Young entrepreneurs don’t let economy stop them

Oh, to be young, ambitious and just starting your own business — in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Nobody ever said being an entrepreneur would be easy.

While many of their classmates hunt for jobs — or give up and go to graduate school — Seth Hill and Michael Rumpke last week launched a grocery shopping and delivery business they call Lose Your List.

It wasn’t a casual endeavor. The 24-year-olds said they spent months planning logistics, developing marketing strategies, writing a business plan, creating a Web site, designing a logo and having it painted on Hill’s SUV and embroidered on their green gingham shirts.

And while they were preparing for orders — they got four their first week — they were thinking ahead. They want to create relationships with groceries and partnerships with local farmers to supply produce. And they’re planning for a time when orders are so numerous they must buy vehicles, hire college students to shop and deliver and, if they’re really lucky, franchise their concept in other cities.

For now, though, Hill and Rumpke are just looking for enough customers willing to go to their Web site (www.loseyourlist.com), submit a grocery list and pay them at least $15 to do the shopping and deliver the goods. They figure they’ll need 100 to 150 orders a week to keep themselves in groceries.

Rumpke, a University of New Orleans graduate, and Hill, a University of Kentucky senior on break from his studies, said they were raised on business and entrepreneurship. They always believed they’d work for themselves.

Rumpke’s mother, Linda, a former banker, is Lexington’s commissioner of finance and administration. His father, Rob, is president of the regional planning group Bluegrass Tomorrow. Hill’s parents, Jenny and Chuck, started Interior Yardage, a specialty fabric company on Southland Drive.

“I grew up watching them grow the business from our basement to flea markets to a company with (significant) sales,” Hill said. “Entrepreneurship was all I knew. My parents are my heroes, so it seemed like the thing to do.”

Rumpke and Hill see a good business opportunity in performing a necessary, time-consuming chore that many people hate. “It’s a business model that’s working in other areas,” Hill said. “We didn’t see why it wouldn’t work here.”

They said they researched the concept thoroughly and talked to dozens of people, including a lawyer, a banker and a small business development consultant. The approximately $3,000 in startup money came from their personal savings because they want to avoid taking on debt. “Everything we could do on our own we tried to do to keep costs down,” Hill said. “We also have gotten help from friends.”

Their biggest expense, they said, will be newspaper and online advertising. They also envision an ambitious social-media marketing strategy, from daily health tips on Twitter to a blog with information like that from a Harvard Business School study on the high-cost of impulse buying for people who do their own shopping.

One of the young entrepreneurs’ first deliveries was to a friend, Tara Wilkerson, a single mother. “I work 13-hour days at two jobs and have a 2-year-old,” she said. “I like not having one more chore to do.”

Hill and Rumpke hope to find more people like Wilkerson, whatever their reasons for wanting someone else to do their grocery shopping.

“At the end of the day, it’s just getting orders and delivering groceries,” Hill said. “If we’re really good at it, and manage our business well, other things will take care of themselves.”