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Student spins off of his C-Suite involvement to create his own startup

Anna Hartenbach and Colleen Carow | Apr 2, 2018

Student spins off of his C-Suite involvement to create his own startup

Anna Hartenbach and Colleen Carow | Apr 2, 2018

This is the second part of a two-part series. Visit part one to read more.

A Russ College student has jumped into the world of business with a fellow classmate, thanks to his early collaboration on the development of Ohio University’s C-Suite, a central hub for student entrepreneurship and collaboration.

Back when he was a freshman, now-senior engineering and technology management student Benjamin Scott was named a Stanford University Innovation Fellow along with chemical engineering student Faith Voinovich. Funded by the National Science Foundation, UIF connects entrepreneurially minded students, faculty and industry leaders. During their initial coursework for the program, the two joined fellow OHIO students to start developing C-Suite.

However, Scott was soon balancing 19 credit hours each semester in order to meet his goal of graduating in three years, and he wasn’t able to continue with the C-Suite project. But he’d been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Inspired by his experience, he set out to create his own activity.

“Planning C-Suite was a lot like a start-up business because we were all sitting around a table, and we had so many ideas for what the space could turn out to be for students,” Scott said. “It’s a lot like working on a business, because you’re trying to imagine what you’re bringing to the table for customers.”

Meanwhile, fellow engineering and technology management senior Jacob Koons, with whom Scott shared classes, had worked in construction and was thinking about developing a business.

“I barely knew Ben -- I think I had a class or two with him. One day he said we should start a business, and I told him if he could find a way to get us insured and bonded, we would do it,” Koons said. “He came back shortly after, and we were insured and bonded.”

A Facebook page, and some shirts and business cards later, Koons and Scott Contracting LLC was born. Serving Athens County and Nelsonville, Ohio, the company constructs barns, home additions and decks, and does roofing, flooring, vinyl siding and drywall work. It also employs two full-time staffers -- one of whom is Koons’ younger brother -- and a few part-time employees who help out as needed.

Koons said that Scott was initially concerned about having enough business to cover basic costs like insurance.

“But we’ve been way busier than I think either of us thought we would be. And that was with me playing football last year and Ben being at school all the time,” said Koons, who no longer plays for OHIO. “Now that we have even more time, we’re going to try to expand this spring.”

How does their partnership work? They balance different skill sets: Koons provides contracting know-how, while Scott brings business savviness. Koons reviews project requirements and compiles supply lists, while Scott writes estimates. And the pair works with their employees to demonstrate professionalism via quick response times and during customer interactions.

“The professionalism we offer is what separates us from some of the other contractors that just show up with a notebook and kind-of spitball things at you,” Koons said. “I feel our timely responses help as well because that’s hard to come by sometimes.”

Scott added that most well-known contractors can’t offer as much availability.

“It’s easy to compete with the big guys right now, because they’re booked three years out,” Scott said. “So when you talk to a contractor who can do it within the next month -- that’s usually pretty good for people.”

Reflecting on C-Suite, the duo feel it has great promise. They noted having had an entrepreneurial collaboration hub when they were developing their business would have connected them to relevant resources and support at uncertain moments. They ultimately succeeded by calling on Russ College faculty and staff, and local banks.

Engineering and technology management lecturer Tom Chambers, who taught both students during their sophomore year, provided input to their business plan, shared experiences, and offered perspective.

“I give them both praise for their willingness to listen to others and try to learn as much as possible to enhance their decision making,” Chambers said.

He praised the duo for the ability to focus on achieving high-quality results for their clients, rather than dwelling on the amount of time it needs to complete a task.

“They are energetic and calculated risk takers -- great attributes for young entrepreneurs,” Chambers said.

For more information about the business, follow Koons and Scott Contracting on Facebook.

C-Suite is expected to open fall semester on Alden Library’s third floor.