Published: July 3, 2017 By

Nicolaus Wolfrum in a machine shop.I am a 20-year-old student studying mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. During my first year of college, I quickly learned three things about being a college student:

  1. Being a college student is hard
  2. Being a college student is time consuming
  3. Being a college student is expensive

During the summer after my freshman year I worked for my dad in his automotive machine shop, learning as much as I could about automotive machining and saving as much money as possible. As the fall quickly approached, I realized that I was going to have to find a way to work during the school year in order to pay my bills.

I wanted something that would allow me to continue to excel in my studies without spending every free second I had working. I also had no desire to work in the fast food industry or retail. I knew that I needed something that was flexible and hoped I could find something that would be at least somewhat rewarding.

I decided to open an eBay store where I would sell used and remanufactured inventory from my dad’s automotive machine shop, as well as new inventory that the machine shop’s suppliers could provide. Building an eBay store would allow me the flexibility of working from home, choosing my hours, and continuing to stay focused on my classes.

The sales were slow at first, and there were still months where I would have to ask my parents for help financially. But I realized the potential of eBay, continued to list more auctions, shipped items as quickly as possible, and always worked my hardest to provide the best experience for my customer as possible.

After nearly two years, all of my hard work has paid off as I have been chosen as a finalist in the Young Entrepreneur category of the eBay SHINE Awards for Small Business. The SHINE Awards, sponsored by USPS, is a seller recognition program that recognizes entrepreneurs who have used eBay to help build successful businesses.

Being selected as one of 15 finalists out of more than 2400 entries is one of the most exciting business accomplishments I have had to date. For me, being selected as a finalist for this award represents that no matter how young or how old you are, if you are determined to do something, you can.

I am hoping that my story of success can provide inspiration to other college students to think outside the box and find creative ways to support themselves through college. When I started, my goal was to simply be able to support myself without having to work countless hours at a job with no connection to my future as an engineer. Today, I can proudly say that I have successfully built a business that is allowing me to pay the bills, choose my own hours, and continue to work hard toward my goal of becoming a mechanical engineer.

You can read more about the SHINE Awards and my experience as a young entrepreneur on eBay at From June 26th until July 14th, the online community will have a chance to vote for their favorite seller in each category, with the seller with the most votes in their category being named the winner. I would love to take this opportunity to represent the University of Colorado and the Colorado community as the winner of this contest!

Nicolaus Wolfrum is an undergraduate student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.