In theory, running a successful business is easy: find what people need or desire and provide it for a reasonable price. But reality is a lot more complicated and a lot more rewarding. Jean-Christian Touré, a 2018 Union College graduate, found this out when his side hustle became a thriving tech company providing application development, digital marketing, and IT services to businesses across Colorado and into Wyoming.

While some struggle to find their passion, Touré knew exactly what he wanted to do from a young age.

“I’ve always been fascinated with technology,” explains Touré. “I’ve always loved it. A lot of college students change their majors over time, but I knew this was the right fit for me. I still love it and am excited for the future.”

Touré’s passion for technology led him to Union College, where education and on-the-job training were a direct path to business success. With classes that emphasize practical learning and a job in the college’s Information Systems department providing hands-on experiences, Union was the perfect place for him to earn his degree and begin his entrepreneurial journey.

“I felt like it was the school that was meant for me,” said Touré. “The projects assigned in classes provided valuable experience. It wasn’t just homework and exams; we were assigned projects like setting up computer networks and systems. I learned a lot while working for Union’s Information Systems department. In fact, I was learning things there before learning it in class, so it reinforced the classroom learning and I gained valuable, hands-on experience.”

After working for a brief time in California, Touré found himself in Colorado looking for a job. To pay the bills, he started a side hustle providing IT services for companies in Denver. When his side hustle became a flourishing business, he stopped looking for a job and focused his efforts on building his business. Now, at age 24, Touré owns and runs his own company.

It sounds easy, even glamorous, but his was a journey of hard work and hard knocks.

“It’s been very challenging,” confesses Touré, “I didn’t have a lot of experience running a business. I’ve learned a lot on the job, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. It’s part of owning a business; you have to make mistakes to learn. And I learned from my mistakes.”

Starting a business involves a significant investment of time and resources.

“At the beginning, I traveled 750 miles a week on average,” shares Touré, “and I was working 16-hour days.”

But, fueled by persistence and passion, his company, JCTTEK, is growing at an exponential rate.

“We’re expanding quickly and doing well,” Touré explains. “We signed contracts with major banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America and our revenue has tripled in the last six months.”

JCTTEK is now five employees strong and still hiring. They provide service to an ever-expanding list of clients across Colorado and into Wyoming. With the responsibility of employees, the pressure to succeed increases.

“Two years ago, I never thought I’d be here,” Touré said. “Now I have to make sure the business makes enough money to pay everyone. We need to budget everything. If there’s a dollar that’s spent, we have to ensure it’s in the budget or else we will be in financial trouble. It’s a big responsibility for me.”

But, for Touré, it’s not just about making money; the opportunity to provide jobs during these challenging times drives him to work harder.

“I’m really glad things worked out this way,” Touré shares. “Now I can provide opportunities and job experience for others.”

And he has some words of wisdom for anyone considering doing that hard thing, chasing that improbable dream, pursuing that vision just over the horizon: “Work really hard. It’s not going to be easy. There will be a lot of failures, and you will probably lose money as well, but put your heart into it. Never give up. Just keep pushing.”

Thanks to his passion, personal drive, and the skills learned at Union College, Jean-Christian is making his dream come true while offering job opportunities, coaching, and mentorship to his ever-growing family of employees.

Trena Reed is a Union College graduate and freelance writer in Lincoln, Nebraska.