Entrepreneurial Spirit

Ryan Malaty and Nick Guarino

UNC student Ryan Malaty, left, and former student Nick Guarino hold a Comp Card, which they hope will revolutionize the discount coupon business on college campuses. Photo by Barry LaPoint

Entrepreneurialism is alive and well at the University of Northern Colorado, as evidenced by students who are starting their own businesses and an initiative that provides entrepreneurs with information – and money – to help them kick-start their businesses.

Ryan Malaty, a junior Business Administration major with a marketing emphasis, caught the entrepreneurial wave last summer when he came up with the idea to start his own business.

While working a summer job as a grease monkey at a car service shop, he decided he wanted to do something sooner than later that related to his business degree. In the process, he and Nick Guarino, a former UNC student, came up with the idea to create a card that provided student discounts at local businesses.

"Ideas come in waves. So when this idea came, we just felt like we had to catch it," Malaty said.

Malaty’s idea was to revolutionize how college students receive discounts at local businesses by replacing the old-fashioned paper coupon books with a single plastic card.

The Comp Card, which is now available at a variety of distribution points, currently offers discounts at 12 local businesses and is free for students.

Malaty said that during the early stages of building the Comp Card, he used his business professors’ advice and knowledge to make sure he was going through the right processes, getting the right figures and interpreting the laws correctly.

"If you are interested in starting a business, do it while you’re in school," Malaty said. "This is when you have the most tools at your disposal."

Malaty said he hopes his business helps him pay off his student loans. He and Guarino hope to start a Comp Card in Boulder, where Guarino is a student at the University of Colorado. Malaty is also looking into making future Comp Cards biodegradable to help the green cause.

Unlike some of his classmates, Malaty wasn’t part of the inaugural Monfort College of Business Entrepreneurial Challenge, a unique program designed to help entrepreneurs start their own business or take their current business to the next level.

The day-long event included workshops on financing starts-up and stage-two business growth, successful business models, negotiating, marketing and human resources management presented by a blue chip roster of regional experts.

It also included business plan presentations by companies competing for $18,000 in prize money to be used to start or grow their businesses.

Among the UNC students competing were senior Business Administration majors Matt Ackerman and Thomas Shanor, who were among the 19 finalists selected for the competition.

Their entry for a holder that secures and protects fly-fishing rods along the inside of a boat’s gunwale when they’re not being used came from Shanor, who works as a fly-fishing guide in the summers.

Their business plan for Safe Rod took second place in the competition’s New Business Ventures category, and the pair will use their $3,000 as seed money for their endeavor.

"Our goal was to provide valuable information on a wide variety of topics that could be beneficial to new and existing business growth in Northern Colorado," said David Thomas, MCB assistant professor of management. "I feel certain we will hear more from these talented and dedicated entrepreneurs, and wish them well as they begin new businesses and try to take existing businesses to the next level."

- Christina Romero

Editor’s Note: Complete results of the competition are available in a news release.