Senior James Hedden Credits Economics Mentorship Program Patricipation for Much of His Entrepreneurial Success

James Hedden displays the homepage for his startup 1Car1Price

For University of Washington senior James Hedden, what started as an interest in luxury automobiles turned into a successful startup business. Hedden's startup, 1Car1Price, is a website that allows customers to compare car dealer pricing information and offers batch pricing deals benefiting both the customers and the dealerships.

“We help people buy their car at the lowest prices and ease the process of car dealership logistics for both customers and dealers,” Hedden said. The service he and his team provide is what Hedden likes to call the “Groupon For Cars,” a business model which, ironically, didn't work so well for Groupon itself when it dabbled in auto retailing (see "Groupon Vouchers for Cars? No.", BusinessWeek July 17, 2011). 

Hedden, who is finishing his senior year at UW majoring in Economics and Math, was born in China and moved with his family to Knoxville, Tennessee in his teens. Although his parents hoped he'd stay close to home and focus on pre-med, James wanted to experience a different part of the country. He knew the startup culture in Seattle would provide ample opportunity for his entrepreneurial aspirations, and a degree from the prestigious UW would only help him to expand his possibilities.

Not long after settling in at UW, Hedden began helping some of his friends who were interested in purchasing cars in the city, particularly international students who were uncertain about the process of negotiating with dealerships in the U.S.

Language often proved a barrier to the students as well, and “I was able to use Chinese to help them,” said Hedden, who speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese fluently.

With two years of work experience in sales at Wells Fargo, where he was a 2014 top salesperson in Washington, Hedden realized after taking a variety of courses in economics, computer science, and mathematics that his talent for sales and his interest in cars could fuel a brilliant business idea. Last year, his participation in the Economics Mentorship Program partnered him with alumni mentor Tony Richardson, himself an entrepreneur who co-founded Xtreme Consulting Group in Kirkland and remains the company's Chief Technology Officer.

Hedden says having Richardson as a mentor played a significant role in helping him start his company: “Tony really helped me expand my network and grow my business. I am blessed to have him as an adviser and happy to say that we keep in touch." Hedden is being mentored by another seasoned alumnus this year, Gabe Hanzeli, who is retired as Director of IT for the Boeing Company.

Richardson (BA '94), who is a member of the Economics Visiting Committee in addition to volunteering as a mentor, was equally pleased to be paired with such a motivated student: “James’ ambition and entrepreneurial spirit are truly exceptional and helping guide him along his path has been very enjoyable,” he said. “James is not afraid to jump in with both feet, yet at the same time he understands calculated risks and the benefit of leveraging the resources at his disposal to provide guidance, strategy and experience-based perspectives."

Richardson continues, "I've enjoyed helping James along his entrepreneurial journey and look forward to continuing to mentor him and watch his success.”

Hedden runs his business out of an office on "The Ave" with other UW peers, and says that while they have enjoyed a successful start, the business is still in its developing stages. The team's goals for 1Car1Price include improving the website and adding more services after accumulating additional capital.

“In the short term, we are focused on finding more customers,” Hedden said. “In the long term, we hope to reinvent car dealerships for the internet age.” Meanwhile, Hedden's connection to the mentorship program led him to a job offer at investment management firm Morgen Stanley at their downtown Seattle offices. He will start in his new role as finacial adviser in June following graduation. 

Economics majors now have the option to complete an Entrepreneurship Minor for non-business majors through a new, competitive-admissions program offered by the Foster School of Business. More than a quarter of the students currently pursuing the minor are Economics majors, suggesting that the Department will have many more stories like these in the coming years. Want to get involved? Mentor an undergrad or support our students!