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A year before they graduated from the University of St. Thomas, Emily Pritchard ’11 and Martha McCarthy ’11 were guaranteed millionaires – in the eyes of a fellow entrepreneur, at least. As the only undergraduates, and the only women, to make it to the finals of the Fowler Business Concept Challenge in 2009, Pritchard and McCarthy’s concept for SnapSystem Bikes won rave reviews from one of the judges, who was so impressed by the uniqueness of the idea and the professionalism of their presentation, he felt sure he could make them millionaires.
After additional research, however, the two women discovered that a key element in the future success of their new venture was missing – passion. “We just weren’t very interested in making bikes,” Pritchard recalled. “It was a great idea, it met the market need our entrepreneurship professors had told us about and it had little or no competition, but we just couldn’t get excited about it.”
What did excite them, was social media and the opportunities it afforded. Spurred by the confidence gained in receiving such positive feedback during the Fowler Business Concept Challenge, Pritchard and McCarthy went on to write another business plan, this one for a social media marketing company, the Social Lights, which they launched in January 2011.
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The Social Lights “create social media strategies that reach and resonate with today’s connected consumers,” according to its website. In truth, the partners act as liaisons between social media immigrants and social media natives – between a generation of business leaders raised on land lines and print media, and a generation of consumers raised on smart phones and apps. It’s an arena where, unlike many professions, their youth is an advantage. On the cusp of celebrating the company’s second anniversary, the Social Lights already had amassed a healthy client list, including Green Mill Restaurants, MoJo Minnesota and the Fowler Business Concept Challenge – the UST organization that gave them their impetus and the piece of advice they now pass on to other entrepreneurs: “Get your idea out there and talk to people.”
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