NASE Scholarship Program Hits $1.9 Million
By Don Sadler
You could say that entrepreneurship runs in Abigail Dahl’s blood.
Five of her close family members have owned their own businesses. That includes her mother, Suzie, who recently opened Avenue 30, a retail store selling wine and gifts in Scappoose, Ore.
So it’s not too surprising that 19-year-old Abigail, who is studying entrepreneurship at Oregon State University, has already launched Cycle-Jacket. Her company sells a high-tech bicycle cover that Abigail invented.
“I had to come up with a business idea for my entrepreneurship class, so me and my mom started brainstorming,” she says.
An avid bike rider, Abigail began researching the problems cyclists experience with bicycle covers. She found major problems with the leading cover: It rips easily. Water soaks through it. And it doesn’t have a slit in the side for locking the bike.
“I knew I could design a cover that solves these problems,” says Abigail.
She addressed another important issue, too. The Cycle-Jacket weighs just 7 ounces, compared to 11 ounces for the leading cover.
“Cyclists seek out the most lightweight equipment they can find, which gives the Cycle-Jacket another significant edge,” Abigail explains. “The lightweight design and completely waterproof material are unique in the marketplace.”
Making An Idea Reality
As any seasoned entrepreneur knows, coming up with a great product idea is just the beginning of starting a successful new business.
With her family’s entrepreneurial background and her own instincts, Abigail wasted no time formulating manufacturing, distribution and marketing plans. That’s enabled her to move quickly to take the Cycle-Jacket to market.
She’s working with a manufacturer that has provided three prototypes. Her first full production run will start soon.
Abigail also trademarked the product name and logo. Next up is getting a patent for the Cycle-Jacket. And she’s launched a Cycle-Jacket website where online purchasing options will be available in the future.
“I have talked to the bike shops here in Corvallis, and they get complaints from their customers about the bike covers they carry, so they’re very interested,” she says.
Abigail plans to distribute prototypes to influential users (like members of bicycle and triathlon clubs at OSU) to get feedback and gain exposure. She’ll also attend bike races and shows throughout Oregon to sell and promote the Cycle-Jacket.
Her goals for the business are ambitious: to hit $100,000 a month in profits within the next five years.
“The harder I work now, the more I know it will pay off in the future.”
Receiving The Scholarship
Abigail’s entrepreneurial ambitions haven’t interfered with her college studies. She achieved a 3.9 GPA during her freshman year. It’s that combination that merited her selection as the NASE Future Entrepreneur for 2012.
The scholarship program, which started in 1989 for dependents of NASE Members, will award Abigail up to $24,000 toward her education. It is the largest scholarship of its kind in the U.S. and the only one that promotes the entrepreneurial philosophy.
With this year’s award, the NASE program hit the $1.9 million mark in scholarships.
“The NASE scholarship program is designed to help students just like Abigail,” says Kristie Arslan, president of the NASE. “She’s an innovative entrepreneur who stays dedicated to her studies. We’re proud to be part of her success by presenting her with the 2012 NASE Future Entrepreneur Scholarship. And we’re proud that the association offers this resource to our members.”
Balancing the demands of her education, her fledgling new business and her many extracurricular activities can be challenging, but Abigail says that school always comes first.
“My education is very important to me, and I believe I can utilize every aspect of college to help me achieve my entrepreneurial goals. I’m interested in a lot of different things and I like to stay busy—everyone says I’m a Type A personality.”
Abigail devotes Monday through Thursday every week to schoolwork and studying, which leaves Friday through Sunday to work on the business.
“It can get really stressful sometimes, so I’ve learned that I need to set aside some time to just hang out with friends and have fun. It’s all about finding the right balance.”
Working With No Illusions
From her perspective as a young college student and budding entrepreneur, Abigail has no pie-in-the-sky illusions about what to expect in the rough-and-tumble world of business ownership.
“I understand that creating a new business is no easy task and I will face difficult challenges. I plan to persevere and overcome these challenges by working hard, being open to constructive criticism and keeping an open mind. The Cycle-Jacket has given me the opportunity to apply the knowledge I’ve gained about entrepreneurship in college to the real world of business.”
Like a true entrepreneur, Abigail is already thinking several steps ahead.
“If the Cycle-Jacket does well over the next few years, I’ll need to decide whether to sell the company and invest the money in another startup, or focus on continuing to run and grow the business.”
Not surprisingly, Abigail’s parents are proud of their daughter and excited about her entrepreneurial future.
“Abby following in the family footsteps of entrepreneurship at such a young age is scary, yet invigorating,” says her mom, Suzie. “She knows what she wants from life and she’s going for it!”
Suzie believes that Abigail’s drive, personality and passion for Cycle-Jacket will make the business a success.
“The product is not only genius, but anyone would want to work with such a bright and energetic young lady.”
Don Sadler is a freelance writer based in Atlanta, Ga., who specializes in business and finance. Reach him at email@example.com.