plus and NuImpact found each other. USB Plus works alongside NuImpact to sell to end-users with their website.
What is surprising is that both founders do not expect to see the startup still running in five years time. Majoring in Information Systems and Economics respectively, Ramos and Barris intend on experimenting with other ventures during their time here at McGill University. To them, USB Plus is just a valuable learning experience that they can use to target goals. They are not preoccupied with the sustainability of their model, instead, they are focused on getting their website onto the first page of Google and to make 30,000 in revenue before they graduate. For now, they are tackling one challenge at a time such as the payment infrastructure for USB Plus. For a small scale firm, a strong understanding of the business is required when choosing a payment option as it does have a heavy influence on profitability. Moreover, with USB Plus only being a few months old, the founders have encountered hurdles when trying to get new customers with their new brand. What they’ve found helpful is investing time and money into making a professional website to gain the trust of consumers.
Ramos and Barris are both only second year U2 students at McGill University and have accomplished a significant amount of success with their venture so far. They have utilized the resources that McGill has to offer and advise other budding entrepreneurs on campus to do the same, such as reaching out to professors for help and taking part in the Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship. Ramos and Barris themselves plan on taking part in Dobson Cup where budding entrepreneurs have the opportunity to receive valuable advising and a chance to win start-up capital for their enterprise. Furthermore, they advise reaching out to students outside of your faculty who have different skill sets to offer.
“You have to be a perfectionist, driven and committed to the idea” Ramos said. In the end, they believe entrepreneurship is a mindset. It requires being a team player and being able to accept failure. Their biggest advice is to just do it. “You don’t have to find the next Facebook. Just keep it simple” Barris said.