Entrepreneurship case studies about high school students
Ishan and Krystal are a great entrepreneurship case studies of high school students about how they've built and scaled HS Mixers, a company that throws parties for high school students up and down the west coast.
How did you both get interested in entrepreneurship?
Ishan Sharma: Sure, I’ll go first. It was an intersection with helping people and making money.
The Money: In 6th grade my friend and I, partnering with our art department for supplies, made “I Heart Samosa” bracelets right as the “I Heart Boobies” bracelets were surging in popularity. We had a big Indian population. We sold by the dozens. Whether selling and flipping items on Craigslist or trading stocks, I love the satisfaction of being able to make your own money and be independent.
The Social Impact: I dove into student government my freshman year. It flung me into a better understanding of how to work with others and why teams are so important. For example, I learned that Homecoming isn’t just a rally, it’s a complex clockwork of hundreds of students coming together to show unity and it takes a team of about 30 students all working together to pull it off. In student government, I learned about what it means to be a leader.
Krystal Lam: Yes, I caught the hustle bug in the 4th grade. In class, my teacher had implemented a fake money system for our classroom. The more money you earn from the teacher, the more prizes you could buy. We earned money from participating in class, turning in homework, etc. But I decided that I wanted to earn the money from some other method, so I started selling miscellaneous things and snacks from my desk during breaks and lunches. At the end of the year, I was the richest person in the classroom. Ever since then, I knew that I had a knack for entrepreneurship and business.
This video makes me want to go to an HS Mixer
What is HS Mixers?
Ishan: HS Mixers is a high school dance hosting service. We throw mixers for students across the California Bay Area. It was Co-founded by me and my partner Raaghav Minocha from Lynbrook High.
Krystal: HS Mixers creates a balance between safety and enjoyability. Our events are securely held and still have the elements of no adults, networking, and dancing that high schoolers are looking for. To date, HS Mixers has sold out every event they’ve hosted and continue to scale across the west coast. We are expanding to other cities so look out for updates.
What else is telling you all that HS Mixers is successful and has a future?
Ishan: Over our time at QØ's Catapult Incubator, we were able to get down our dance-hosting model to a science. We know the customer acquisitions, how to tell if our events will be well attended, and more. We’ve compiled a playbook that shows every single step one would need to host a successful mixer—and we have the funds to help jumpstart it in an area, maybe your area.
Krystal: A couple of stats for you, We’ve had 3 sold out events with over 800 high schoolers served. We’ve grossed $11,000 in revenue at a 40% profit margin. And this isn’t about one successful school brining a ton of people, we have incredibly wide reach. So far 40+ different high schools have been represented at our mixers.
What were some of the challenges you all faced early on?
Ishan: We were really good at holding dances in our areas but we didn’t know how we would replicate our mixers in other areas. A few questions posed roadblocks: How would we find a trustable “host” for these mixers? How would we know what places would be viable to hold one outside of Cupertino? Would our model even work in different places? With the help of Catapult, I was given perhaps the greatest gift to my journey — a team. When we faced replication issues, my team and I decided to log every single task that we did durring our ‘Heartbeats’ mixer in March. Krystal helped compile a playbook. Another teammate of ours Yonatan helped in the vision for our events; Lawrence helped digitize our ticket sales; and our teammate Linh ended up using our playbook to host a profitable mixer of her own using our money and business model in Olympia, Washington.
Anything you all would do differently if you could do it over?
Krystal: If I were to go back in time, I would like to build up a strong brand before we started expanding out to other domains. I think that building a stronger brand would better establish the operations of HS Mixers. But I also realize you can’t build a brand until you actually throw events, it’s sort of a chicken and egg thing.
Where do you turn for inspiration and for learning more about entrepreneurship?
Krystal: Watching TED Talks and going on Growth Hackers.com and reading about the success and challenges of different companies.
Ishan: Author John C. Maxwell, for leadership guidance – Author Liz Wiseman, for more leadership guidance – The Lean Startup, a must read for any aspiring entrepreneur – TEDTalks, new, innovative ideas are going up there all the time – and my friends, who are constantly spouting problems (opportunities!)
What 1 piece of advice do you have for other students thinking about starting their journey?
Krystal: Always take chances and keep exploring different ideas and hypothesis even if they are a little unconventional. There are many challenges and struggles to being an entrepreneur but learning and growing from those challenges is half the fun!
Ishan: Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, you should fail–that’s how you improve. As Thomas Edison said when trying to find the right filament for a lightbulb, “I have not failed, I have simply found 1000 ways that don’t work”.
Any advice for others trying to balance college and entrepreneurship at the same time?
Ishan: Some might say in college one is too busy learning to do entrepreneurship, but really think about it. College is a safe space isolated from the world. In a sense, it’s an “incubator” for you to explore. You can use entrepreneurship wherever you go—prototyping your dinner ingredients to see how you can make the best meal, constantly asking folks about what they think about an event your putting up (feedback loops), building a network.
Krystal: Personally, I chose a college that invests heavily into entrepreneurship, and has resources to support ideas one may have. That basically speaks for itself, you will find the time if the college can find the time.
Can entrepreneurship be learned, or is it in your blood?
Krystal: Entrepreneurship can definitely be learned. If entrepreneurship could be that easy, everyone would do it. The path for an entrepreneur is hard. An successful entrepreneur spends countless hours with a wall covered with 20 million post-its and 15 million different ideas and hypothesis. Then build a product, gather resources, create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), and test these ideas and hypothesis to see if they are actually viable. If not, then we pivot and go back to the wall and post- its to do it all over again until we have successfully created something we are proud of selling.
Ishan: I think entrepreneurship sprouts from that passion that let’s you grab the reigns of a problem and explore a solution. I think that passion is in your blood.
How can people who read this help you guys out?
Krystal: I would like to expand my connections with like minded individuals who would also like to learn more about how a business operates and how start-ups work. I would also like to get in touch with mentors who would like to help me on my journey to learning more about business and start ups.
Ishan: I mentioned earlier that one of the greatest gifts Catapult gave me was a team. I love talking with people, building my network, and connecting. I would love to speak with you, please feel free to drop me an email, message, or Facebook friend request.