Students make free smartphone app

The application, called Lunchbox, will be used to order takeout.

Katherine Lymn

Instead of trying to find a place in a dismal job market, two University of Minnesota students are creating their own. Seniors Sarah Young and Samantha Fung are partners in the start-up company Mxapp , which will soon launch a smartphone application called Lunchbox for restaurants. Lunchbox is a free application used to order takeout from fast-casual restaurants. Coupled with the online version of the same concept, Young and Fung hope to have created the next big thing. Mxapp CEO and founder Parag Shah graduated from the University last year and has been working âÄúfull-time plusâÄù on the company, Young said. She and Fung hope to do the same after graduating in May. Young, a marketing student at the Carlson School of Management, met Shah and learned about Mxapp when she was a teaching assistant in his fall 2008 Carlson operating class. She was intrigued and soon very involved. After meeting as orientation leaders in 2008, Young and FungâÄôs friendship grew from afar as they bonded over their shared experiences abroad in Hong Kong âÄî Fung went in summer 2007 and Young in spring 2009. Young worked with Shah this summer, and Fung got more involved in the fall after a summer internship. No backups, all faith The extreme faith Young and Fung share in the company is evident in their post-graduation plans âÄî or lack thereof. Both women have made little or no plans other than continuing work with Mxapp. âÄúBy the time we graduate, we should get a pretty good idea if [Lunchbox] is going to continue much farther,âÄù Young said. âÄúThings are starting to happen, so weâÄôll be able to gauge over the next few months if itâÄôs going âĦ to survive.âÄù Young said she is forcing herself to be without a backup plan. âÄúI donâÄôt want to tempt myself into taking a safe route,âÄù she said. âÄúIf things start getting shaky, IâÄôd rather push through the challenge.âÄù The confidence in the project is coupled with a win-win philosophy. âÄúAt this point in our lives, we donâÄôt have a lot to lose if we put all of our time into this,âÄù Fung said. âÄúWeâÄôre going to learn either way.âÄù Meetings and more meetings While their peers focus on completing sufficient credits for graduation, Young and Fung are gaining experience while simultaneously taking classes. The team is focusing on marketing by reaching out to any and every restaurant that could use the application. Last semester was filled with nonstop networking and rolling meetings to pitch the idea. Meetings with restaurant owners and CEOs range from one to three hours and involve âÄúa lot of talk,âÄù Young said. Perhaps a sign of the studentsâÄô fresh take on the business, the meetings involve a demonstration of the application in place of wordy handouts or PowerPoint presentations. This way, Young said, the restaurant employees and executives can play with the application and see how simple it is. The company is now in contact with almost 60 restaurants that have expressed interest in signing on with the company. Granite City Food and Brewery âÄî which begins testing next week âÄî DunkinâÄô Donuts , StellaâÄôs Fish Café and DavanniâÄôs are interested businesses. âÄúI donâÄôt sleep very much,âÄù said Young, who spends up to four hours a day checking e-mails. âÄúYou dream about Lunchbox,âÄù Fung joked. Restaurants are charged $80 a month for maintenance of the Web site application under the restaurantâÄôs name. If a restaurant signs up for the application under the Lunchbox name, there is no monthly fee, but Mxapp will charge 5 percent of each order. Shah expects the company to start turning over a steady profit in the next two months. Young and Fung are set to evolve as the market changes. Lunchbox, which Shah calls âÄúthe YouTube of the application industry,âÄù is just the beginning. âÄúMaybe weâÄôll have an office,âÄù Fung said of the future. âÄúYeah,âÄù Young said, laughing. âÄúMaybe weâÄôll have an office in 10 years.âÄù