By Kelsey Wagner, BSBA Marketing ’12
In October 2009, Sean Conway and D.J. Stephan started a bidding war after they pitched their venture Notehall.com to a panel of investors on the ABC reality show “Shark Tank”. After landing a $90,000 investment on the show, the online market place that allows college students to buy and sell class notes, has now reached eighty-eight universities. The majority of Eller students have at least heard of Notehall, if not use it regularly, but a lot of the fame the start up company holds on campus is because of the alma mater of the two founders; Eller College of Management. The Eller connections at Notehall don’t stop there, Dr. Victor Piscitello, Professor of Marketing at the University of Arizona, serves on Notehall’s Academic Advisory Board, and Sean Conway’s former classmate, Josh Cohen is Notehall’s corporate accountant. Relationships like the one maintained between Notehall founder Sean Conway and Joshua Cohen prove that Eller does not only teach you about the business world, but also connects you to it through relationships with classmates, faculty, and alumni.
After graduation, Sean Conway jumped right into starting his business, Notehall.com, and Josh Cohen started his Accounting Career at Deloitte & Touche, and has since joined Cohen & Bender an Accountancy Corporation. But it was back in 2006 that the two met as students in Eller’s entrepreneurship program, the McGuire Center. It was there, Sean says, that he was, “given the knowledge on how to organize business ideas, and the finances behind running a company. Most of all, Eller gave me the self-confidence to start my own company.” During his time here, Sean also gained valuable contacts and lasting friendships, including that of Josh Cohen, his current CPA. Sean says, “Josh was always a person that had the top notch accounting knowledge in class. When we would ask him for advice he always knew the answers. I knew he was a person that I could trust and rely on as our corporate accountant, and I couldn’t have been more right.” They both had promising future endeavors, and Josh says, “Once we graduated, we wanted to help each other out. He needed an Accountant and I was looking to build a client base for my firm. Before he hired me, I was helping him when he came across any tax or accounting related questions. Also I think we can help each other and grow together professionally.”
Josh and Sean live on two different ends of the west coast, Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. Thanks to the wonders of technology, though, they are able to keep in touch and discuss work related issues frequently via email and cell phone. This is also how they both keep in contact with other former classmates and faculty members. Because maintaining the relationships founded here at the UofA Sean says he, “sets aside one call every two weeks to connect with an old classmate, professor or someone else I respected in the Eller community.” On top of that, Josh says he always makes an effort to return back to his Wildcat home, where he has been to homecoming the past two years, and plans to get out to Tucson for an interview weekend in the fall.
The two Eller graduates credit both the academic environment here at Eller, and the connections they were able to make, as key factors to their success. The two work together as friends first, but business partners second. As they work together to create success for themselves and their organizations, they are also paving the way for future Eller graduates. One bit of advice Josh Cohen recommends to current Eller students is, “Network, Network, Network. Stay in touch with your classmates, and once you start working meet other UA Graduates in the cities you are located. The more people you know the better you will do in the future.”
To current McGuire students who are interested in following Sean and Josh’s footsteps, Conway recommends that, “If you are interested in entrepreneurship, start a business right out of college. You are used to living off nearly nothing anyway and likely have no wife or children to support. It’s the best time to shoot for the moon.”