Student Entrepreneurs Launch Startups


Student entrepreneurs Michael Loffler ‘17 and Ramzi Barakat ‘17 have designed and launched their own startups in response to business needs they have independently identified and addressed.

INVENTOR AND ENTREPRENEUR: Michael Loffler (BSBA)

Unsure of what he wanted to do for a living, 16 year old Michael Loffler took a job working as a deejay. Over the months, he became progressively more involved in setting up the stage before shows and he ultimately established his own business for stage and event set up. When he decided to pursue a degree in International Business at SLU-Madrid, his was able to pay his own tuition by working for his company during the summer months.

But there was an element of the job that had always frustrated Michael. The elastic bungee cables used to secure stage curtains were not only tedious to attach, but also hazardous. If he accidentally lost his grip and let one snap, he would end up with welts on his skin, or worse. One of his colleagues inadvertently snapped a cable at eye level and ended up in the hospital! 

When Professor Gonzalo Moreno, Ph.D. assigned Michael and his peers to design their own products in Introduction to International Marketing, Michael began the journey which led him to create the Easy Clip, a sturdy plastic hook which can be used to attach curtains 80% faster than the traditional elastic cable. After completing Professor Moreno's class, Michael purchased a 3D printer and spent a summer designing a prototype. His company, Next Stage, now manufactures and distributes the Easy Clip through various retailers in Germany.

Michael will graduate from SLU-Madrid this spring and he plans to return to Germany to grow Next Stage and do consulting work on the side.

ATHLETE AND ENTREPRENEUR: Ramzi Barakat (BSBA and Economics)

Ramzi Barakat grew up in Kuwait, where soccer is a way of life. As a teenager, when he and his friends organized pickup games, someone would call a local sports facility to book the field. Everyone would then chip in to pay for the field rental. This proved complicated because many players were involved, and asking for money owed was considered taboo. Ramzi and five of his friends came up with the idea of developing a website and mobile app for reserving fields which would allow for players to find other available players, create teams, share payment and even organize tournaments.

And so, li3ib.com was born. The business model encompasses both B2C and B2B components: players wishing to book a field pay a small transaction fee and sports facilities offering rentals concede a 10% commission to li3ib.com. Through presence at a trade show, Instagram, paid social media posts, and mention from a well-known Kuwaiti news influencer, lib3ib.com was well positioned for the March 27 launch.

Ramzi says that he has learned a great deal about business strategy through his startup experience and has benefitted greatly from the mentorship of marketing professor, Dr. Gonzalo Moreno. After he graduates from SLU-Madrid this spring, he plans to pursue training in computer programming. Armed with the technical knowledge that he feels he is currently lacking, he intends to tackle another sports business startup initiative.

April 3, 2017
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