Two UW-Green Bay entrepreneurs create the business ‘Unext’ offering students a potential pathway to a career

Choosing a career path can be difficult, even if you know what you want to do.

You may have a passion for science or accounting based on a few classes you’ve taken, but how does that translate to the job market? What is it like to work in a science lab, or be an accountant for a reputable organization? These are questions most students have, but many may not know how to answer them while still exploring their education.

Tyrone Powell and Alex Marchese standing in front of the Phoenix sculptureTwo University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students, Tyrone Powell and Alex Marchese, have developed a business, Unext, to help students obtain real job experience in their desired fields of study.

Unext was co-founded by Powell and Marchese after noticing a gap in the student and employer market. When talking to college students, a lot of them were uninformed about career options that relate to their major. Employers said they struggled connecting with students.

“Schools usually focus on larger employers that hire students, often excluding a majority of small businesses that also have internship and job vacancies. If smaller businesses are looking to fill vacancies, it can be very difficult because they have less capital to spend on recruiting,” said Powell.

Unext is not a regular job board. Rather, Unext allows employers to offer customizable opportunities to students. One opportunity that can be offered is job shadowing. “Job shadowing is underutilized by many companies. We encourage job shadowing because it holds multiple benefits for both employers and students,” said Powell. “Employers can utilize shadowing to reduce turnover rates and to increase company efficiency. It allows the employer to get a better understanding of a potential candidate before offering a longer opportunity.”

The entrepreneurs share a passion for Unext, but starting their business recently, they had something else very much in common — sports.

Powell’s father was a professional basketball player in Europe, and spurring the younger Powell to excel in the sport and  play on the youth French national team. He moved to Milwaukee in high school and walked on two years for the Phoenix before forgoing his basketball career to start Unext, originally called “Knowledge Seeker.”

Marchese played from his youth to high school, but stopped to focus on academics. He originally attended UW-Green Bay to focus on academics, and ended up switch from biology to entrepreneurship. The two met in the University Union on the first day of school and have been friends ever since.

The friends pitched the Unext idea in Feb. 2019 as part of a WiSys pitch competition.

“Entrepreneurial classes have helped me a lot for business,” Powell said. “It gave me a great understanding of accounting, sales, marketing, organizing, and working as a team. On the other, Unext has also helped me understand my classes more as I can connect the dots more efficiently.”

Since then, the two have been selling their idea, working with employers and working to get the business off the ground.’

The benefits for students, Powell says, are many…

“Job shadowing is great because it can be implemented into the hiring process. If used correctly, students can get hands-on training reducing the time training the candidate. Alternatively, if a company has no openings, they can offer job shadows to still make connections.”

Unext helps employers reduce costs when recruiting because they are able to post unlimited opportunities and don’t pay per posting, for recruiters, or for headhunters. Job shadowing is beneficial because students don’t have to commit to an internship or job to learn about a potential career path.

“Shadowing allows the student to experience the culture of an organization and the career that they are interested in before making a decision. It will help them learn what they are looking for in a company, and in a career. Lastly, shadowing is a resume builder and it can make a student more employable,” Powell says.

Unext’s mission is to increase job satisfaction across the country.

“We want to give the freedom to students and employers to get insight on one another before committing to each other. Unext is the only platform that gives students the ability to fully explore fields and companies through short-term opportunities before committing to a longer opportunity,” said Powell.

Unext is currently working with students and employers in Northeast Wisconsin, but is planning to expand to all around Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota by the end of 2021. Unext is remodeling its platform and adding a list of features that will facilitate connections and help students find opportunities that work for them.

“Due to COVID-19, a lot of internship, and employment opportunities have been cancelled along with all shadowing opportunities. Openings are getting scarce, but connections never stop,” said Powell. To combat this issue, Unext has organized an online networking event through Facebook from March 30 to May 30, 2020.

“Employers and students have already been creating new connections with each other. Students are learning about companies and finding opportunities in their majors of interest,” Powell added.

Students can ask questions about their careers, and employers from all fields of work can provide insight, guidance and mentorship to help students in these difficult times to navigate the job field. “Employers have been participating in this event because there will be a demanding work environment after this ordeal. They are searching for motivated and hard-working students to bring on their team to help the company keep up with demand,” Powell said.

To get connected, students should login to the Next platform located www.unext.online.

Story by Marketing and University Communication intern, Joshua Konecke; photo submitted.