Young Draper entrepreneurs give back to community, help small businesses
Make No Small Plans. That’s the quote on Aaron Neuenschwander’s Instagram page and the one that inspires him as an entrepreneur.
“There is no real excuse for us not to use all that we’ve been given and become our best selves,” says the 32-year-old COO of Arvo Watches and co-founder of Collabor8, a mobile app that connects brands with social media influencers. “It’s important to dream big…there’s no excuse not to create something.”
Create, he has. Neuenschwander’s entrepreneurial career began early. As a teenager, he operated a lawn-mowing company and made jewelry, going door to door to take orders. Inspired by his parents’ examples of giving back to others, he co-founded Christmas 4 The Kids, a volunteer-run charity benefiting local refugees, which has raised more than $50,000 in the past five years.
After graduating from BYU in 2009, he built his skill set working in international trade at Goldman Sachs and later in international diplomacy and trade with the State of Utah. He has traveled to 50 countries, which he says gave him a global perspective on the power of entrepreneurship in both First and Third World countries.
He returned to his entrepreneurial roots when he met Arvo’s founder Jake Nackos through Christmas 4 The Kids. The two became close friends and eventually business partners as well as Draper neighbors.
In his former jobs, Neuenschwander says his job role was well defined and the end product was deliverable. But as an entrepreneur, he says he is involved in all aspects of the business and “is responsible to figure things out to see what will move our business forward.” That, he adds, requires resilience, the ability to be proactive, to prioritize and to have a solid working team that complements his skills.
One of the biggest benefits of being an entrepreneur, he says, is seeing creativity in action: creating work for people, products that customers want, and new ways to grow a business.
He is particularly proud of helping to create Collabor8—the first app of its kind. The iPhone mobile app, which launched in April 2016, has more than 10,000 users internationally. Arvo Watches uses the app to connect with social media influencers and expand its brand of classically styled watches into the worldwide market.
“I enjoy creating value in something new,” Neuenschwander says.
That creativity takes up much of his mental bandwidth, but that’s something he doesn’t mind.
“I love to think about our businesses, the brands and products and interacting with the customers,” he says. “Being an entrepreneur has to be your passion since it requires so much of your time.”
Ty Evenson and Brooke Lund
In Ty Evenson’s office, above his company’s warehouse, sits a Warholesque acrylic of him in namaste pose, baseball hat backwards, flanked by two cows. The picture was painted by a friend who journeyed with him to teach English at an Indian orphanage.
“I learned a lot there. I learned a lot about leadership and how I wanted to impact the world,” says the 26-year-old Draper resident. That experience, he says, proved beneficial for his job as CMO of EvoBox.
Evenson, 26, along with his sister, Brooke Lund, 23, runs EvoBox, a packaging and shipping company catering to small, local businesses. Lund, a student at UVU, handles customer service and public relations, while Evenson focuses on development, marketing, warehouse sales, and runs an educational lecture series.
In 2016, Evenson graduated from BYU with an advertising degree and a desire to help small businesses grow through advertising. But that vision took a different twist when he found some extra room in his parents’ warehouse, home to their business, OverstockDrugstore.com. The siblings approached Arvo Watches and let them know they had extra space and could inventory, package and ship their watches.
“It started off as a side thing,” he says, but he saw the potential. The time and effort needed to package and ship products often overburdens small business owners.
“I realized that my focus on helping businesses grow wasn’t on advertising, but on taking over the tedious tasks so they could dedicate time to their goals,” he says.
Today, EvoBox has several dozen companies as their clients. Evenson and Lund enjoy working with other entrepreneurs and small business owners, watching them prosper and provide for themselves. “A lot of these people running small businesses are our age . . . they are in the same place as us,” says Lund. “They feel like family to us.”
Being an entrepreneur in a family-run business has its challenges, most notably bringing work home with you.
“It’s 24/7,” says Evenson, who often finds himself working in the warehouse until late. “The business is always on. To step away from it is difficult.”
But, as goals for EvoBox become tangible, the late nights and the juggling of work, school and relationships is worth it, he says.
“It is like watching your baby grow. You are so proud. The more we grow, the more we think of ideas, the more we love it,” Evenson says. “It is ours . . . watching our vision come to life before us.”
“There is so much more we can learn than what is on our iPhone.”
So says Draper resident Chelsea Scanlan, owner of Make + Master, an innovative business that brings together the talents of local craft-business owners and members of the community looking for a hands-on crafting experience.
Scanlan, 27, has always had an affinity for crafts that are not only practical, but don’t go out of style. Inspired by her parents’ interest, timeless crafts such as woodworking and leather work resonate with her. “They are the definition of honest, hard work,” she says.
So, when Scanlan looked at starting a business, she sought to incorporate these interests with her background in corporate event planning. And she wanted a business that focused on something she views as important—supporting local businesses. Make + Master was the result.
“A lot of the struggle that small-business owners have is how to market themselves in a different, creative way or find the time to teach (their craft) and share their knowledge,” she says.
With Make + Master, founded in April 2016, Scanlan developed an ideal way to address both of those issues. Alongside the craftsperson or small business owner, she organizes a class for them to teach their skill and markets the event. She supervises and photographs the class and provides a meal featuring food from local restaurants. In turn, students learn a craft, complete a project, and have questions answered on the spot by the craftsperson.
“I think it is a win-win situation,” she says.
On the Make + Master website, she posts a series of workshops, about one per month, which people can register for online. For those who’d rather not attend a class, she offers craftsman boxes, which provide the craft materials, tools, and instructions via a flash drive tutorial.
Many of Scanlan’s friends are small business owners, and it is these people who inspire and motivate her to work harder.
“There is a huge community of people wanting to work for themselves, choosing to work 80 hours a week, so they don’t have to work 40 hours for someone else,” she says. It is that drive, sacrifice and hard work she finds “awe-inspiring” and hopes Utahns better embrace the concept of buying from small businesses so popular in other states she’s lived in, notably Washington and Hawaii.
Not only is being an entrepreneur a full-time job (and then some), but it requires a willingness to listen to feedback and have enormous self-discipline, she says. After a day of taking care of her two-year-old, Scanlan is often up late working on ideas and returning emails. But most of all, she says, entrepreneurs need creativity, especially in today’s cookie cutter world.
“You have to stand out,” she says. “You need a different approach.”