Fostering a Culture of Entrepreneurship

Faith Kindig, with her daughter Braya M’Sadoques

Faith Kindig, with her daughter Braya M’Sadoques

Credit: Penn State Behrend

Entrepreneurs are a national asset. Their innovations inspire and improve our lives, generate wealth and resources, spur new industries, and create jobs. That’s why Penn State Behrend is working hard to create an entrepreneurial culture that will inspire, motivate, and encourage new ideas and collaboration among students, faculty, alumni, and partners in the Erie region and beyond.

“Most of the new jobs today are created by companies that are less than five years old,” said David Causgrove, lecturer in marketing. “With large U.S. companies closing or relocating overseas, it’s important that we have start-ups to fill that void.”

The Black School of Business has made entrepreneurship a priority, encouraging the development of new idea generators through curricular changes, by forming partnerships with community resources, and by pairing business students with others who have the skills and resources to bring an idea to fruition. Today, would-be entrepreneurs even have a dedicated space—Innovation Commons, an idea laboratory in Burke Center equipped with plenty of meeting space and resources like AutoCAD modeling programs, scanners, and 3D printers for prototyping.

The college’s efforts have begun to pay off. We’d like you to meet three of the entrepreneurs the Black School has helped nurture.

Eric Wehler

Eric Wehler ’15 said the Black School of Business played an integral part in creating his business—StudentTrade.net. The website allows Penn State Behrend community members to exchange or purchase textbooks, appliances, furniture, and school supplies. The site also allows property owners to post and update student rentals.

“Think craigslist, but for students,” said Wehler, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in Project and Supply Chain Management and a minor in Management Information Systems. “It’s a service for the students and a way to help them save or make a little money.”

The site started as a class project for Wehler’s MIS 430: Systems Analysis course in which teams of students had to come up with a solution to a real-world problem. Wehler’s group did such a great job that their instructor, Dr. Ido Millet, professor of MIS, encouraged them to develop the project beyond the classroom.

“Dr. Millet gave me the support and drive to start it up,” Wehler said. “All of the faculty in the school really helped to inspire and encourage me. I could not have done this without their help.”

Wehler is working full-time in the purchasing department of UPMC in Pittsburgh, but he’s still running StudentTrade.net, too. He hopes to tap into the resources available in Innovation Commons to expand the business.

“If I can create a cash flow, I can work on it full time,” Wehler said. “That’s my dream.” Membership to the site is free. Penn State Behrend students can sign up at StudentTrade.net.

Drew Lang

MBA student Drew Lang was up late studying for his undergraduate Biology degree at University Park when he realized he was missing some of his notes. In that void, he saw a business opportunity.

“I knew I couldn’t be the only college student who had ever lost their notes or had to miss a class,” he said.

That night, he came up with the concept and business plan for an online company – OmegaNotes.com— that would offer a platform for students to buy and sell notes. Students upload their notes and set the price. Potential buyers see a preview before deciding if they want to purchase the notes. Lang Enterprises takes a commission on sales.

Lang has been making use of the college’s new Innovation Commons and has engaged students in the Marketing Club to help him create a marketing strategy for the company. This spring, two Black School of Business undergraduate students worked as interns for Lang’s Omega Notes site.

Lang said his MBA coursework has been instrumental in helping him launch Omega Notes.

“I couldn’t be happier with Behrend’s MBA program,” he said. “I’ve been able to take a lot of what I’ve learned and immediately apply it to what I’m doing with Omega Notes.

Faith Kindig

Faith Kindig, a senior Project and Supply Chain Management major, was recently awarded a grant from Ignite Erie, a local industryuniversity collaborative initiative, to help her urban farming business—Erie Sproutz—take root.

“My goal is to start a coalition in the Erie community to bring affordable fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden to the dinner table,” Kindig said. “We need to eliminate food insecurity for those living in poverty and invest in the at-risk youth in the community.”

The Erie Sproutz concept combines community gardens, aquaponics, and a no-waste marketplace to fulfill a need in the city of Erie.

Kindig said the idea for Erie Sproutz was born out of a desire to grow chemical-free food for her own daughter, Braya M’Sadoques.

Though the business is still in the development stages, the idea is gaining ground thanks to encouragement—and now seed money–from the Black School of Business and Innovation Commons.

“Erie Sproutz has the potential to become an asset to the community by creating jobs, by providing healthy and affordable food options to those who need them, and by giving the community the tools they need to provide for themselves,” she said.