by Amy Campbell, Published February 20, 2013
Many students are involved in extracurricular activities in college-theatre, sports, social activism-but far fewer are running their own companies outside of class. Ethan Brooks is one of those few. Brooks, an Eastern Michigan University senior and graduate of Clinton High School, found his way to self-employment via his Introduction to Entrepreneurship class in his junior year at Eastern.
"Early on in the class I began to understand the basic concepts of starting a business," Brooks says. "Especially the business plan, which was the main focus of the course."
His new-found understanding helped a long-time business idea become a reality. After creating a business plan and with help from EMU's Center for Entrepreneurship, he registered Ethan's Exterior Cleaning as a limited liability company (LLC) in 2012. In the months that followed, Brooks power washed homes, barns, decks and even small commercial properties. He amassed a roster of 35 clients his first year, and is gearing up for another busy summer.
Brooks says one of the keys to his successful start-up is that Ethan's Exterior Cleaning grew out of his existing knowledge and experience. Having worked at a carwash from the age of 15, Brooks had insight into large-scale cleaning techniques, supplies and equipment, as well as customer service and marketing. He advises those interested in entrepreneurship not to stray too far from the familiar.
"Take something you know, and build on it," he says.
The initiative that has made Brooks an early entrepreneur has served him well as a student, too. He spent two years at a community college, then decided that EMU fit the bill for the rest of his education: it is close to home, and offers a big-school atmosphere.
"I like being part of a large university that offers diversity," he says. "It allows me to learn about things outside of my normal scope."
Brooks says the transfer process was a smooth one, and that he has achieved his goal of completing his degree-a bachelor's of business administration, entrepreneurship-in four years.
Despite his self-imposed graduation deadline, Brooks has still managed to be an active member of EMU's chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO), which was honored at the 2012 National CEO Conference with the Teaching Entrepreneurship Award. The Eastern chapter was chosen from a field of more than 400 chapters representing institutions across the country.
So what does the future hold for Brooks? He says Ethan's Exterior Cleaning will most likely be dissolved after this summer in favor of other projects.
"I'm looking forward to moving on to bigger and better things," Brooks says.
In the current economy, discontinuing a successful business to brave the unknown could reasonably be considered a mistake, but Brooks is confident in his ability, and in the advantages of entrepreneurship.
"The amount of work I put in will make me a success or a failure," Brooks says, "so I control my own success. A down economy offers so much opportunity," he adds. "If you can't find a job, you can make one."
But he's not just concerned about himself.
"Everyone wants to start a business and get rich," Brooks says. "But if you can start something and provide a job for someone else...that would be a great feeling."