Like many young entrepreneurs, Kevin Kittilsen ’14 and Mateusz Borej ’14 are busy every hour of the day, splitting their time between classes, homework and running their growing business. “Sometimes I don’t know if I should spend my free time on school work or on the business,” says Kittilsen, who along with Borej is majoring in entrepreneurship and small business management.
Last year, Kittilsen was pondering ideas for starting a business. He thought about the fact that he wanted a new iPhone and needed an easy way to sell his. Bingo! He was soon writing a business plan—also a class assignment for Brian Hanlon, Coleman Foundation Professor of Entrepreneurship. The plan outlined a web-based business that solicited and sold used iPhones.
“I’d always wanted to launch a business and I thought Kevin’s plan was a good idea,” says Borej. “I told him, let’s run with it.” Kittilsen secured start-up funds from his parents and both partners waded into the waters of gaining legal advice and setting up an LLC.
Not long after, the pair launched flipyouriphone.com, offering customers the opportunity to mail their iPhones to Borej and Kittilsen, who survey their condition and then issue payments (using PayPal or check) to the sellers. They are then able to resell the phones on Amazon.com at a profit, meeting an insatiable demand. People who buy used phones are not locked into a service contract. “There’s a huge demand for used iPhones overseas,” says Kittilsen. Last spring, they were receiving five to seven phones a day, but anticipate that could grow to 20 or 30.
What does the future hold? Most likely, iPad resales and, perhaps, Android phone models. Their first employee would be someone who could refurbish phones.
“You can’t learn everything inside a classroom is the advice I got from my advisor, Dr. Ernst,” says Borej about Gary Ernst, professor of international business and marketing emeritus. “He said you’ve got to figure things out on your own and the only way to do that is by starting your own business.”