September 28, 2015
Senior West Virginia University student Brandon Cook, of Beckley, West Virginia, stepped foot into the College of Business and Economics his freshman year and decided that majoring in finance would be the right choice for him – even if his ultimate goal was to pursue entrepreneurship.
“I wanted to study an area of business that could really benefit me in the career choice that I want. Being an entrepreneur, I didn’t want to get a degree in marketing, management or accounting; I believed that studying finance would set me in the right direction.”
Cook is the recipient of the DonMar Scholarship for entrepreneurship, as well as the newly-created Jose V. Sartarelli Scholarship by W. Marston & Katherine B. Becker. He serves as the president of the Entrepreneurship Club at WVU, which brings together like-minded students with entrepreneurial ideas in a confidential environment to discuss their ideas.
“The club is a great place for students to bring their ideas for new businesses and ventures, find other students who might be interested in adding to their venture, and more,” Cook said. “We plan on teaming up with the Hospitality Club this month to tour Evansdale Crossing, look at the restaurants they’re putting in and kind of get a behind-the-scenes look before these businesses open. It’s important for all of us, from both organizations, to get a feel for how local restaurants operate.”
Cook and the Entrepreneurship Club have been responsible for putting on Lemonade Day at B&E for the last two years, in which they reach out to local elementary school children to teach them the essence of entrepreneurship, and then give them the chance to practice these concepts through hosting a lemonade stand at B&E.
“The kids average about $500 in sales each year, selling lemonade for one dollar in the best environment in the state – the Downtown Campus at WVU,” Cook said. “It’s really fun to watch these kids learn through doing.”
He accepted the award last year for Outstanding Partner in Higher Education for West Virginia, given to West Virginia University for Lemonade Day.
Cook said he has been “bitten by the entrepreneurship bug,” and recently he and Chris Yura, founder of locally-based SustainU, have been working to start a new business called Mobilize, a marketing company that focuses on recruiting volunteers on college campuses.
“There is a huge lack of volunteering, and too many spots go unfilled on college campuses where there is an excess of people there that could be volunteering,” Cook said. “Our goal for the business is to host events on college campuses that are funded through corporate sponsors and, at these events, motivate college students to want to volunteer more at charities and nonprofits.”
Mobilize will be mobile-based to better accommodate students’ needs. Through an official Mobilize app that Cook and Yura are currently working to develop, students will be able to sign up for volunteering opportunities, track their hours and get university credit for those hours.
Cook says he and Yura hope to launch Mobilize on the WVU campus this spring and then expand to other college campuses in the region. Cook’s future plans also include graduate school at WVU while working on Mobilize, and possibly other ventures that arise.
“I can see myself growing with Mobilize, but will there be a point that I bring other things in or work on other projects, spending my time elsewhere? Yes, definitely, because as an entrepreneur, you never stop looking for things,” Cook said.
“At least once a week, I come up with a new business idea because I’ve gotten a knack for it – which can sometimes be risky. But I don’t mind taking risks because I don’t see myself living the nine-to-five, 40-hour work week lifestyle. I’m making a different future for myself.”