Dec 052007
Authors: Ricki Dugdale

While many college students have become professional beer pong players, concert-goers and sports fans, two CSU seniors have jumped ahead of the game of life by starting up their own business.

Aaron Madonna and Juwon Melvin started their business, DreamReel LLC, in order to provide young adults with the motivation and information necessary to succeed in school and in their professional career.

Their newest contribution to their business, “Go To College,” is a series of motivational audio CDs that tell high school students how current college students overcame hardships to get to college and succeed.

Making a tough decision

Before deciding that they wanted to help encourage and support young adults make major life decisions, such as going to college and succeeding in the business world, Madonna and Melvin had to decide about their own future.

“We both gave up internships in order to have this business,” Madonna said.

Interning with the Qwest Corporation, Madonna had fulfilled his 10-week duties at the company and when asked to come back this past summer, he turned the opportunity down.

Melvin, who had completed his internship with the Target Corporation, was offered a job once he graduated.

“They wanted me to come on board when I graduated,” Melvin said, “But we decided that this business was what we were passionate about.”

However, their passion came at a cost to both students.

“The tough thing for us was either, do we keep working and get the checks or do we do what we are passionate about and not get paid?” Melvin said. “We thought if we really put our all into this, then we would create a great product.”

A New Business

Having learned lessons about getting into college the hard way, Madonna, a senior sociology major, and Melvin, a senior business management major, decided it was their job to help young adults avoid the same hardships.

“DreamReel is a media company that focuses on empowering young adults,” Madonna said. “We are teaching them life skills, like how to get into college and how to be successful in the business world.”

Spending two months on a business plan, Madonna and Melvin received all the funds necessary to open their business over the summer.

In a long process, the two students put together $10,000 in order to buy the necessary audio equipment and got their marketing plan in order.

“One of the hardest things was getting the funds,” Madonna said. “Juwon and I both saved $1,000 and our independent development agency, Mile High United Way, matched what we saved and gave us what we needed.”

Having a target group of 14 to 24 year-olds, Madonna and Melvin are in the beginning stages of their first project.

“We are looking for CSU students to tell their stories about how they got to CSU, about what they had to go through in order to get to college,” Madonna said.

Creating audio recordings of these stories and marketing them to large organizations and school programs that are interested is the ultimate business goal for this project.

Searching for Motivation

“Lessons that we learned the hard way, we want to help others to not have to go through the same things,” Melvin said.

The search for current CSU students who have overcome some kind of hardship to get to college is underway and volunteers are beginning to surface.

“It’s what I like to call their five minutes of fame,” Melvin said. “It’s strictly volunteer basis. We hope that knowing your story will help others is good enough.”

After finding out what hardships many high school students face while making a decision about college with a focus group in Denver, Madonna and Melvin are looking for positive outcomes in current college students.

“We asked our focus group questions about what would prevent them from going to college and some of the responses were not enough money, bad test scores/grades, first generation student and didn’t know what they want to do,” said Melvin.

With eight responses already, Madonna and Melvin are very optimistic about the support they will receive from CSU.

“We have sent emails to professors to pass to students and it’s been very promising thus far,” said Melvin.

Looking to the Future

While their first project is still in the initial stages, Madonna and Melvin are already looking to expand their business by introducing programs to help college students’ transition into the business world.

“We are thinking about, potentially, how students can have a successful transition in to their career after they graduate,” Madonna said.

Staff writer Ricki Dugdale can be reached at

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