“A lot of people are watching their budgets,” says Danny Klam, the co-founder of Simply Splendid Doughnuts and Ice Cream, “but they’re still buying doughnuts.” Klam's business surpassed its $ 1.2 million revenue goal for 2009, and he and his cousin Rock hope to open a new location in Katy, Texas, in April. It will be the seventh Simply Splendid, and the fourth that the cousins own together after selling three locations early on. Their goal is to have 10 stores in the Houston area by 2012.
After having trouble monetizing their original product to school districts—it was an application that allowed teachers of foreign languages to make assignments by combining text, images, and video—Justin Cannon and Chris Varenhorst decided to go after a broader target market. Their recently launched commercial product is a computer game designed to teach language. Right now it is only available for learning Chinese, but the pair intend to release French and Spanish versions within the next two months. They’re still giving away their original product, which they’ve re-branded Lingt Classroom, and it is being used by 3,000 classrooms in 85 countries.
While GoCrossCampus, the first game that GXStudios launched, successfully created a large user base by pitting university students against students at their rival schools, when it came time to generate revenue co-founders Matthew Brimer, Brad Hargreaves, Sean Mehra, and Jeffrey Reitman hit a roadblock. After launching a separate site which included games that could take advantage of rivalries outside of universities, they found that advertisers were reluctant to spend their reduced budgets on a new genre. After abandoning their original venture, Brad has taken on an entrepreneur residence role at a New York incubator, Matt has been laying the groundwork for a tech start-up coworking space as well as working on a social game for Facebook, and Sean and Jeff have made plans to attend business school next year.
“Not really much has changed except for the economy,” says Zac Workman, the founder of ZW Enterprises, which makes an all-natural energy drink called Punch. Although the company was expected to make $1 million in revenue in 2009, Workman lowered his expectations when a deal with a major distributor fell through and budget-conscious consumers edged away from energy drinks. Fortunately, things are looking up for 2010. The company recently signed a deal with a national distributor that will sell Punch in the Chicago area and has plans to develop a sugar-free version of its drink for consumers who are counting calories.
Since last year, PurBlu CEO Ben Lewis expanded the concept of his first product, a bottled water called Give Water, to energy drinks. Like Give Water, a portion of each sale of Give Energy drinks is donated to a local charity, but the Give Energy charities are specifically grassroots sustainability initiatives. In addition to the three flavors of new energy drinks, PurBlu also launched a line of energy shots called Potion Herbal Remedy last fall. Thus far, Lewis says the shots are taking off. “Believe it or not, energy shots are the fastest growing category in beverages,” he says.
After being featured in last year’s coolest college start-ups, David Wachtel started hearing from students across the country who were excited about bringing College Weekenders to their campuses. And after winning second place in his school’s business plan competition, Wachtel had the funds to do it. In the past year, he implemented programs at the University of Oregon, the University of Wisconsin, and Florida State University that organize discounted group trips for students who attend away football games. He plans to add one or two schools every year.
CEO Caroline Rooney is now selling her T-shirt line from Italy. Her parents are helping fill orders when she’s studying abroad, but she’s still able to follow her viral marketing campaigns and remain in contact with her team via the internet. She’s also leveraged the Bearon into a brand by launching two Bearon-themed blogs and taking on other design projects outside of T-shirts—among them projects for organizations ranging from the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship to a wakeboarding team.
Jessica Mah and Andy Su are both set to graduate from the UC Berkeley this summer, but, in a sense, they both graduated from InternshipIN last summer. “It helped a lot of people find internships,” says Mah of InternshipIN, “but more importantly it gave my partner and I an opportunity to work together that led to us building a new company that’s doing so much better at generating revenue.” InternshipIN is still up and running, but now the partners are focusing on their new start-up Indinero, a financing web application that caters to small business owners.