GVSU student finds early business success

GVL / Sara Carte - Entrepreneur Zachary Collins, is in his Junior year at Grand Valley with a new business called ZaCo Technologies on Friday, March 18, 2016.

Sara Carte

GVL / Sara Carte – Entrepreneur Zachary Collins, is in his Junior year at Grand Valley with a new business called ZaCo Technologies on Friday, March 18, 2016.

Sanda Vazgec

In 2009, the most experience a majority of young teens had with the internet was trying to figure out which song fit best with their MySpace page or how to navigate newly-established Facebook. However, Zachary Collins, a Holland, Michigan native and junior at Grand Valley State University, sold his first web-based company for $2,000 that year and his entrepreneurship has only expanded since then.

13-year-old Collins discovered potential in web design when he figured out he could post an advertisement on a website and make a few pennies from it. After that, he spent most of his free time teaching himself how to code.

Once he had a basic knowledge of coding, he developed a website called Twtbase. The website was a database containing all the different applications people had created off the Twitter platform. At the time, Twitter didn’t have the features it currently does, so people developed applications to give the social media site more options. Collins saw the opportunity to put all of those applications in one place.

Collins sold Twtbase for $2,000 and in 2010, invested the money into a new project, a website called Yazzem. His new project was a discussion board to start topics and share ideas. He sold that website at 14-years-old for $15,000.

In 2013, Collins moved on to form a creative agency in Portland, Oregon called Dot Dot Dash. The company builds digital and physical experiences, mostly that of virtual reality. Dot Dot Dash has created products for companies such as Nike, ESPN, Mountain Dew and Six Flags.

Since then, in 2014, Collins has created his own software company, ZaCo Technologies, which focuses on creating technology and software for schools. For his latest project, Collins has teamed up with one of his former teachers at Holland High School to create Ludus, an online ticket sales program aimed at high school performing arts programs.

Kevin Schneider, director of theatre at Holland High School, approached Collins for help to create an easy way to sell tickets for theatre shows.

“I went to Zack because I knew he had created programs,” Schneider said. “He can take someone’s ramblings and thoughts and turn them into an incredible working prototype.”

After the program was created, they continued to work out the knots until it was fully functional. They decided to demo Ludus for the school’s Phantom of the Opera production, and it turned out to be a huge success due to its ease of use. Schneider said the school has experienced an overall rise in tickets sales since the implementation of the Ludus program.

Collins has taken the program nationwide and generated a large consumer base in a fairly short amount of time. Ludus is projected to hit $1 million in ticket sales this year.

When it comes to the money he’s made from his first ideas, Collins said he’s used those profits to fund his more recent endeavors.

“With Ludus and ZaCo Technologies I’m taking the majority of that money and putting it back into the company,” Collins said. “Obviously, I do have to pay myself, so I do take out a very small sum but nothing substantial.”

As far as his education goes, Collins admits he didn’t want to attend college because he wanted to focus all of his time on technology projects, but decided to follow his parents’ wishes and enroll. He’s currently studying entrepreneurship and management at GVSU.

Collins said he makes an effort to stay engaged in his classes but most of his learning comes from the real-world experience he’s gained from administering his companies.

“If I wasn’t learning anything I wouldn’t be in school, there’s always new things or theories that are interesting,” Collins said. “When it comes to business, I’ve learned pretty much everything from experience.”

Collins said it’s important to not fear failure when it comes to entrepreneurship. He attributes his success to taking on projects he sees potential in and understanding what the technology market is in need of by staying up to date with trends in the field.

In the future, Collins hopes to stick with internet-based technology and eventually own his own company. He said it’s important to be patient and focus on what he has access to now and continue to build off of projects in order to grow his success.

“I think the most important thing about anything you do is to not pay attention to what other people think about what you’re doing,” Collins said. “If you have an idea to do something, just do it, because you never know what it can turn into or where it can take you.”