In her tiny apartment kitchen, Rosie Swan creams butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in her stand mixer. After slowly adding flour and other dry ingredients, she forms the dough into round balls using a metal scoop, spaces them apart on a baking sheet and slides them into the preheated oven. The end result: cookies.
And, perhaps, a better job after graduation.
Swan is the owner, manager, baker and delivery driver for The Cookie Jar, a company she created to deliver home-baked cookies around campus—and one of an increasing number of students who are forming their own businesses while still in school. Today, four student-owned businesses exist on campus: FliX, a video rental store; Muskie Market, an online grocery store; Xpress Laundry Service, which picks up and delivers laundry to residence halls; and, of course, The Cookie Jar.
Collectively, they helped The Princeton Review rank Xavier 17th among the top 25 most entrepreneurial schools in the nation. But, more important, the businesses are giving the students what they need to enter the business world one step ahead of others: experience.
Swan, a senior management and entrepreneurial studies student, learned due diligence by doing the requisite research before launching her business—finding students were, um, hungry for her idea. She learned quality control—any less-than-perfect cookies are relegated to a small red tin for hungry roommates. She’s learned economics and marketing and finance.
And, so far, her company is thriving, even winning second place in an undergraduate business competition sponsored by the Williams College of Business. The honor came with a $500 prize, but the real payoff may come later.
“Students believe that learning and managing businesses on campus before graduation gives them much preparation and better experience for their career,” says Daewoo Park, director for Xavier’s Entrepreneurial Center. “They have internship or co-op experience opportunities, but having the opportunity to start, run and manage their own business on campus is very good preparation for future success.”
Tom Awadalla, founder of Xpress Laundry Service, already knows how big of an advantage it can be. With an entire semester to go, he already accepted a job with Merrill Lynch after graduation. His business partners also accepted positions at Smith-Barney, Fifth Third Bank and National City. “The point really was to provide a résumé booster for applying for jobs,” says Awadalla. “And it’s been really beneficial in that sense because it really separates applicants.”
“Their businesses were like launching points for getting great jobs, because people are looking for entrepreneurs in businesses today,” says Tom Clark, former director of the Center, who handed the reins to Park this year.
Park is now developing a black belt program to boost confidence and increase the success rate. “The program consists of yellow, green, blue and black belts,” he says. “At each level, we measure the student’s knowledge, skills and confidence. If they have enough—understanding finance, marketing, accounting and all other areas—we’ll promote them to a black belt. When they finish the black belt program, they can put it on their résumé.”
For Swan, some impressive post-graduate opportunities await. In the meantime, she has some baking to do. In November, she met Kroger CEO David Dillon during a reception on campus and told him about The Cookie Jar.
“The next day I got an e-mail from him, and he ordered seven dozen cookies to be delivered downtown for his meeting on Monday.”
Dillon then offered Swan use of Kroger’s resources, including the opportunity to conduct sampling in its Norwood or Hyde Park stores and use of the company’s test kitchens. Swan also negotiated a contract with Coffee Emporium to bake large, gourmet-style cookies for its stores—one on campus and two around town.
“Some people ask me, ‘Don’t you hate baking cookies now?’ ”she says. “It’s really not that difficult, because I love baking, and the only time it gets really hard is if I have a rough week with homework or a lot of exams.”
In the meantime, she’s rolling in the dough.