Campus Concierge CEO named 2015 Young Entrepreneur of the Year

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 696 views 

At 25, Anna Morrison is an articulate entrepreneur running a successful and growing tutoring business blocks away from the University of Arkansas. She is the CEO and director of operations of Campus Concierge, located in the Hathcock Building at the corner of Dickson and Block streets.

She also is the 2015 Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Arkansas District of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

As the name might imply, Campus Concierge doesn’t help students find a reliable dry cleaner or recommend a five-star restaurant when parents come to town. No, Campus Concierge focuses on one thing — helping students adapt to the freedom of college life and manage their time while providing assistance in their studies, including tutoring as necessary.

“I have always been organized. I use a planner and make to do lists,” she said.

And, not far in years from being a college student herself, she recognizes some of the challenges and pitfalls that many students face when they arrive on campus. For a $300 a semester membership, a student receives a detailed study plan for each course to help him keep up with the class work. Tutoring, workspaces, printing, parking and Wi-Fi are included in the membership.

“The study plan is intended to help a student see school as a job,” Morrison said.

Weekly contact with the member’s parents also is included in that membership to ease parental concern about their student’s adaptation to campus life.

“We’re kind of like mom’s academic support,” Morrison said. “We keep parents in the loop. Time management is a huge struggle; also, basic structure and accountability.”

Campus Concierge also offers tutoring packages in 10- and five-hour increments in an individual course through the employment of students as independent contractors to work as tutors. The company employed 78 tutors during the spring semester that just ended. Campus Concierge is targeted to incoming freshmen or sophomores who find themselves in a hole with their grades and need help to improve their grades.

“It’s hard to ask for help,” she acknowledged, having graduated in 2011 from the University of Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. She started her business when she was 23.

“I’m 25 and a woman and I’m learning to be the boss and not lose the sense of who I am,” she said. “I’m learning to be a good boss and still be respected.”

The idea for Campus Concierge is steeped in a close relationship with her parents, Steve Morrison, a commercial contractor, and Beverly Morrison, human resources professional at Simmons Foods. The growth and development has been left to Morrison, who returned to Northwest Arkansas after a marketing stint in New York City.

Campus Concierge opened in April 2013 and the following year expanded its tutoring program to a sorority and a fraternity. Since, several Greek houses have joined the network. She readily acknowledges her challenges have centered on business development but she hasn’t hesitated to reach out for assistance from other entrepreneurs.

“I believe in the American dream,” she said. “It’s real. It’s cool to connect with all the resources in this community.”

Morrison also has established a student advisory group, which meets two times each semester to share ideas and make recommendations for change to stimulate growth.

Campus Concierge is offering an ACT preparation class leading up to the ACT exam in June. The ACT is a college admission test across the country, including the University of Arkansas. The company also tutored an Advanced Placement class at Fayetteville High School this past spring, she said.

“These sessions could make the transition to college even better,” she said.

In addition to the 78 tutors, who work on call, Morrison has two employees. Megan Boeving is the director of student services, and Aricka Lewis heads up public relations and graphic design. Three interns from UA will be on staff this summer.

Morrison, who said she is a “sucker” for handwritten notes, said she is “shocked and humbled” by the SBA award. A parent of a member in Dallas nominated her. The award is based on evidence of success as measured by sales and profits; increased employment opportunities created by the nominee’s business; development and/or utilization of innovative or creative business methods; and demonstrated entrepreneurial potential necessary for long-term business success and economic growth, according to the SBA nomination package.

“There are lots of perks and lots of challenges to make you own decisions,” Morrison said. The reward is “the impact you leave on these students by guiding students in the right decision with community resources.”

She holds on to a handwritten letter left on her desk from a student member of her company.

“I just wanted to thank you for everything. When I receive a good or great grade on a test I always thank you and say it was because of you. … What I have come to realize that it may be me taking the test but your program has given me the confidence in my studies that I never had before,” the student wrote.

That sums the joy she gets in knowing the impact her efforts have on students.

Another letter from a parent written in support of her nomination for Entrepreneur of the Year, noted: “It is very rare that a young entrepreneur is able to (i) identify a market need, (ii) develop a business plan that matches the need and the available resource, and (iii) convince customers to pay for that value at a premium price. Anna’s basic tutoring service is not ‘rocket science’ but her ability to create a business … out of that basic service is ingenious.”

She wants to see her business expand over the next two years to assist students at NorthWest Arkansas Community College, John Brown University and other institutions in the region and the state. Her five-year goal is to see Campus Concierge operating in other college towns in other states.