Dec 022007
Authors: Tim Maddocks

Some students at CSU aren’t listening to the increasingly pervasive caveat that they need a degree before they can be successful — and capitalizing.

When typical students need extra money, they might work at Taco Bell, ask mom and dad or maybe check the couch for change.

Others become entrepreneurs.

Dawn R. DeTienne, a CSU business professor who teaches an entrepreneurship course, said starting a business takes initiative and hard work.

“Entrepreneurship is really a career choice and those students who have been exposed to it as a career option will be more likely to start a small venture rather than the typical college jobs,” she said. “It impresses me . the small venture experience gives confidence and knowledge to move to a higher level.”

Of DeTienne’s current class of 58 students, 21 have taken the initiative to start their own business — a number she says is not typical of business students.

From cosmetics to house cleaning to playing music there are plenty of business options students at CSU have taken full advantage of.

“A lot of entrepreneurship is just understanding the process and having the confidence to do it,” DeTienne said.

Cash in cosmetics

Molly Dunkle and Katie Barstow, business majors and high school friends from Fort Collins, started a small but successful cosmetics company in the summer of 2006.

Though the seeds of Sweets Cosmetics were planted on Christmas 2004. Dunkle’s father, a chemist at a Loveland chemistry product manufacturer, gave her beeswax and cocoa butter — the core ingredients for lip balm — as a Christmas gift.

With these tools, Dunkle began honing her signature product.

A few months later, at age 15, Dunkle was awarded with $1500 for her venture by Independent Means Inc. In her business plan, she coined her company’s name: Sweets Cosmetics.

Two years after spending her winnings on a solo trip to Australia, a 17-year-old Dunkle discovered that she could make more money realizing her business plan.

She began experimenting with oils and fragrances, creating her own lotions and fragrance sprays in her parents’ basement. Once her product line began to shape up, Dunkle needed a business partner. Barstow, who had worked for her father’s stamp company for five years, joined Dunkle in the summer of 2006.

“We call ourselves the mad marketer and the crazy chemist,” Barstow said.

Thirteen Fort Collins retailers carry Sweet Cosmetics, including Screaming Peach and Genoa Coffee. At a three-day business school conference earlier this semester, Barstow and Dunkle sold 150 tubes of their lip balm.

Barstow said some people find it hard to believe that they create all their own products. Some even go so far as to accuse them of repackaging products from other companies.

“Somebody was like, ‘How do you put the lip balm into the tube?'” she said.

“Everything is made by us,” Dunkle said.

With a savvy business plan and quality product, all the girls needed was a unique marketing campaign. They used the technique of humorous labeling employed by Glaceau Vitamin Water, with funny diatribes on the labels of their products.

“Friends don’t let friends use corporate lip balm,” says one of the labels.

Cleaning everything but their dorm room

Freshmen open option majors Sarah Crawford, 19, and Skyler Michie, 18, also friends from Fort Collins High School, started cleaning houses the summer before beginning at CSU when some of Michie’s babysitting clients asked her if she cleaned as well.

After Crawford and Michie cleaned a few houses and Michie’s mother, a hair stylist from Salon deChelle, drummed up some business for them, their efforts snowballed into a lucrative venture called Dust Busters Cleaning.

Their company slogan is “trust us to bust” and they have a solid patronage purely built from word of mouth.

“It’s hard work,” said Crawford, “We’ll be sweating and everything man, but it’s fun.”

Living in the residence halls, Michie has to keep their biggest investment, a $350 backpack vacuum cleaner, in her car and all other equipment resides at their clients’ houses.

“We decided when school started that it would be the quickest way to make the most money in the shortest amount of time,” said Michie.

School comes first for the women, but balancing school and business is a juggling act.

“Since school started, we’ve got a lot of job offers and had to turn them down,” Crawford said.

“We kind of give all our clients a disclaimer,” Michie said. “When we clean may be subject to change for school.”

Business doesn’t get in the way of business

For Austin Richason, aka DJ Roy$e, 21, his business classes don’t get in the way. His work starts when the parties begin.

When Richason was a teenager growing up in Denver, he asked for speakers and DJ equipment while his peers were asking for toys and video games.

“When I was a freshman in high school,” Richason said. “I threw a really, really big party and after that, everybody saw that I was good. So then they asked me to do their party and I told them to pay me. So that’s how that started.”

When he started classes at CSU, Richason built his business through a friend in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority who gave him his first Fort Collins gig. His clientele base grew from there.

Richason has been at Greek formals, proms, weddings, debutante balls, prep rallies and concerts.

But he enjoys formal dances the most.

“It’s more personal. People can come up and request songs,” Richason said. “Sometimes I’ll play a song they haven’t heard in a long time . some people will come up and hug me.”

Staff Writer Tim Maddocks can be reached at

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