Ulife founder Abe Choe had a simple request after receiving a new laptop – he wanted a University of Oregon laptop cover. Seems like a simple enough request, but after a couple frustrating searches for a laptop cover without any success, Abe decided to create his own.
Several years and thousands of orders later, Ulife is a collegiate merchandise brand that makes licensed products including laptop sleeves, iPhone cases, memory foam pillows, Cyclone cups and more. The company has been fully embraced by the university and students, and offers students and recent graduates internships. Although Abe is just in the early stages of his entrepreneurial life and career, he embraces following his passion as an entrepreneur and it shows through his work with Ulife.
Q: In your career so far as an entrepreneur, what has been your most rewarding experience?
A: “Being able to look into any persons eyes and say that I am following my dream.”
How Did Abe Start Ulife?
After deciding that he wanted to create his own University of Oregon laptop sleeves, there was a lot of work ahead of him. The first step was getting the rights to use the official school logo on his products. Abe went to the trademark office to fill out an application. Receiving the rights to use a trademarked logo can be very difficult and this obstacle could have stopped Ulife before it ever got started.
While nearly 200 universities outsource their trademark licensing operations to the Collegiate Licensing Company, the University of Oregon controls their own trademark. This was vital to Ulife as Abe and his company could approach the university directly instead of having to go through a third party. Trademark licenses remain a hurdle when trying to expand Ulife to other universities, but it hasn’t stopped the company from growing and carving out a strong niche on the University of Oregon campus.
After applying for the trademark, he then approached friends and family to raise funding and get help with several aspects of the company. Abe flew to China to find a reliable manufacturer and an estimated $12,000 later, the first Ulife laptop sleeves were available for sale.
Successful entrepreneurs often exhibit signs of their passion for entrepreneurship at an early age. Abe Choe, Founder of Ulife first displayed entrepreneurial prowess at the age of 9 while helping his grandma. Abe’s grandma lived in Orange County, California and had an orange groove. The oranges could be shaken from the trees and Abe and his brother would receive money for the oranges they collected off of the ground. Abe’s grandma would then cut the oranges in half and squeeze them into natural orange juice. Abe instantly saw an opportunity to complete the full process of collecting and turning the oranges into orange juice to increase the amount he would receive from grandma. The plan worked well and the entrepreneurial spark was lit.
Abe credits his success to the team at Ulife. “We have a great team that is working really hard.” Among plans for expansion and growth in the upcoming months, Ulife is working with an all-natural soap company to release a line of collegiate soaps.
What’s Next for Abe Choe and Ulife? Don’t drop out! listen to the full interview with Abe Choe below!
- Why Ulife utilizes and benefits from a four day work week.
- “Start something you love. The only way to get through all of the obstacles is if you love it and know there’s a purpose.”
- “Fail quick, pivot and try again. You only need one good idea to succeed.”
- How many hours do you spend a week working on your ventures or other entrepreneurship related projects? “It’s literally every moment I’m awake.”
- How much sleep do you get a night? “5-6 hours on the weekdays.”
- What do you do in your free time to relax? “I read articles … listen to business podcasts … and I love watching football, playing football, and managing my fantasy football league. I’m a football junkie.”
- What is the worst business idea you’ve ever had? “I’ve had a lot of bad ideas. Maybe the worst one was buying high-end used cars and then shipping and selling them in South Korea. The reason it was such a bad idea is because I had no way of selling these cars, I didn’t think of distribution.”
- If you could add one entrepreneur in the world to your team at Ulife, who would it be and why? “Pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback Church.” Abe was recently at the OC Business Summit and heard Pastor Rick Warren along with many other great speakers. Abe’s dad used to always say that the best business partner to have is God. “By partnering up with Rick Warren, I could live a purpose driven life and take it from there.”