Chad Hutchins ('08) | Entrepreneur
B.S. in computer science with focus in business
Chad Hutchins, a two-time winner of ACU's Springboard Challenge for business ideas, thrives on the flexibility that comes from being an entrepreneur.
"There's something about being independent that just feels right," he says. "At the end of the day, I still have a boss in the form of the client I'm doing work for and who is ultimately paying me. The difference is that I get to work on my own terms, and I get to set my schedule so that I can work on other things, such as a new venture."
Hutchins' most successful venture so far has been Sheepdog, his first-place entry in the 2009 Springboard Ideas Challenge. "Three other ACU students and myself put together this business. It was a research tool for businesses to find what social network their customers are using," he says. "We worked on it for a few years, had some good customers along the way and sold it a little over a year ago to a Silicon Valley company."
Search for ideas
Hutchins now does web development for individual clients and helps other entrepreneurs with office space he won in the 2011 Springboard competition. For a small monthly fee, people can work out of the office (http://abilenecoworking.com) with such amenities as Internet, copier/printer, desks, chairs and conference room provided.
Hutchins is also constantly on the lookout for new business ideas.
"Now that I'm self-employed, I've set myself up so that once I figure out an idea I want to put a lot of my time into, I won't have a salaried day job slowing me down," he says. "There are a lot of things about being an entrepreneur you can't control - changes in the market, your competitors, policy changes, etc. – but the one thing entrepreneurs have all the control over is their hustle. I've had to be very deliberate about finding the time and working hard on whatever the project of the day/month/year is."
While a junior at ACU, Hutchins landed an internship at Milsoft, a nationwide company that develops software for use in the electric utility industry. After graduating in 2008, he took a full-time job with Milsoft as a business development and web specialist. He worked for the software developer until July 2011, when he struck out on his own.
Foundation for success
Hutchins credits ACU with preparing him for success in the business world.
"ACU is a place full of smart and motivated people," he says. "To any college student I talk with, I'm quick to tell them that if they think they are busy now, they have no idea what's coming for them when they graduate. College is the best time to start an entrepreneurial venture, due to the time you have and the abundant resources at your fingertips. ACU had and still has these resources - smart students, faculty, staff and a well-networked alumni group - so a combination of all of those things helped me as an entrepreneur. Going through the process of Springboard helped me get comfortable in front of an investor-like group of people to pitch my idea, and the winning funds helped pay for some equipment and conferences."
Hutchins' advice to a would-be entrepreneur?
"Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and complement your expertise. Only take advice from those who have gone through whatever you're seeking advice about. Find co-founders who you trust and whose missions/intentions align with your own. Once you start a company with your co-founders, you're pretty much married to them."
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