Features - HUB Lawn 2

Students lounge on the hill outside of the HUB-Robeson Center on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in University Park, Pa.

Penn State's Innoblue entrepreneurial club kicked off its first weeklong blueStart Festival on Monday with Demo Day — an event featuring four pitches from different student entrepreneurs — in the HUB-Robeson Center's Freeman Auditorium.

Shakay Simpson, president of the group, said Innoblue is the first student entrepreneurship organization that was founded at University Park.

“We all have the same goal, and that is to energize the entrepreneurship community,” Simpson (senior-management) said.

Simpson said some of the ways the program aims to help its members is by helping build entrepreneurship skills and providing accessible resources around the entrepreneurial community or — "ecosystem."

“There are so many resources here students have no idea about, and oftentimes, these resources [aren't utilized], and I think that’s a shame,” Simpson said.

After Simpson's opening remarks, four Penn State student entrepreneurs pitched their own business ideas to the audience — followed by a Q&A session.

Student David Moyer pitched his Green Beam idea as a “common vision of innovating a sustainable and equitable future for empowering small scale farmers to overcome food insecurities.”

“Green Beam brings its magic through a self-installable device, which provides recommendation on how to manage your green house directly to your smart phone,” Moyer (junior-computer science) said.

He said he came up with the idea in a humanitarian engineering social entrepreneurship class.

“This class is absolutely wonderful,” Moyer said. “You work on social impact ventures focused on going to market to impact people in underdeveloped countries, specifically Kenya.”

The next project was introduced by student Ethan Liebross called The College Prep Project, which aims to help high school students prepare for college through a mentorship program.

He referenced the shoe company TOMS as his source of creativity for a one-on-one concept.

“For every one student we help, we help one low-income or underserved student, and we do that by partnering with Title 1 schools, which are schools in lower income areas,” Liebross said.

To be considered a Title 1 school, at least 40% of students must be low-income, according to Student Debt Relief.

One of the motivations to this project was the limited number of counselors American schools have, Liebross said.

“Across all schools, the average student-to-counselor ration is 470 students to one, which is nearly... double [the] recommended ratio,” Liebross said.

The Koin Keepr project founder Krutik Patel spoke next and began his presentation by asking, “How much change is lost every single year?” — The answer? $62 million.

Koin Keepr allows users to claim their change on an app where they can accumulate it and buy products later in the specific store where they collected their change, according to Patel.

He said the idea emerged from when he used to work as a cashier in a local convenient store.

“I have firsthand experience of problems faced by [retail] owners and seeing my costumers struggle with their change,” Patel (senior-computer science) said.

He said vendors that partner up with the app won’t be the ones to pay for the service. Instead, it would be the consumer that gets charged 12% of the change they collect.

“We wanted to change how retail spaces work for smaller stores,” Patel said.

Aidan Rauscher is the cofounder of Table Rock Market, which is a farmers market preordering system startup.

Rauscher (junior-computer science) said almost 30-40% of food ends up going to waste in the U.S.

“This is not sustainable,” Rauscher said.

He compared his platform to "Etsy for farmer’s [markets]."

“Farmers can go onto our platform, set up a storefront extremely easy, and they can sell directly to their consumers for preorder immediately,” Rauscher said.

He said by doing this, the platform will make a positive impact — both in the farming industry and the environment.

“Our mission is to adjust farmers to a digital age, help them to increase profitability and making selling fresh produce more sustainable,” Rauscher said.

Happy Valley Venture Capital managing partner Leonardo Girlando helped organize the festival along with Simpson and Hayden Long.

“We decided we wanted to bridge our forces between Innoblue and Happy Valley VC,” Girlando (senior-finance) said.

Long (senior-information sciences and technology) was the former president and founder of the festival and said his purpose for blueStart was to create a centralized entry point for entrepreneurs at Penn State.

“We can hopefully have more successful startups and [a] more successful Penn State entrepreneurship community,” Long said.

Long said something his team is most proud of is being able to collectivize the ecosystem.

“Take the time to join us because the few people that we’ve had, and the feedback we have [gotten], has been certainly something that has been impactful.”

MORE CAMPUS COVERAGE

 

If you're interested in submitting a Letter to the Editor, click here.