According to Businessweek, New York University seniors Katie Shea and Susie Levitt were interning in Manhatten when their sore feet inspired them to start a $10,000 dorm-room company selling foldable flat shoes that come in their own tote bag.

A year later they have imported 70,000 pairs from China that retail for between $10 and $25. Women can don the slipper-like footwear to hike or drive to the office in comfort, then switch back to their high heels when they arrive at work.

Inspired by Mark Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook as a sophomore at Harvard University and stymied by the shortage of jobs in the recession, college students are launching businesses before they graduate.

They’re entering industries that previously required large investments, thanks to websites that offer help with manufacturing, inventory management, and accounting, says Dane Stangler, a project manager with the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes entrepreneurship.

At USC, students are realizing they can become importers through Alibaba, globalsources.com, and exportnation.com, says Shriftman. His classmates have asked him how to contact foreign suppliers, and friends have plans to import first-aid kits and snowboards, he says.

Online marketplaces that connect importers and exporters are “really changing the whole game of how products are manufactured,” says Shriftman. “Anyone can have anything made right now.”

Photo by Businessweek.

Originally posted by Rich Whittle on October 20, 2010 in Ideas.

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