USA Today Feature

USA Today Feature

For two UVM students, bridging the gap between local businesses and college students is just another day at the office.

Beacon was founded by Peter Silverman and Max Robbins, both 20 and both UVM juniors in the business school. Their company’s website is basically a job board, but to describe it that way would do the idea a disservice.

The company, which launched its site BeaconVT.com Thursday, allows students to offer themselves up for work via an online profile. Business can also post their openings publicly and pay Beacon for access to an ever-growing pool of ready-to-work people, complete with resumes, skill areas and examples of what they have done for past Beacon clients.

A company can pay anywhere from $10 to $150 a month, depending on how much exposure to college students a company wants Beacon to provide.

But on top of conventional internship and job postings, the company encourages businesses to offer their short-term tasks or projects to students so they can gain experience and figure out what they want to do without the pressure of an internship that takes up an entire summer.

“It’s a hard transition going from college to career, and the only in-between would be an internship,” Silverman said. “They’re usually three months at a time, and if you don’t like it, you’re stuck with it.”

Beacon is attempting to tackle the “brain drain” issue, or what happens when fresh college graduates and young professionals leave states like Vermont to enter what they perceive as lucrative job markets, often in big cities.

Job markets in large cities like Boston, New York and San Francisco are well integrated, Robbins said, but similar jobs exist in Burlington too. Students just need a low-pressure way to get their foot in the door.

“80 percent of businesses in Vermont are under 10 people. Taking on an intern is a big ask for them,” Robbins said.

The offerings on their site, BeaconVT.com, are sparse right now — there were only about 20 opportunities available as of Friday. Over a one-month testing period, 11 businesses bought Beacon’s services, over 60 people made profiles and the site had well over 1,000 unique visitors.

The company is moving quickly, Silverman said. Over the course of a 40 minute interview with the Burlington Free Press, four new profiles were filled out, he said.

“It feels like every week there are enormous milestones,” Silverman said.

Before launching the business in earnest, Robbins and Silverman pitched their company at competitions around Vermont over the winter. They found little success, aside from a second-place finish at UVM’s LaunchVT competition, a feeder contest to the statewide competition that nets the winner $30,000 cash, and $45,000 in other support.

Then, Silverman and Robbins landed a spot in the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, a high-tech business incubator space in downtown Burlington that houses a handful of start-up companies.

Finally, in April 2016, the duo won UVM’s business pitch competition and $1,600 in prize money, supplemented by $2,000 apiece from Robbins and Silverman over the nine-month existence of the company.

“That just reaffirmed everything we were doing. It was awesome,” Robbins said.

Big cities already have services like Beacon, Robbins said, but where Beacon sees an opening are in small, college towns like Burlington.

“Places like this have a cool entrepreneurial scene, but they have the same issues of brain drain,” Robbins said. “It’s not that the work isn’t there, it’s just that it’s hard to find and businesses don’t have good reach into the colleges.”

In the coming months, Beacon hopes to expand into the Vermont State Colleges. Even though Silverman and Robbins have just eight months of experience under their belts, they’re getting used to the unpredictable world of an entrepreneur, they said.

“You could fail and crumble and your nine months work could just fail at anytime,” Silverman said. “But you also have these breakthroughs.”

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