Bitwise is reaching back to middle-school
By Indianapolis Business Journal
February 16, 2011
Ron Brumbarger never sleeps. At least it’s easy to get that impression with all the irons he has in the fire.
Brumbarger, who runs website developer Bitwise Solutions Inc., actually has more employees, 30, in Ukraine than in Carmel. The Ukraine outpost is staffed with former Soviet scientists and mathematicians who are crack problem-solvers. (If Ukraine ever develops an entrepreneurial culture, the world will change in an instant, he says.)
As Bitwise took on better and better contracts, it priced itself out of reach of small customers. So four years ago the firm started hiring high schoolers for $9 an hour to put up low-budget sites for customers with less money to spend, like handymen and even an African orphanage. Anything to avoid having to tell a potential customer no.
So many younger children wanted to join “Bitwise Fellows” that Brumbarger is now starting “On Deck” for seventh- through ninth-graders.
The On Deck crowd will shadow Bitwise professionals, help with simple tasks, attend meetings and otherwise get a taste of a real-world workplace.
No worries, child labor opponents. It’s only for a couple of hours a month, and no money changes hands. On Deck is simply a chance for kids to volunteer and get a little experience to see if they really want to join the Fellows program.
“It’s kind of like growing the J.V. team,” Brumbarger says.
How do you like the idea?
BitWise Taps Indiana’s Most Underutilized Resource
By Indiana Charter Schools Today
June 23, 2011
On any given weekday afternoon, one could expect to find most high school students heading home from school for a lazy afternoon, off to a popular local hangout to see friends, or maybe even en route to their part-time job; (most likely at a local eatery or retail store). Not Joshua Cunningham. No, Josh Is too busy running a small business. Cunningham is Founding President of BitWise Fellows, a local business comprised solely of high school students providing affordable web site solutions to the Indianapolis area. Not only does Cunningham have a resume more impressive than many college grads, but he’s also gained valuable real-world experience working in business, which he hopes to study in college and ultimately have a career. Cunningham oversees the day to day operations of the company, including marketing, sales, and staff recruitment and hiring. BitWise Fellows is the brainchild of Ron Brumbarger, the CEO and President of BitWise Solutions, a leading Indiana web design Company, whose staff mentors the Fellows. Brumbarger saw the need for community organizations and non-profits to be able to access affordable web services. He has achieved this while providing high school students with invaluable business experience. Now in its second year, BitWise employs five Fellows and are currently seeking to add more. “They have real contracts, real payroll, real deadlines, and most importantly, real opportunities,” comments Brumbarger. Fellowships in the areas of marketing sales, projects management, finance, design, and more are available to prospective candidates. Cunningham adds, “Many of the Fellows employees are currently working in those positions that they are interested in pursuing as a professional career. This is a great way for them to gain that job experience.”
BitWise Fellows is part of a trend which many area charter schools are following- real world training. The Indianapolis Metropolitan High School uses internships (often during the school day) to connect their curriculum with real world experience. Other organizations like Indiana InternNet, a program adopted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce connects Indiana employers with area high school and college students to provide guided internships and help retain Indiana’s talent. All recognize that we have a responsibility to prepare Indiana’s students for their best possible futures.
There’s a ton of talent in Indiana high schools, just waiting to be discovered. As BitWise fellows demonstrates, who better to provide cutting-edge web design, then a staff of creative high school students who’ve grown up in a technology dominated era? Maybe BitWise is onto something here. Look at Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, who launched the social network venture out of his Harvard dorm room. Or Michael Dell who began selling PCs out of his University of Texas dorm. Facebook and Dell are now household names.
They’re young. They’re smart. And they’re eager to earn business. Watch out folks-we may just have some competition on our hands... Is it too late for a retraction?
Entrepreneurs at an early age
By the Indianapolis Star
October 27, 2008
Jeremy Clarke and Joshua Cunningham have proven they know what it takes to run their own company. Clarke runs three Web-based businesses, and Cunningham is president of a Web-design company.
What's unusual is how they developed such business acumen at such a young age. After all, Clarke is a senior at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute; Cunningham is a high school senior in Carmel.
As the third-annual Indiana Entrepreneurship Week gets under way with statewide events today through Friday, the spotlight increasingly shines on high school and college students who focus their free time not on video games or hanging at the mall -- but on founding and building businesses.
