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Sullivan earns entrepreneurial fellowship

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August 07, 2013 - Most college students usually spend their freshman year awkwardly adjusting to their new academic and social surroundings.

Not Sean Sullivan. He was busy taking a crash course in entrepreneurship by founding and operating his own campus business for four years.

With drive like that, it's no wonder the 24-year-old Oxford resident was named one of four Adams Entrepreneur Fellows.

"The fellowship strives to promote entrepreneurship and develop young entrepreneurs in the southeast Michigan area," Sullivan said.

Administered through Automation Alley, the one-year fellowship provides an annual stipend, placement at a start-up enterprise, continuous mentoring, and opportunities to participate in entrepreneurial development workshops.

As part of the program, Sullivan was given an executive position at the Troy-based TOGGLED, a solid-state lighting technology company founded in 2007 as a subsidiary of Altair.

"We're making LED (light-emitting diode) replacements for fluorescent tubes in various sizes," he said. "That's all that we're focused on."

Sullivan, a product of homeschooling, seamlessly switched into salesman mode as he touted the virtues of the company's product. Not only do the LED replacement lamps last two to three times longer than their fluorescent counterparts, they also use less energy, 18 Watts compared to 40 Watts, he explained.

Sullivan is serving as TOGGLED's director of business development. Most of his job is focused on marketing and sales, but he's also helping to develop the company's overall strategy, where it's heading and how to position itself.

By working directly with TOGGLED's president and interacting with people at a thriving, well-established company like Altair, Sullivan is hoping to gain the necessary knowledge and experience to someday own and operate his own successful business.

Sullivan, a 2011 graduate of Grove City College in Pennsylvania, is certainly no stranger to start-up companies.

He currently owns a web-based company call Shadoodle LLC, which makes custom apparel for college clubs and campus groups. He started the business during his senior year at Grove City.

Prior to that, he and some friends started a DVD rental kiosk business during their freshman year and ran it until they graduated. They sold it the same month they received their diplomas.

"We definitely made a profit, but it wasn't a whole lot," he said.

Sullivan is attracted to the entrepreneurial lifestyle because it offers the "freedom" of working for yourself coupled with the opportunity to "build and create something."

He also likes the fact that the benefits of being an entrepreneur are "directly proportional" to "how hard you work."

"Your success is tied to your actions," Sullivan said. "If you work harder and are more creative, you reap the rewards of that. That really appealed to me."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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