This story is part of a series about CYstarters, Iowa State’s startup accelerator that helps students become entrepreneurs.
Sweere, a 2016 Iowa State University graduate in supply chain management and entrepreneurial studies from Muscatine, founded Home Sweet College Home, a monthly care package service for students to become acclimated to their new college town and encourage them to step outside their comfort zone.
She was in the inaugural CYstarters cohort and is one of three from that group working full-time on their businesses today. The idea came to her when she was asked to create a business plan in an entrepreneurship class her senior year. As a college freshman new to Ames and Iowa State, Sweere says she didn’t know where she fit in.
“I was brainstorming for the class and landed on this idea of boxes that are pre-made for parents to buy for their students, ones that are more elevated than the food boxes you typically see,” Sweere said. “I got a lot of great feedback. At that point, I knew I wanted to pursue this, but I didn’t have the resources, time or money.”
The assignment was good timing, because that was also the first year of CYstarters, a 10-week summer accelerator for student startups run out of the ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship. This summer, 15 startups are in the third CYstarters cohort.
“Honestly, without CYstarters I don’t know if I ever would have gone through with starting my business,” she said.
CYstarters ‘can change your future’
CYstarters has proven to be a valuable jumping-off point for several student startups, including Home Sweet College Home. Diana Wright, CYstarters director, says more than half of the participants from the first two cohorts are still working on their startups in some capacity.
Combined, three startups from the first cohort have generated more than $1 million in revenue, outside investment, grants and competitions.
Looking back, Sweere is thankful for the myriad of skills she gained in all aspects of business during her whirlwind CYstarters summer.
“Some of what happens in CYstarters may not seem relevant to you right now, but it will be down the road,” she said. “I still refer back to my notebook from CYstarters. The weekly programming is extremely helpful; they teach you what you don’t know you need to know to start a business.”
The program’s inherent support system – and the members of her cohort she still talks to today – pushed her to never give up, “celebrating my successes and understanding my failures.”
After finishing CYstarters in 2016, Sweere began a full-time job and Home Sweet College Home’s growth waned. Last November, she took the plunge and began working full-time on Home Sweet College Home.
“The biggest thing about being an entrepreneur and your own boss is you’re going to get as much out of it as you put in,” she said. “Especially in the beginning, it’s going to be a lot of work. It’s long hours, things take longer than expected because you don’t know what you’re doing yet. You always have to keep the future in mind; keep your ‘why’ in mind. Think of the customer and why you created the business to begin with.”
Sweere’s “why” is helping students discover their new college town and turn it into their new hometown.
“I don’t know anyone else who got an opportunity like this,” she said of CYstarters. “It’s really cool that ISU offers programs like this that can change your future. I would still be working for someone else at an entry-level job, but now I get to follow my dream.”