It's a trend in Indiana and across the nation, as universities devote significant time and resources to establishing centers for entrepreneurship and innovation.
"These centers are becoming more and more important to the entire educational mission of the university (environment)," said Donald F. Kuratko, executive director of The Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Indiana University-Bloomington. "It is happening across the U.S. and across the globe."
Kuratko can attest to the growth of such programs. The Johnson Center also serves as the administrative site of the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers, which Kuratko co-founded in 1996. Initially, 10 university-based centers were members; today the number has grown to 250.
Today, there are more than 3,000 colleges and universities worldwide that teach entrepreneurship, Kuratko said. That compares with just a handful of such programs two decades ago.
In a 2006 poll of nearly 1,500 middle and high school students conducted by Junior Achievement, nearly 71 percent said they would like to be self-employed someday.
That's how Clarke, named this month as one of the collegiate entrepreneur winners in StartupNation.com's first Dorm-Based 20 contest, sees himself and his future.
Clarke launched Vortex Web Solutions, a Web site design company, as a freshman in high school. While at Rose-Hulman, he also started Sharper Results (a provider of educational software and other materials) and took on IndyDining (a restaurant-review site).
"I've really grown accustomed to working for myself," Clarke said. "The thought of working for someone else -- it doesn't even cross my mind anymore."
Like Clarke, Cunningham caught the entrepreneurial spirit early. The home-schooled student joined Web-design company BitWise Fellows as its first president in March 2007, when he was just a sophomore.
A subsidiary of Carmel's BitWise Solutions, BitWise Fellows is the brainchild of the parent company's President and Chief Executive Ron Brumbarger. (Brumbarger also helped launch the first Indiana Entrepreneurship Week in the fall of 2006.)
BitWise Fellows was created to provide Web-design services to nonprofits, small businesses and similar clients -- while also giving students valuable experience in managing a small business. A team of about half a dozen student entrepreneurs not only handles page design and development, they also learn how to negotiate contracts, market and advertise the company's services, and even handle bill collections.
"We aspire to make BitWise Fellows as real world of an experience as possible for young men and women," Brumbarger said. "It's not a game. . . . They're living it."
As Cunningham tours colleges (he's considering a degree in economics or a related field), he finds that his experience with BitWise Fellows compares with curricula being offered at an upperclassman level.
"That was something that really hit me," Cunningham said. "I've already gotten experience like that. And so going into an environment like that in college would seem much less intimidating."
Training in entrepreneurship and innovation is also of no small importance in today's volatile economic environment. Not only do such skills help make employees more valuable -- and therefore less vulnerable to downsizing -- they also give young people options to traditional jobs in a tight market.
These new entrepreneurial centers don't just attract traditional business students on the road to an MBA. For instance, Ball State University's Entrepreneurship Center recently began offering a minor program to students campuswide.
Michael Goldsby, a professor of entrepreneurship at Ball State, said such an approach allows students from diverse backgrounds to "learn the basics of entrepreneurship and develop skills to take advantage of economic opportunities that come their way."
And in the fall of 2005, Purdue University's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship began offering a Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Open to students in all majors, the program stresses development of hands-on skills crucial to starting and running new businesses.
Since its debut, some 1,400 students -- equally split between freshmen/sophomores and juniors/seniors -- have enrolled in the certificate's introductory course, said Nathalie Duval-Couetil, program director. Participants represent a variety of educational disciplines.
"Students don't have the fantasy of working for a company for 20 years like they used to," Duval-Couetil said. "Jumping from job to job is very common. So, actually, entrepreneurship can be seen as one of the more secure jobs, because (students) can choose where they want to be. They can have a little bit more control over their own destiny."
Rich Sloan, co-founder of StartupNation.com, said shining a spotlight on young entrepreneurs like Clarke can help inspire others to start their own companies. Winners of the Dorm-Based 20 competition receive promotion from StartupNation on its Web site and through stories in the media.
"StartupNation's mission is to inform and inspire entrepreneurs," Sloan said.
"Anything that we can do to reach into the young lives of these (students) and get them inspired about entrepreneurship at an early age . . . is really important for our culture. We cannot just go on creating drones, worker bees, followers, uncreative thinkers. We have to foster these entrepreneurs at the earliest stages."