Last year’s lockdown presented many students with a choice: binge watch Netflix, or use the extra time to further their careers. Senior Reed Lawe chose the latter.
Lawe, who is finishing up his undergraduate degree in financial management, started a company called HelloCampus over quarantine.
HelloCampus is a software startup that allows colleges to host prospective students virtually, using an interface that allows college tour guides and prospective students to effectively communicate, ask questions, and provide campus tours.
“We’ve built a virtual tour video-chat platform which we license to college admissions departments so that their tour guides can give virtual tours live to prospective students,” said Lawe. “What you get is essentially a zoom call overlaid with an interactive map.”
According to the businesses website, HelloCampus allows tour guides and prospective students to form personal connections that used to be impossible because of the pandemic.
“A campus tour should allow each student to really feel the campus, help them imagine themselves living there, and give them the opportunity to interact with current students during their visit,” says the website
Prior to Lawe’s work on HelloCampus there were no similar options for colleges looking at improving their admissions in the wake of the COVID-19.
“Basically you had two options: first, they could do a number of different prerecorded tours, which can be like taking a YouTube video of a student walking around campus and talking into a camera,” said Lawe. “Or there’s the flip side, which is just a purely live video chat, something like Zoom, where you get on a call with an admissions officer, maybe they run you through a slideshow, but it’s not very interactive and it’s not very fun.”
When conducting research with high school students, Lawe says he discovered that not many of them responded positively to Zoom experiences.
“They’ve lost a good portion of their high school careers to Zoom. They’ve been talking with their grandparents over Zoom, and now, when they’re looking at colleges and visiting different schools — which should be an exciting experience — and that’s taking place over Zoom as well,” Lawe said.
Lawe had been discussing the idea with his dad, who is an entrepreneur, but had initially set it aside for after college. However, when the coronavirus broke out in March 2020, they decided that the time was right.
“It’s been a kind of ongoing discussion that my dad and I have been kicking back and forth over the years. It seems like colleges in general, but particularly medium to small liberal arts schools are in an overinflated market, and it’s becoming more and more difficult for them to survive,” Lawe said. “We realized it was a perfect opportunity because colleges were going to get hit really hard because they couldn’t recruit in person.”
Although he is graduating with a degree in Financial Management, Lawe believes that if he were to do it over again, he probably wouldn’t choose that major again.
“I think a lot of even what I’ve learned in the finance major would be accessible via YouTube or Wikipedia,” Lawe said. “I’m very happy that I went to Hillsdale though, it grows you as a person and forms you into the type of individual that can be a successful adult and a successful entrepreneur.”
Lawe was involved with multiple financial and entrepreneurship clubs at Hillsdale from the very beginning of his college career. He revived Hillsdale’s entrepreneurship club, Enactus, and is currently the president of Hillsdale’s Investment Club. Lawe ultimately believes, however, that entrepreneurship comes down to the students themselves .
“I really don’t think that the best way to develop an entrepreneurial presence on campus is to go to Career Services or the Business department. I think it’s going to come from the students taking risks and putting themselves out there.”