On her way home from a technology conference, Regina Ye’s makeup spilled all over her suitcase. For Ye, a senior in computer science at Mount Holyoke College, it was the last straw. She was tired of the hassle of traveling with beauty products. So she decided to create a solution. She called it ZIRUI.
Ye has entrepreneurship in her blood. “When I was starting middle school my dad quit his job and moved to a different city and started his own business,” she said. “So I got to see the first hand experience of how it was built.”
As a result, she’s always been on the lookout for ideas to build into a business. “Before, a lot of the ideas I had I didn't really fully believe in them, but this was an idea that I remember the night I had it. I was just so excited. I felt like, ‘This is it.’”
Last year, Ye was taking an entrepreneurship class at the same time she came up with the idea for ZIRUI. The class gave her time to do market research and play around with product design.
“I had a 3D printed prototype by the end of that first semester,” she said.
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Then, last summer, she was accepted into a local accelerator for college students. “I learned how much progress you can make when you do it full time,” she said.
But it’s hard to be a full-time entrepreneur while also a college student, so Ye has had to balance the two. Overall, she said, “It’s a great time to be a college entrepreneur.”
In September, Ye finalized the design for her product and started to reach out to manufacturers. She also set up a crowdfunding campaign to launch her first products which raised over $20,000.
“I was able to get feedback from people,” she said. “They were saying, 'These are the products we want for the future.'”
In the short term, Ye is focused on filling ZIRUI’s first set of orders, but she also has a lot of ideas for how to grow her company and brand. When she graduates from college this spring, she hopes ZIRUI can be her full-time job.
“I have a very clear vision for the brand,” she said. “I want it to serve modern people's needs when it comes to beauty and care on the go.”
In the year and a half since she started ZIRUI, Ye has learned a lot. “Everything happens so fast,” she said. She learned new design skills. She built a team and learned how to hire good people.
“The three factors I look at: first is loyalty and integrity, and another is work ethic or energy in execution, and then the third one is intelligence.“
She also learned that there’s no perfect time to start a business and that whether you’re in college or not, there’s always going to be a bit of hesitancy to jump in.
“The things thatI thought were scary in my head were not,” she said.
So, Ye said, if you have an idea for a business, “Just do it.”
Samantha Harrington is co-owner and lead writer of Driven Media, a roving girl-power newsroom.