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BYU Student Entrepreneurs of the Year recognized

Managing a business while attending school has proven to be a rewarding experience for two Brigham Young University students who tied for the title of 2007 Student Entrepreneur of the Year. Ethan Heintzelman, founder of Elite Express, and Bo Porter, founder of Fox Websites, each received a $10,000 award for this honor.

“The examples provided in this competition create a can-do attitude for aspiring student entrepreneurs,” said Derek Pando, president of the BYU Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, which coordinates the SEOY competition. “This year’s finalists are willing to make sacrifices to get things done both in their business and in school. They are extremely hard working.”

Heintzelman, a master of accountancy student from Longwood, Fla., became a clear example of taking risks when he started a business in South America. His courier mail company, Elite Express, is headquartered in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with an office in Quito. Heintzelman oversees asset allocation and finances by visiting Ecuador several times a year.

“After serving a mission in Ecuador, I knew I wanted to begin a business there to provide opportunities for others,” Heintzelman said. “I learned that you don’t have to have a new idea, you just have to do it better, and that’s what we wanted to do with Elite Express.”

Porter, who petitioned to enter the competition as a BYU–Idaho student, is a senior majoring in business management from Orem. His e-commerce company, Fox Websites, sells niche products through specialized Web sites. Porter’s venture began by selling airbeds on eBay and later expanded to specialized sites for retailing duffle bags and airbeds.

“When I started selling airbeds through eBay, I knew the profit for selling one a day would add up to what I was earning in my current job,” Porter said. “I decided to take the leap and branch out with my own Web site.”

Porter as well as other finalists used resources provided by the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship to start and grow their business. He advises aspiring entrepreneurs to take educated risks by finding information about the business industry and the market.

“Figure out what is truly the worst thing that could happen. If you can accept that, go for it,” Porter said. “The upside may be worth much more.”

In addition to Heintzelman and Porter, this year’s competition finalists included Johnny Hebda, a senior majoring in music/dance/theatre from Clarksville, Tenn., and owner of Pointe Pest Control.

During the final round of the competition, students presented their businesses to a panel of investors and venture capitalists. Because Heintzelman and Porter tied for first place, third place was awarded to Hebda, who received $5,000 to be used in his business.

In 1992, the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship established the SEOY Competition in an effort to reward degree-seeking students who manage their own businesses. Past winners of the SEOY Competition include Jonathan Coon, founder of 1-800-CONTACTS; David Bateman, founder of DearElder.com; and Jonathan Freedman, founder of DownEast Outfitters.

Writer: Irasema Romero

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Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo

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