Submission: 18 Credits and a start-up — how I launched my own business in college

By Paul Schiffbauer

With York College students stressing about exams, scrapping pennies to buy their weekly supply of ramen noodles and pulling all-nighters at the library, in addition to the aimless treks on Jackson Street, a business may be the last thing on students minds but it shouldn’t be. I did it.

I’m the co-founder of my upstart, NOIR Gallery, an expansionary art and apparel label. My partner Jon Bilous and I have taken his work; years spent photographing across America and Europe, to create a platform that showcases it in a very rich and extensive fashion in our Decor section on site. While NOIR’s apparel selections are consciously crafted with quality garments to an abstract degree.

I’d advise anyone and everyone out there on campus to follow their own passions.

Before NOIR became as functional as it is today as an online retailer for apparel and home decor, it went through some major operational difficulties. One day in a class taught by David Greisler, I had a groundbreaking realization: experts surround me. I essentially built NOIR’s quality values off of Dr. Greisler’s Total Quality Management class.

From that point on my brain was like a sponge in the classroom. I was extremely interested in bettering my start-up, and the scope of it grew in time with my expanded interest. I continued to take risks, make my own luck, and I never stopped learning. Free choice in these regards make starting your own business beautiful, but there are still notable pitfalls along the way.

When I first conceptualized the idea of what now has become NOIR Gallery back in my freshman at York there were always reasons why I shouldn’t have launched a start-up while knee deep in an 18-credit course load. I often thought I needed to focus on school or I didn’t have enough experience. There was also the potential stress of starting and running a business, managing the parameters of a business often prove not stable for entrepreneurs, and the greatest fear of them all; no one would want my product. I soon realized that I needed to act or I would be one of those suckers in life to always have a reason to say, “It’s not the right time.”

In fact, I’d argue that your college years are as close to “the right time” as you’re going to get.

I did not just grow academically here at York, I grew selfishly from an acceptable way. Often as a college student, the only responsibility we have is to be selfish. I did something for myself. With NOIR still fairly young as a start-up, I’m not afraid to fail.

 I like to think of our college years as life’s greatest do-over period. It’s perfectly okay to make mistakes, in fact, failing at anything means you’re just trying. If I’m ever too comfortable and I’m not getting rejections, it means I’m not stretching myself far enough. If you mess up at something while you’re here, there’s still so much room to bounce back.

Thomas Edison took 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype for the light bulb. When a reporter asked about failing a 1,000 times, Edison declared that he did not fail, but rather the light bulb was an invention with a 1,000 steps.

The last thought you want when looking back at your time at York College is to remember that wild idea you had at Murphs and realizing that missed opportunity.


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