Two Western Carolina students have started a website to promote community activities for students to get out of their dorms, but also to stay at Western over the weekends.
WCU senior Nathan Hunzaker originally started a WordPress website dedicated to showing students what activities were being planned in Cullowhee and the surrounding towns. The project was meant for Hunzaker’s design portfolio. However, the WordPress page was taking up too much time with little feedback. Hunzaker needed something more. Then senior Justin Rhodes came into the picture and said, “What can I do?”
“I created the pebble,” Hunzaker said, “and Justin pushed it off the ledge.”
The two began a website called “Cullowhere”, located at Cullowhere.com, with Hunzaker doing the design and Rhodes taking over the marketing. The website features several categories like “WCU” and “Concert” where students find activities under the certain categories. With an aesthetically pleasing background of a sky and green hills, the site is user-friendly and efficient. Students can choose to attend an event then share the information with their friends via Facebook.
“There’s more in Cullowhee than you think,” Hunzaker said. “We have 115 events over a two-month period.”
While the events bring people to the website, Rhodes said, “That’s the smoke and mirrors.” Rhodes and Hunzaker are also gathering “marketing expertise based on interactions on the website.”
“Cullowhere” also helps promote local businesses by getting the information out that they exist. Hunzaker said that often students will decide to drive a lengthy trip to Asheville or Cherokee instead of staying close-by because they believe there is nothing to do. By posting events, local businesses in Sylva, Cullowhee, and Dillsboro can now get more customers because they have an outlet that gives students easy access to all the information on events happening around them.
“There’s a genuine need to know what you can do on a Friday night,” Hunzaker said.
“We’re looking at a proactive approach to provide consumers information,” Rhodes added.
Cullowhee, North Carolina is not the end of the line for Hunzaker and Rhodes. They hope to take the “Cullowhere Process” to other smaller college towns around the United States through the company they are building called 21sixteen. Currently, the pair are finalists at the Five Ventures Business Innovation Competition sponsored by Angel Investors. If they win, the funding could assist in payments to get “Cullowhere” up and running around the country. It would then be known as “Anywhere.”
“We want to prevent money from leeching out of smaller areas to large cities,” Hunzaker said.
Hunzaker and Rhodes have been able to accomplish what they have with the help of their mentors, Western Carolina faculty members from the College of Business: Dr. Frank Lockwood, Robert “Bob” Carton, Dr. Robert Lahm for online advertisement, and Dr. Bill Richmond for business process and IT concerns.
“We have a very strong board of mentors that have really been putting us through the meat-grinder, honestly,” Rhodes said. “They are making sure our goals are realistic and are grounding us.”
Through “Cullowhere,” Hunzaker and Rhodes are making a future for themselves. Through social media, the two students have developed what could be the next Internet sensation.
“If there’s one gist of ‘Cullowhere’,” Hunzaker said, “it’s participate!”