The summer before her senior year in high school, Rachel Pardue ’19, attended an entrepreneurship camp at Yale University. Out of 300 students at the camp, 10 had business pitches chosen as projects for the summer. Pardue’s was one of them. That moment was the beginning of her love story with entrepreneurship.
“I caught the entrepreneurship bug,” said Pardue.
A Budding Entrepreneur
After camp, Pardue applied to a business accelerator program at her local university, Louisiana Tech. As the youngest entrepreneur ever to be admitted into the program, she used the opportunity to create her first business: hand-held translation devices to be used in the military.
Fast forward to the college search process, and Pardue was invited to Babson to interview for a scholarship through the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL).
“I did the weekend overnight stay, and in that one night I met so many other people just like me,” said Pardue. “I had never experienced anything like it.”
She was able to meet the current members of E-Tower, the entrepreneurship-focused, special-interest community on campus.
“I thought: these are my people—this is my place,” said Pardue.
Blooming at Babson
Her entrepreneurial background served Pardue well as a first-year student, jumping right in to her Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship (FME) course. She remembers the experience as being rewarding and integral to her growth as an entrepreneur. “We decided to make our business structure flat,” said Pardue. “We were all able to own the parts of the business we were passionate about.”
She didn’t forget about E-Tower, either. She moved into the living community her sophomore year and held the position of president in 2017. “It was a full-time job,” said Pardue. “It is where I learned to build communities within an organization, while also supporting outside relationships.”
Pardue credits her experience as E-Tower president for preparing her to lead her own company. “In that role, you have all the responsibilities of a CEO.”
“I thought: these are my people—this is my place.”
Rachel Pardue ’19
LOU: Born at Babson
In her junior year, Pardue spent a semester at Babson’s San Francisco campus. A class project with fellow E-Tower resident Kyle Lawson ’18 challenged the two to solve a problem. Pardue’s inspiration for the project came from her personal life.
“Every time I went over to my grandparents’ house, they would ask me to teach them how to use their computer,” said Pardue. “One time, they wanted me to show them how to write ‘Happy Birthday’ to my Aunt Lou on Facebook.”
This is when the idea for LOU was born—an interactive software that walks users through different computer programs, just as Pardue had done for her grandparents.
“Babson encouraged us to figure out the cheapest and quickest way to test our idea,” said Pardue. She and Lawson built LOU on HubSpot, launching with 10 interactive tutorials, available via Chrome extension. After HubSpot noticed, and reached out to the co-founders, they realized they had a different opportunity on their hands: LOU was really a B2B product.
As she has continued to successfully pitch LOU across the country and build the business while remaining a full-time student, Pardue is grateful for the support Babson has given her. “The staff at The Blank Center are angels,” she says. “From the different Launch Pad programs, to the mentoring sessions, to Debi Kleiman’s connections in the ecosystem, they have opened so many doors for us.”
“Rachel has a magnetic quality, she’s smart, driven, thoughtful and creative,” says Kleiman, executive director of The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship. “She balances an insightful curiosity with a big dose of bold, make-it-happen attitude, and I love working with her.”
A Bright Future
With Commencement around the corner, Pardue is going all in on growing LOU. “We are currently trying to decide between raising money or an accelerator,” said Pardue. “We are working on a Boston-based pilot, hoping to have five companies on by May.”
“Babson taught me that it is much better to have a real problem than to have a solution in search of a problem,” said Pardue. “At the end of the day, if you are passionate about solving this problem for these people—you will get there.”
Posted in Entrepreneurship of All Kinds