How I built and scaled my tech startup at Kellogg

jared_scharen-photo“Jared, are you still alive?”

My classmates often ask me this question in this jest because I am the typical Kellogg School student entrepreneur: an entrepreneur that eats, sleeps and breathes his startup, while still juggling the rigors of Kellogg’s academics and extracurriculars.

Being an entrepreneur at Kellogg is a challenging journey that many people will never truly understand, but at the same time, it is a journey that can be incredibly rewarding if done right.

I am the CEO of eRetirements, a tech startup that provides user-friendly, personalized retirement location information for soon-to-be retirees.

The inspiration for my startup came in March 2015 when my parents called me to complain about their “dream” retirement location. When my friends asked me what resources my parents used to select their location, I explained that they didn’t use any.

When I spoke with other retirees, I learned that a comprehensive resource for retirement location planning did not exist. I knew then that I had to solve this problem by creating eRetirements, an online tool that that offers tailored relocation recommendations for retirees.

When I arrived at Kellogg in Fall 2015, eRetirements was on its way with a prototype website and preliminary market research. In order to officially launch eRetirements, I decided to seek as much advice and assistance as possible from Professors Linda Darragh, Carter Cast, and Troy Henikoff. All of these professors are seasoned entrepreneurs who are genuinely interested in helping students like me launch successful startups.

Besides asking for advice from the incredible Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative (KIEI) faculty, I also took advantage of Kellogg’s robust entrepreneurship and marketing courses. As an individual with no coding experience, Introduction to Software Development was an invaluable course for me. It provided me with an overview and general understanding of coding, which helped me effectively manage my development team.

Entrepreneurial Tools for Digital Marketing equipped me with all types of tricks and strategies to improve our website traffic, and the New Venture series did an incredible job of taking me through the entrepreneurship journey step-by-step. (This series lets students “discover, test and launch” their entrepreneurial endeavors through experiential learning coursework and real-life experiences.)

Additionally, I took advantage of The Garage. The Garage is an incubator on Northwestern’s campus that offers a residency program and even a pre-accelerator. It provides a physical space for students to meet, learn and flesh out their ideas, and it is a phenomenal opportunity to integrate with other entrepreneurs from a variety of disciplines.

Like all things in life, balance is key when it comes to being an entrepreneur at Kellogg. Juggling your personal life, classes and startup commitments is admittedly challenging. However, I believe that the Kellogg community offers a support system that makes all of this juggling possible.

I am happy to report that eRetirements continues to grow everyday; we have had nearly 2,000 users sign up thus far, and we recently sold our first advertising contracts. I’m excited to see what’s next for eRetirements – and how we will continue to scale with the help of Kellogg’s professors, academics and other unique offerings.

Jared Scharen is a second-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year Program and CEO/Co-Founder of eRetirements.com. He is VP of alumni relations for the eClub, a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee and actively involved with The Garage. Prior to Kellogg, Jared was a consultant at McKinsey & Co. and spent a year volunteering with TechnoServe in Peru. He received his B.S. in Finance and Economics from Villanova University.

 

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