By Kristin Hackler
It was another rain drenched day in Charleston when the winners of the Mark Motley/YESCarolina State Business Plan competition were announced. That fact didn’t bother the anxious competitors inside, however, as much as it was bothering Kiawah Island resident Kim Knox, mother of state finalist Evan Knox.
“We were racing to get to the college [College of Charleston School of Business] before the winners were announced and just couldn’t get around the flood. People were asking if Evan even had parents,” says Kim Knox, smiling.
But it was Evan’s decision that his parents not be in attendance during the entire competition. They weren’t able to be at the county competition when he placed first, so he figured it would jinx the results if they stuck around for this one. Jinx or not, Kim was thrilled when the principal of Evan’s school, Hacker Burr of Charleston Collegiate, announced that Evan placed first for the state. She arrived just in time to celebrate with him and assure everyone that yes, Evan did have parents and they were very, very proud of him.
The road to the state finals was a long one, starting at the beginning of the 2012/13 school year with an in-class challenge in Evan’s entrepreneurship class.
“The goal of our entire class was to create our own business. And we didn’t just write up a white paper for a business, we were encouraged to actually go out and start it,” says Evan.
Along with his idea for creating a web design company for small and one-person businesses, students started businesses such as dog walking services, designer knitting, and photography.
“We got a lot of real life examples in class. Our teacher brought in several entrepreneurs from the Charleston area to talk to us about starting our own business. I was really inspired by Danny Russell-Einhorn of Afford-A-Bike downtown. He taught us about branding and how he’s created a lot of his own brands as part of his business. It was great to see how passionate he is and how much he’s progressed since he started,” says Evan.
The drive to actually start the business as opposed to simply proposing it was what Evan felt gave him the edge in the Business Plan competition, which was held at the classroom level this past April and at the county level in May. After presenting his fully functioning business to Charleston area business owners/judges, Evan took home the state level top prize of $3,000 and is preparing to move on to the nationals in New York this October.
“I was a little unsure about the business because there are so many web designers in Charleston, but what makes Bullseye Web Designs stand out is that it is geared toward very small businesses; typically ones that are only owned and operated by one or only a few people who don’t have the time to create their own site,” says Evan.
He began by approaching the owners of Java Java in Freshfields Village, as well as the owners of The Ice Cream Boat in Bohicket Marina. Both sites are now up and running and are exceptional examples of clean, easy-to-follow and artistic web design. No one would ever guess that their designer only just became age-eligible for a South Carolina driver’s license.
“The way I approach new clients is by recognizing that they are a small business owner and then checking to see if they have a website. If they don’t, I build them a sample site and sell that to them. Lately I’ve been focusing on solo practice lawyers as a lot of them don’t have the experience or the time to create their own site,” says Evan.
And his parents, Kim and Mike Knox, are encouraging him every step of the way.
“We made sure to tell him the rule of happy and successful small business owners: if you hate your job, quit it and find something you love to do,” says Mike.
It’s a rule that Mike has followed in his own life, allowing him to become an investor in small businesses such as Lucky Luciano’s Pizzeria in Bohicket Marina, a popular pizza restaurant that is currently run by JI Pizza veteran Beth Martin.
“There have been so many inspiring people that I’ve met through class and through this competition. Jimmy Bailey and Harriet Lee of YESCarolina have been great in organizing these competitions and partnering with Charleston Collegiate to provide entrepreneurship classes, and Hacker Burr has been really helpful in making entrepreneurship the main focus of Charleston Collegiate and by being there and encouraging us to succeed,” says Evan.
Evan Knox will be competing against 40 other state finalists in the national competition in New York City for the chance to win $35,000 in seed money for his company. The competition is scheduled to take place on October 3.
For more information about the Mark Motley/YESCarolina Business Challenge, visit www.YESCarolina.com. For more information about Bullseye Web Designs and to order your own beautifully designed website, visit www.bullseyewebdesigns.com.