Students Honored for Entrepreneurial Spirit

OGDEN, Utah – Like so many CEOs, Curtis Funk and Weston Thayne worry about customer satisfaction, growing their businesses and watching the bottom line. But unlike other CEOs, they also worry about their grades and earning a college degree.

In addition to being entrepreneurs, Funk and Thayne are Weber State University students. Both were recently honored among Utah’s top 25 student business owners by Utah Student 25.

Thayne’s company, Premium Landscaping LLC, came in seventh in the state in the 2009 rankings. Premium Landscaping focuses on both landscape maintenance and installations, including chain-link and vinyl fences. The business primarily services commercial properties but will accept residential clients. Thayne juggles balance sheets and client calls with pursuing his degree in business administration and a minor in psychology.

“The end of spring semester can be a real challenge because finals occur about the same time our landscaping workload picks up,” Thayne said.

Fellow entrepreneur Funk can relate. The 24-year-old North Ogden resident heads up FuneralRecording.com, an emerging field that assists funeral homes and mortuaries by recording and broadcasting services on the Internet. Since first being created in 2006, the business has grown steadily. Funk now works with 55 percent of the mortuaries in Utah and has contracts with funeral homes in 20 states, ranging from Alaska to Florida.

“The biggest challenge is every time I have finals or midterms, we have a huge day at work,” said Funk, a senior working on his bachelor’s degree in sales and service technology. “We just got hammered with over 100 funerals in the last seven days, and after working 12-hour days and then having to hit the books … .”

The seasonal nature of Thayne’s business offers a window to pursue his studies during the winter months. Even so, he spends the “offseason” maintaining equipment and researching products and prices, not to mention staying on top of accounting. In contrast, the nature of Funk’s work keeps him busy year round.

Both students said they learn a lot in the classroom that they can apply to their companies, from the art of negotiation to dealing with people to accounting. “I don’t think I’ve taken a sales class yet that I haven’t benefited from and that hasn’t changed the way I work,” Funk said. “So many things I’m learning are bettering the business.”

“Case studies are good, but they’re not the same as applying concepts to actual business scenarios,” said Thayne.

Funk and Thayne had similar motivations for going into business for themselves.

When Thayne returned from an LDS mission in 2007, he worked in landscaping and was eventually offered a job as a foreman.

“I started putting numbers together, and I realized I could make twice as much money if I went into business for myself,” Thayne said.

Today the 23-year-old West Point, Utah, native has two full-time and two part-time employees during the peak summer months. The company has grown from eight contract clients in 2008 to 17 in 2009.  Thayne’s goal for next year is to generate enough additional contract clients to have two full-time crews, one focused on maintenance, the other on installations.

Despite the success, Thayne doubted whether his company would be selected among the top 25 student-owned businesses in Utah, let alone be recognized in the top 10.

Funk is no stranger to being recognized for his business acumen. He was one of five Junto Partners chosen in 2008 for his entrepreneurial skills and business. FuneralRecording.com was recently named the No. 1 “Tech Trend” by FoxNews.com, which has helped generate even more national awareness.

As for the future, Funk said that once FuneralRecording.com is fully established, he has “100,000 other ideas” he’d like to pursue. “I made up my mind a long time ago that I’m not going to work for anyone else again,” he said.

The Utah Student 25 rankings are based on a formula that weighs the growth rate of the revenue and profits of each business. 2009 was the inaugural year for the rankings. All 25 honorees, including Funk and Thayne, will be featured in the December issue of Utah CEO magazine.

Visit weber.edu/wsutoday for more news about Weber State University.
Contact:

Weston Thayne, Utah Student 25 business honoree
801-589-7964 • wthayne.pl@gmail.com

Curtis Funk, Utah Student 25 business honoree
801-660-8276 • curtisfunk@gmail.com

Author:
John Kowalewski, director of Media Relations
801-626-7212 • jkowalewski@weber.edu