Young entrepreneurs start Web sites, Campustown businesses

Brennan Caughron

By Colleen Vest

Between classes, exams and going out, it can be hard enough to find time to sleep. But several students and recent graduates have started their own Web-based businesses – a photography company and two restaurants.

Ryan and Ashton Clark, twin brothers and juniors in Business and Engineering, have launched several successful Web-based businesses over the past four years and plan to launch more in the coming months.

“We’re entrepreneur-minded, so we’ll find a problem that relates to our life and other people’s lives and create a solution,” Ryan said.

“We’re like project managers or technology consultants,” Ashton added.

At 16, the Clarks launched, a shoe Web site that indexes more than 50,000 products and more than 500 brands.

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    “It’s a ‘shoe kingdom’ if you will, and you can also buy backpacks and athletic wear,” he said.

    A year and a half later, they launched, a music database that catalogs and charges a monthly fee for complete access to a collection of “mix tapes,” Ryan said.

    “Mix tapes are customized compilations DJs create to make buzz before a major album release,” he said.

    With the success of their Web sites, Ryan and Ashton’s businesses are self-funded. They reinvest their profits into other current and future companies, including, a Web site designed to bring ticket sellers and buyers together, that is scheduled to launch in the next couple months.

    “We don’t do this to make a profit,” Ryan said. “We got started in Web-based companies because we enjoy it and like being able to control our paths.”

    Four students and photographers also decided to control their own paths.

    Elise Pescheret, sophomore in FAA and Media, Sam Snyder, sophomore in FAA, and graduate students Jori Brewer and Kiley Reed Black started Paperdoll Productions- an event photography company geared toward students.

    “Anything can count as an event,” Brewer said. “A ‘girl’s night out,’ Greek barn dances and recruitments, even birthday parties can count.”

    After taking pictures at the event free of charge, the four students upload all the photos on their Web site,, on a password-protected page for guests to view and purchase as individual prints or a CD, Reed Black said.

    “We are hoping that some of the images we make are really gorgeous, exhibition ready portraits,” Black said.

    “It’s almost like making your everyday pictures seem like a work of art,” Pescheret added.

    A recent college graduate and co-owner of Fat Sandwich Company, a restaurant that offers a variety of offbeat sandwiches, said youth and inexperience can sometimes be difficult to overcome when trying to start a new business.

    Within two years of graduating from Penn State University, Adam Pearlman and Cole Lewko opened two Fat Sandwich Company restaurants: one in Norman, Okla., and one in Champaign, at 502 E. John St.

    “It was difficult at first, being so young because we were only 22,” Pearlman said. “At first people didn’t take us too seriously because we were so new and young, but we didn’t let it affect us.”

    Ryan McNeily, a 2008 University graduate and co-owner of Howbowda Bagel, 611A E. Green St., shared some advice for students looking to open their own businesses.

    Last May, while most students were busy studying for finals, McNeily and Dustin Canter, then seniors, were putting together plans for a new bagel business they were planning to open in Campustown.

    “The number one thing I learned is that you have to be a little bold,” McNeily said. “I remember the first time we went into a lender, and I was really nervous. A part of me just wanted to get back in the car and drive away, but we threw caution to the wind and a lot of success has come from that.”