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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Two ODU Student Entrepreneurs Team Up on Valentine's Day Business

By Brendan O'Hallarn

One entrepreneur created an online marketplace. The other has a 3-D printing business. Together, they've solved a shared dilemma. What should they get their girlfriends for Valentine's Day?

Junior marketing major Max Hall co-founded CampusWise, which began as an online textbook marketplace but has grown to offer a range of other products. Blade Taylor, a marketing student in his first year on the ODU campus, brought his 3D printing business 3DXtremes.

Discussing business ideas, which they frequently do in the University's Strome Entrepreneurial Center, the duo hit upon a plan to combine their assets on Valentine's Day products.

Through CampusWise, Old Dominion students can now purchase products such as a 3D printed heart-shaped flower vase, heart-shaped keychains with custom initials and light-capturing sculptures created from photographs - all designed by the duo and produced with biodegradable plastic in Taylor's 3D printer.

"This is something I wanted to do last year, but we didn't have a storefront on the CampusWise website. When Blade and I started talking about it, we realized it was a perfect fit," Hall said.

The Valentine's Day venture comprises only a small side project of the two young entrepreneurs' companies, but it reflects the synergy among like-minded students at Old Dominion.

"The biggest struggle with entrepreneurship is how lonely it can be sometimes," said Taylor. "No one in my high school (in Emporia) had anything to do with entrepreneurship. Meeting Max and other students at Strome has been invaluable. We're constantly comparing notes and reevaluating what we're doing, and learning from each other."

When the Strome Center was created in late 2014, thanks largely to an $11 million gift from the Strome Family Foundation led by Old Dominion alumnus Mark Strome and his wife, Tammy Strome, the goal was to inspire collaborations among like-minded student entrepreneurs.

"Student entrepreneurs such as Blade and Max now working together is an 'intended consequence' of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center and our activities," said executive director Nancy Grden. "We simply provide the proximity, then they create the ideas."

The Valentine's Day products, which can be ordered until next week through the CampusWise website, could evolve into custom-printed gifts for other holidays and annual events, the business partners said. But that's only one of many ideas that materialize when the young entrepreneurs start brainstorming. At all hours.

"It's so funny. When I'm on Facebook at 2 a.m., I'll look and the only other people online will be Blade, Kohl (Adams-Hurd), Alex (Iqbal), the other Strome folks," Hall said.

For more information about the Valentine's Day products, click the heart-shaped button on the CampusWise website.