6 Student Start-Ups to Know (Plus Top Programs for Aspiring Entrepreneurs)

Skills like creativity, communication, design and problem-solving are necessary for entrepreneurs of any age. With an increasing number of start-up businesses and the popularity of shows like ABC’s “Shark Tank,” more and more students are turning their innovative ideas into actual businesses. Here are six young North Shore businesspeople who are making names for themselves with promising start-up companies.

The Entrepreneur: William Duckworth, UPenn
The Start-Up: Fever Smart 

Lake Forest resident and current UPenn junior William Duckworth and three other students created Fever Smart, a smart patch thermometer that allows parents to monitor a child’s temperature continuously and remotely. Don’t worry about your children complaining about discomfort from thermometers placed in their mouths or ears—Fever Smart is simply placed under a child’s armpit. What’s great about this product? It’s connected to your smartphone! Download the Fever Smart app and watch as it monitors your child’s temperature and sends the data directly to your smartphone.


The Entrepreneur: John Frazier, Lake Forest Academy
The Start-Up: John Byron

Lake Forest Academy alum John Frazier started the custom shirt company John Byron, which sells custom tailored shirts handcrafted in the United States. John Byron donates 10 percent of profits to Teach for America and promises that each shirt is crafted from the finest material available. John Byron has been featured in Men’s Journal, DETAILS, privatejet.com, VOUCH and DRKT Concept.


The Entrepreneurs: Sean McCauley and Adam LaVotia, Lake Forest High School
The Start-Up: Seam Street 

Lake Forest High School alumni Sean McCauley and Adam LaVotia began their business, Seam Street, because they noticed a lot of people on the North Shore wearing expensive prep clothing. Seam Street aims to provide products of the same quality at a price affordable for college students. Seam Street offers an Athletic Collection that includes hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer and football jerseys, and a Prep Collection that includes T-shirts, polos, hats and accessories with their signature turtle or logo, “ride the wave.” In addition to the existing collections, Seam Street is beginning to customize Greek apparel. McCauley and LaVotia chose to use a turtle as the logo after taking an environmental class in high school. Realizing that sea turtles are an endangered species, they decided to donate 10 percent of profits to the National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation in Florida. For every $17 they donate, they save one nest of sea turtles. Interested in becoming a campus rep for Seam Street? Visit their website for more information.


The Entrepreneur: George Quall, DePauw University
The Start-Up: SOYbyaBOY 

Lake Forest High School graduate and current DePauw University student George Quall began his candle company because he saw it as a great way to gain business experience. As the company progressed, it became an enjoyable hobby for Quall and he saw it as an opportunity to give back by donating to charity. Within SOYbyaBOY’s first year, the company donated 5 percent of each candle sale to American Cancer Society. SOYbyaBOY only uses NatureWax C-3 Premium Soy Wax, which means candles burn longer and cleaner, and the company doesn’t use paraffin, which is a petroleum byproduct. Interested in purchasing a SOYbyaBOY candle? Email [email protected] or check out their Facebook page, SOYbyaBOY.


The Entrepreneur: Claire Ridge, Glenview
The Start-Up: Ridge’s Stitches 

In 2012, while a student at the University of Missouri, Claire Ridge created a retro-inspired fashion line that aims to connect the world one stitch at a time. Ridge’s Stitches has taken the trendy pocket tee and added a twist by also offering products like pocket dresses, pocket tanks, hats, headbands, hoodies and leggings with trendy and unique designs. You can even find Kiddie Stitches, super cute pocket tees, tanks and sweatshirts available in kid’s sizes. Through the “One Stitch at a Time” campaign, the Glenview resident picks a cause and a corresponding pocket each month and donates a portion of the sales. These comfy-chic styles are perfect for a day of yoga or just lounging around the house. Check out her designs at North Shore Yoga or on her website.


The Entrepreneur: Sydney Doerge, Lake Forest Academy
The Start-Up: Doodles of Care 

Winnetka resident Sydney Doerge, a current senior at Lake Forest Academy, started Doodles of Care after her sister, Zoe, was diagnosed with idiopathic pediatric pulmonary hypertension at the age of 11. Those who have PH find normal activities such as running, jumping, climbing and playing difficult. Doodles of Care sells iPhone cases with intricate and unique designs, and $10 of each phone case sold goes directly to fund a cure of pediatric PH. Doerge hopes that this company will help the research to find a cure for PH.


Entrepreneurship Programs at Top Universities

Although there is some debate about the value of college for young entrepreneurs, going to college can provide networking opportunities and experiences not available off campus. Here are just a few of the programs available for budding entrepreneurs:

  • Students who already have some business ideas in mind might be interested in the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, which brings undergraduate and graduate students together with faculty that have new-venture experience, alumni and entrepreneurs from the New Haven community. The program complements conventional academic courses.
  • Students at DePaul University’s Coleman Entrepreneurship Center gain real-world experience and mentorship as they embark on building their companies. They also have the added bonus of interacting with Chicago startups and companies offering internships and even employment opportunities.
  • The Turner Center for Entrepreneurship at Bradley University is made up of the Illinois Small Business Development Center, Illinois SBDC International Trade Center, NAFTA Opportunity Center and Entrepreneurship Center. The Entrepreneurship Program also boasts a nearly 100 percent placement rate within six months of graduation.


Additional reporting by Anna Carlson