By: Gigi Grimes
Photos by: Allie Little
When sitting down with Alex Mitchell (COL ‘18) and David Patou (COL ’18), the co-founders of Campus Sherpa, it’s clear that they’re not your average Georgetown sophomores. Before our conversation starts, Alex updates David on what has happened today with Campus Sherpa: a newsletter that went out, emails that need to be sent, projects that need to be started. It’s immediately evident that they mean business. The two started the company about one year ago when David approached Alex with the idea for an organization to supplement the official college tour by providing prospective students with a student who had similar academic and social interests and could provide them with an individualized look into campus life. “I had the idea my first semester of freshman year,” explained David, “I was thinking back about college tours and I remembered that at some tours I had a family friend whom I would meet at the school and get a more personalized trip. In hindsight, I found that those trips had the most substance. Most people aren’t qualified to talk about the history of a university, but can talk about their experience and provide a unique experience for other students.” After hearing David’s pitch Alex immediately jumped on board. “I had to push David a little bit to get it started” added Alex, “that was the hardest part taking that initial step and going for it.”
Campus Sherpa now employs about 1,000 students across the country at over 60 universities, a huge amount of progress from when they first started, but it hasn’t been as easy as it might seem. “Running a start-up isn’t as sexy as everyone makes it seem, it’s actually really hard,” remarked Alex “you have to sit in lawyers offices and figure out how to get everything legal and approved and file your taxes, it’s a lot.” As for help at Georgetown, David and Alex both agreed that the resources offered by the MSB were helpful. Each Friday the two would attend MSB entrepreneurship programs led by a recent Georgetown grad who helped them get the company started. David expressed some of their qualms with the MSB though adding, “the resources that Georgetown does have are helpful, but Georgetown isn’t known for entrepreneurship and start-ups, so in that respect we did struggle a bit.” What David said really helped them was the Georgetown community, “Georgetown students are great. At the very early stages we reached out to friends to get in touch with their friends at other universities to provide tours. Everyone was extremely open to helping, which aided the company in getting off the ground.”
The two believe that this positive experience with students has helped shape their company. “We’re a student company for students,” expressed David, “we work with students to provide other students information, and to connect students together.” Alex added to this saying, “we’re entirely a people company. In business meetings everyone is spitting out ideas. The environment is very driven, but no one feels like they work for Campus Sherpa, they feel like they work with Campus Sherpa.” This student driven environment extends all the way up to the CEOs, “at the end of the day it’s a learning experience,” adds David. The two have learned “more than [they] could’ve imagined” about business and working in the “real world.” “I think the most important learning that I’ve experienced is the importance of self-motivation. For someone who’s interested in starting anything you need to self-motivate to see like ‘this doesn’t have to be done, but it would be great if we started doing this.’ Just being very proactive,” Alex explained. David chimed in adding that for him, the most important part was to “fake it until [he] made it.” He elaborated on this saying, “I’m the type of person who needs to have everything planned and that doesn’t work in start ups. If you’re always waiting to be ready nothing will ever happen.”
Working this hard though can be difficult as a student. The two conceded that balancing life as a student and as a professional has been one of the most difficult aspects of working with Campus Sherpa. David explained this saying, “In the student business we’re in a unique position where this isn’t all of our lives. We have to also balance being a student and having a social life. I can’t join all of the clubs here that everyone else is doing because I just don’t have time. I’m just trying to be satisfied with what I’m doing and be happy with it.” Though it can be tough at times, the two agreed that it’s been amazing to see what they could do before they even graduate. Alex added how humbling the experience has been for the two, stating, “it’s great to see that people have faith and invest in our success, it’s incredibly humbling. Anyone in entrepreneurship knows that the learning experience is so eye opening.” David concurred mentioning that it’s been awesome for him to see that something like this is possible, “it’s crazy to put in all the work and have a real tangible result, it’s possible to do things in the real world as a student.” For other Georgetown students looking to get involved in the start-up world Alex says, “just go out there and do it. 90% of entrepreneurship is just going out and doing it.”
As for the future of Campus Sherpa, Alex and David are just waiting to see where it takes them. “It depends a lot on the success of the company, right now we love working with other students without having a full corporate experience,” says David. It’s obvious that whatever happens Alex and David have revolutionized the college tour process and proved that even students can make an impact on the professional world. They’ve made it clear that you don’t have to go to Silicon Valley to have a successful start-up, but you might have to trade in your jeans and hoodie for their “J-Crew casual” style. And based on what I’ve seen, it’s 100% worth it.