Recruiting for Success: Tapping into Your Local University

DTA,REDI,Mike Brooks,Startup Tips, recruitingPeople sometimes assume that a startup needs to be based in a large city or Silicon Valley to succeed. While both these locations might offer certain advantages to a new business, college towns can offer just as many incentives. The presence of colleges or universities in your locale can reduce your costs and allow you to form lasting and rewarding relationships with those institutions. Perhaps the most rewarding and beneficial aspect of running your startup out of a college town is the chance to hire willing, intelligent, and dedicated students. The opportunities and experiences found in smaller college towns can provide your startup with the resources you need to succeed.


Considering the Cost


Consider how expensive it would be to start and run a business in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or New York City. The cost of starting a business in a smaller college town can be significantly less than in a metropolitan area. Workspaces can be rented at a lower cost, and starting wages for employees, coupled with the lower cost of living, can greatly benefit your bottom line during your formative years.


Funds saved can be used for more important startup endeavors, such as marketing, attending conferences, or improving products. And while it might seem that there will be fewer opportunities to meet and interact with mentors and advisors, you might be one of a handful of young companies innovating in a specific area. You’ll have ready access to university professors who have worked in the corporate world and can provide invaluable insight into a particular industry.


Creativity and Innovation


Each new school year in a college town is beneficial for startups for many reasons. One of the most basic opportunities in a college town is the influx of new students every fall. Fresh faces and eager learners bring new skillsets and experiences.


Many students seek part-time employment to help support themselves or pay for tuition. Your business then has an affordable and available built-in workforce. Recruiting entrepreneurial-minded students will help you develop a driven staff, and being near a university that offers degree programs in business, advertising, design, and information technology will provide you with the opportunity to recruit some of the top students and young entrepreneurs in the country.


These employees can also help make your startup visible on campus with their ties to other organizations or clubs. They will usually know what’s popular with — and meaningful to — their peers and the school as a whole. With this knowledge, they can help propel your company forward by talking to others about it or promoting your products. Relaying your company’s message to different groups of consumers or potential clients is always a good thing.




Internship Opportunities


Many students will seek internships to enhance their professional and classroom experiences. Several majors may even require internships with local organizations to graduate. This is a great way for your startup to gain the insight and assistance of a dedicated employee without incurring any cost.


You also have your next potential full-time employee in an intern who already knows your company and its operating procedures. Finding interns can require a more focused effort than simply hiring part-time employees, but the long-term payoff can be well worth it. Through these opportunities, your company might be able to become an educational partner with a university’s internship program.


Practical Partnerships


The invaluable educational partnership opportunities form another great aspect of running your startup in a college town. These partnerships are a way to gain new resources and provide an educational opportunity in return. Your business can gain access to costly university equipment or programs that you wouldn’t have otherwise. This gives you the chance to foster a learning environment for students working with your company as well.


A great example in my own college town is Newsy. Its founder, Jim Spencer, was the vice president of content and answers at Ask Jeeves. When he decided to make the leap into the entrepreneurial world, he relocated to Columbia, Mo. By collaborating and partnering with the University of Missouri’s Journalism School, he was able to recruit top talent for his video-based news startup. In exchange, Newsy staff teaches courses, furthering the students’ education in evolving media, and it provides young journalists with access to a digital news facility. Various different economic development and investor organizations worked together in order to help Newsy make Columbia its home.


Many colleges or departments also require students to have a capstone experience during their senior year. Offering your company as a case study or viable research option can again provide students with an enriching educational experience. Specific courses might even ask you to present your journey and experience as an entrepreneur to students. This opportunity can give you a chance to reflect on the skills and determination that led to your success, providing you a platform to market your business.


University towns commonly have an ample supply of resources, talent, and enthusiasm for innovation and success. By partnering with a local university, you can take advantage of internship and part-time student employment possibilities, university equipment and forums, and a consistent foundation for networking and marketing. While all of these factors benefit your business goals, the true reward is guiding and educating future entrepreneurs and leaders.


Mike Brooks is President of REDI (Regional Economic Development, Inc.) in Columbia, Mo. REDI promotes positive economic expansion and provides increased economic opportunities in the Columbia area, assisting entrepreneurs, developing businesses, and companies relocating. As president, Mike led REDI in creating a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurship and business growth in Columbia. Mike welcomes anyone to reach out to him on LinkedIn or REDI at

Startups: Is Your Public Relations Strategy Outdated?

Startup Tips, John Hall,DTA,YECThere’s one thing that’s consistent in this world: change. This is no less true in business; industries have to evolve to keep up with developing technology and new trends. On top of that, they have to promote their ability to keep up altogether.

In the past, public relations required a client to pay a large retainer in order to be mentioned in a sidebar or get quick features published, promoting a service or product. Today, the future of PR is online, and it includes a combination of content marketing, SEO and thought leadership. Times are changing, and there are some things you should take into consideration when you’re making decisions about your startup’s PR.

People Want to See Results

In the past, PR companies weren’t held to meeting specific client expectations. They could always hide behind saying, “How do you measure credibility and authority?” Clients consistently felt screwed over by PR companies because they were paying a sizable retainer without any way to gauge the results. With online tools, you can now track exactly where leads and opportunities are coming from. The analytic tools that are available online — like Google Analytics, DoubleClick Ad Planner, WhoReTweetedMe, and Klout – can help you get a better idea of the results of placements.

To break down sales barriers and comfort people who have previously been shafted by PR companies, pay-for-performance models should be adopted. When I switched Digital Talent Agents to this model, our client base doubled and customer satisfaction increased. Retainers have left a bad taste in many people’s mouths and will continue to be used less. Don’t ride this dinosaur any longer than you have to.

Paper Is a Thing of the Past

Instead of grabbing your morning paper off the front porch, you likely get your preferred content on your tablet or phone these days. The future is online, so print editions are becoming archaic and far less beneficial. The focus won’t be on just the initial placement of an article, but on the potential effect of it going viral. Social media can accelerate media exposure just by having the right influencer sharing it with his networks. If you don’t get the social media boost you’re looking for, there are content aggregators, like Zite, that give your content another vehicle to reach the right influencers.

Google is also rewarding site owners for the higher amounts of quality content they have available. The easier it is to find your name and your article, the more exposure you will get; that allows for a tail benefit that can last much longer than a one-day feature in a newsletter. Magazines and newspapers are thrown away after one read and don’t give you the opportunity to amplify your media exposure, but an online post can be shared over and over again.

The Best Promotion Is Not Being Promotional

Personal and company branding will be extremely important in any PR campaign. The more you concentrate on building your brand, the more press opportunities will naturally come to you. People can see through a promotional piece pretty easily, so direct your efforts toward educating people as a thought leader. It’s the best way to promote yourself without seeming like you’re being promotional. If you just concentrate on a promotional piece to bring in leads, you’ll have a short-term gain. However, if you change  strategy and start developing your own content as a thought leader, you have a short-term gain and you help build your long-term brand, which ultimately is more important. It’s what everybody should be working toward. Industries and approaches change, but your reputation can last if you play your cards right.

“Mad Men”-era public relations are a dying breed. Old-school PR companies companies may still insist upon paper press releases, a trusting attitude toward the “results” they’re producing, and promotional features that focus more on what your clients can do for you than what you can do for your clients.

But if you want to keep up with changing times, ditch these efforts, and focus on PR that gives you a high return on investment every single time. Insist upon results, and you won’t feel screwed by PR companies – you’ll feel empowered by them.

John Hall is the CEO of Digital Talent Agents, a company that helps experts build their personal and company brand through producing high quality content for reputable publications.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

Now check out 5 Rules for naming your startup.