Jessica Carter and Jeremy Thompson look like typical college students and not the Web site tycoons that they actually are.
Carter, 20, and Thompson, 21, both seniors at the University of Memphis, operate a website that has sold nearly $200,000 worth of product since January.
The products are glow light sticks, commonly known as glow sticks. Thompson and Carter have to make sure they refer to their product as “glow light sticks” and not “glow sticks”. They have been sued twice by Omniglow, the self-proclaimed world leader in chemiluminescent glowing products, for patent and intellectual property rights infringement.
The first lawsuit, for patent infringement, dealt with the chemical makeup of the colors in the sticks. Apparently, Omniglow owns the patent for the chemical makeup of the color red, which is needed to make purple and orange. Luckily for Thompson and Carter, their Taiwan manufacturer had struck a deal with the company that Omniglow bought out for the patent in the early 1990s. The deal to use the patented chemical was made prior to the buy out, which left Omniglow without a case.
Omniglow argued semantics in their second lawsuit.
“They had the phrase ‘glow stick’ copyrighted and we had it plastered all over our Web site,” Carter explained. This prompted them to change the name of their product to “glow light stick”, or “light stick”.
The couple has also been sued by McDowell Enterprises for trademark infringement. McDowell Enterprises operates the Web site glowlites.com. Carter and Thompson’s original Web site was named glowlytes.com.
“We were hurting his business, so he sued us,” Carter said. “We changed our name and that was the end of that.”
Carter and Thompson changed their website to premierglow.com.
Although they are hesitant to talk about profit, Carter and Thompson did admit that they have turned over at least $50,000 in profit since January. Starting the business was not cheap— they initially invested over $30,000.
“We put up everything in our trust funds to start this,” Thompson said. “It was our tuition that we put up.” The risk paid off, their company now does approximately $4000 per week in sales.
“We live, eat, breathe and sleep glow sticks,” Carter said. “I haven’t seen a pool this summer.”
Carter and Thompson credit their success to the wonderful relationship they have with Taigee Enterprises, LLC, their manufacturer and the support of their family. Both Thompson and Carter said operating a small business has taken a toll on their academic and personal lives.
“Our house is filled with glow sticks and glow necklaces,” Thompson said. “You open the closet, and there are boxes and boxes of glow sticks.”
Thompson has dropped his classes down to nine hours this semester so he can devote the necessary time to business. Carter, however, is on a scholarship that requires her to graduate by May. Dropping classes is not an option for her, she said.
Their ages have also turned out to be an obstacle.
“The banks here laughed us right out the door,” Thompson said.
Taigee Enterprises, LLC, however, gave them a $15,000 line of credit on their word. Their contact at Taigee Enterprises didn’t find out their ages until about a week ago, when they asked him to postpone his trip to the United States because their classes were starting and they would not have time to show him around the city.
“If only our competitors knew how old we were,” Thompson laughs. “We feel like we don’t get the respect we deserve because of our age. A 30-year-old with the same business would get more respect.”
Carter and Thompson have not been on any shopping sprees, they feel being smart with their money is essential to the continuation of their business.
“We are so frugal with our money,” Carter explained. “We split meals when we go out to eat, we share school books in the classes we have together.”
Thompson nods in agreement: “It’s all about the overhead.”