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Passion for education drives business idea

April 25, 2013
Joshua Hample

Joshua Hample’s idea is taking him places he never would have imagined. Namely, St. Louis, Missouri.

Hample’s ticket there is Student Vault, an innovative education savings plan idea that has earned him a finalist opportunity in the 2013 Arch Grants. Student Vault proposes to partner with a major credit card company in the United States to create a rewards program that funnels directly into a state-regulated education saving fund.

“Student Vault isn’t going to put someone through Harvard,” Hample says. “It’s going to give the average kid a chance to live at home and go to community college for a couple of years and give them the experience of education. We are just trying to get people to go to school.”

The program would see parents earning money towards an education fund, rather than points for products or Air Miles, and they won’t have to dip into their discretionary funds to do it, he says. What really sets his idea apart is a structure that would ensure the money could only be used for education. 

The Bachelor of Commerce graduate had been working as a commercial business relationship manger with HSBC, but on April 19 he packed up his car and headed south, first to Omaha, Nebraska to join his partner and then onto St. Louis to compete in the Arch Grant finals April 27. The program is attracting up-and-coming entrepreneurs to the city by offering $50,000 and in-kind support in the form of marketing, legal and IT support, as well as office space to the 20 best ideas annually. That Hample made it into the top 40 of 707 applicants is a feat his former professor Geoff Archer sees as a clear example of the student becoming the master.

“My money is on him going all the way with the Arch Grants and I think he is going to build a terrific business,” Archer says.

It’s a sentiment echoed by another former professor, Mike Thompson, who describes Hample as pragmatic and professional. “When I saw his idea I felt it was very innovative and it played to his strengths as a commercial banker,” he says. “He was bringing some very smart insights into this idea.”

It’s an idea that Hample is passionate about.

“The way to fix a lot of the problems with your economy is to educate your people,” he says. “An educated population is more likely to make intelligent decisions.”

Everyone should have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a learning environment, whether at college or university, Hample says. Great ideas happen when people work together, an experience he had at Royal Roads and sees mirrored in the Arch Grants community.

“The connections I have developed (at Royal Roads) are the sole reason for me doing what I am doing now. If anyone can take anything away from education it’s connecting with people.”

The opportunity to connect to a vibrant entrepreneurial community in St. Louis is part of the draw south, Hample says.

“They are doing something there that no one else is doing. It’s an entrepreneur’s dream,” he says. “They are doing a really good job of trying to bring young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and different concepts to life there and I think that is going to sustain them in the long run.”  

The final round of competition will see him making a 60-second business pitch and answering questions from the judges. It’s an intense experience he feels ready for thanks to the continued support from Royal Roads. Archer and several other business experts came together for a six-hour session with Hample to pull his business plan apart, looking for holes and ultimately strengthening the plan for St. Louis.

“It’s been a really helpful community. I am forever in debt to the help that they have provided,” Hample says.

That continued mentorship is a vital part of the Royal Roads model, says Thompson, who also reviewed Hample’s business plan. “Faculty do become very engaged with the students when we teach them and faculty enjoy staying in touch … so we are able to give them some useful insights as to their post-university activities.”

“I am very happy and proud about how many of my students want to stay in touch after graduation,” adds Archer, who notes students connect via LinkedIn and alumni via Facebook to continue the conversation. “This is why I do what I do. This is something Royal Roads enables me to do because it’s delivering a practical, useful education.”

For Hample, this weekend will determine his next steps. If he wins an Arch Grant he will relocate one more time to St. Louis. If he isn’t successful this round, he has every intention of continuing to work on the idea that originated as part of his course work at Royal Roads.

“I (had) a great job… but at some point you have to make the jump. You have to try,” he says. “If one kid gets to go to school where otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to then this program is a success. Education is just the most important thing.”