By Johnathan Thomas
For international students coming to the U.S., it can feel that housing options are limited. International grad students often come to the conclusion that campus housing is the only housing option available, especially when non-campus housing options have a reputation for being expensive, inconvenient or unreliable.
That’s where Rolando Manzo, a second-year Kellogg student, and I come in.
Together we founded FullyScreened, a venture that helps international students navigate the complicated housing process, all while making them feel more at home when they arrive in the U.S.
I first met Rolando in our New Venture Discovery class, where on the first day, students pitched business ideas to their classmates, then flesh out those ideas in teams of five to seven students. We independently pitched the same idea and decided during the class break to team up and try to recruit others to join our cause. Although unsuccessful in making our idea the overall class project, we decided to work on the concept outside of class.
Since meeting at the beginning of the fall quarter, we’ve grown our idea into a real company. We’ve presented on startup panels, recruited the help of other students, pitched to potential partners and investors, and even piloted our service to a few winter exchange students. This venture’s journey has not gone without pivots, however. We changed directions as our assumptions were invalidated and our beliefs were updated.
Today, FullyScreened offers international grad students the opportunity to work with a realtor who understands the unique challenges of renting abroad. We help students find the ideal apartment, vet landlords and review leasing contracts. We also work in partnership with grad schools to overcome any verification fears landlords might have when working with international students.
Through our venture, Rolando and I are members of Kellogg’s Entrepreneurs Organization (KEO), where we bond and network with other student CEOs and support one another through our journeys. The resources provided through KEO and The Garage at Northwestern have been extremely helpful in our progress to date.
Early this quarter, we were accepted into the inaugural class of The Garage’s accelerator, Wildfire. We are excited to receive mentorship from talented entrepreneurs and develop our platforms as we grow our business and head into our New Venture Launch course.
Johnathan Thomas is a student in Kellogg’s One-Year MBA Program. In addition to being Founder and CEO of FullyScreened, he is also a licensed realtor by the state of Illinois and Founder and GM of The Thomas Estates, owning and managing seven apartment units in Minneapolis, MN. At Kellogg, he serves as the 1Y KSA Career Chair and 1Y CIM Leader. Prior to Kellogg, he worked for MyGuru as a Market Lead and as an adjunct professor at Robert Morris University.