Student entrepreneurs launch DVD kiosk at Florham
Juniors and entrepreneurs Matthew Fishman (left) and Joseph Getts flank the ClickAFlick DVD kiosk in the Student Center, which funds their business club Launchpad at the College at Florham.
By Kenna Caprio
There’s a new machine standing amongst the snack and drink machines in the lobby of the Student Center.
ClickAFlick, a DVD kiosk holding 307 titles, arrived during spring break after a year of business plans, loan discussions and pitch revisions. From inspiration to installation, ClickAFlick has been the brainchild of College at Florham juniors Joseph Getts, 21, and Matthew Fishman, 21.
The two entrepreneurship majors, who met in their Interpersonal Skills in Organizations class as sophomores, decided to start a business club on campus: Launchpad. As they were working to get their club going, a friend said — in passing — to Getts, “There should be a Redbox in the Student Center.”
Being the entrepreneurs that they are, Getts and Fishman turned that comment into a business opportunity: ClickAFlick. The two needed funds to support Launchpad, and as such, decided to enter last year’s Silberman College of Business Pitch Competition.
Each pitch needed to include “a problem facing the club or organization on campus. (Ours was) Launchpad didn’t have a budget,” says Getts. Their solution? “A DVD kiosk to generate revenue for our club,” he says. “For the competition (we created) a one page executive summary of our five-page business plan.”
Pitch competition winners were eligible to receive up to $5,000 in grant money, courtesy of Dick Sweeny, alumnus of FDU and co-founder of Keurig.
“It’s not very often that at the undergraduate level students see the way to utilize what is essentially a problem on campus and turn it into a solution,” says Dr. Ethne Swartz, Chair of the Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship.
The idea behind the club is simple: provide aspiring business owners with “the resources necessary to start up,” according to the Launchpad website.
“(We want to have) money to invest into student-run ventures. The best way to model that is to create a start-up ourselves,” says Fishman. “It’s really exciting seeing how far we’ve come.”
Once the two students finalized their business plan and competition pitch last summer — after spending lots of time talking back-and-forth via Skype from their homes in Connecticut and New Hampshire — they turned to finding a manufacturer and looking into loans.
The manufacturer, Signifi, quoted Getts and Fishman a price of $19,000 for the DVD kiosk. After taking second place in the pitch competition, they had $2,000 in grant money. Not nearly enough. So, Getts called relatives, banks, lending agencies, anyone, in an effort to raise the necessary funds.
None of the banks he called even called him back. “They didn’t take me seriously,” Getts says.
At around this time, Getts and Fishman started utilizing www.score.com, a website which offers “expert business counseling.” Through the site, they became acquainted with a retired businessman named Larry who worked in the video rental industry. Larry directed Getts and Fishman to the Small Business Association website. They decided to pursue a SBA backed-loan and started contacting micro-lending intermediaries, which “provide small businesses with small short-term loans for working capital or the purchase of inventory, supplies, furniture, fixtures, machinery and equipment,” according to the SBA website.
Getts hit pay dirt after leaving a message for Paula Star, a loan outreach coordinator at UCEDC in Union, NJ. She asked for their business plan and financial projections. Then she called back and “was impressed,” says Getts. Her company was trying to “move toward lending to young entrepreneurs and students.”
After negotiating with UCEDC in an effort to forgo having someone co-sign the loan, Getts and Fishman had their $12,000. $6,000 came from Getts’ father. Getts contributed $2,500 of his own money. They had the capital, now they just needed to finalize University support.
They found allies in College at Florham Dean of Students Brian Mauro and Associate Dean of Students and Director of Campus Life Jas Verem.
“We were already looking at getting some type of movie rental service on campus and when we heard that Joseph and Matthew were doing this, we thought, ‘Let’s do this,’” says Verem. Verem helped Getts and Fishman “navigate the University’s administration and get their business approved to be on campus. They did a lot, a lot of work. (Now) it’s here and students love it.”
For guidance on start-up businesses and process, Getts and Fishman relied on Swartz for assistance, and later, on law Professor Arthur Schultzer.
“Because classes are smaller, we can network with professors,” says Getts. “Without them we would’ve gotten nowhere. Dr. Swartz has been our go-between and Professor Schultzer has guided us through the crazy world of legality.”
Getts and Fishman met with University Provost Chris Capuano, Assistant Vice-President for Administration Bob Valenti and Professor Schultzer to negotiate and sign a contract with the University. For $1 a year, Launchpad is renting the space in the Student Center for ClickAFlick. Their contract extends through 2019.
Another source of help came through ClickAFlick’s board members. The three alumni — all with business backgrounds — meet with Getts and Fishman, then offer feedback.
“For me, this was a wonderful opportunity to marry the theory that we teach in class to the reality of the lifecycle of a company,” says Swartz.
Furthering the FDU team effort, Getts and Fishman got other students on board: Michelle Hickey, a sophomore and graphic design major, designed the ClickAFlick logo.
“I think that our college is an environment in which all our students should see possibilities,” Swartz says. “Find support to make that dream reality.”
Getts and Fishman agree. “Classes give you the knowledge. It’s up to you to apply it. Because of the atmosphere here, the opportunities exist. You can take advantage of it,” says Getts.
“We’ve been enabled and now we’re enabling others,” says Fishman.
Once the two graduate, they have plans to sell their stock in ClickAFlick to the members of Launchpad, so that the kiosk can continue to support student entrepreneurs.
For now, Getts and Fishman will focus their efforts on marketing ClickAFlick and Launchpad — relying on Facebook, Twitter and campus flyers to get the word out. When they aren’t attending class or promoting their business and club, Getts and Fishman work for Agent Anything, an Internet start-up that Getts describes as “eBay for services.”
“We see what we’re doing now as a launching pad for everything else we’re going to do,” says Fishman.
A fitting perspective for two young men who hope to launch not just themselves, but also FDU students all around them.