Julia Dorf couldn’t find the right app to help her study. So the Franklin & Marshall first-year set out to create her own.
Dorf was one of 40 students to participate in the College’s virtual 3 Day Startup workshop held in mid-January. The event marked the 2021 season of Entrepreneurship at F&M, a new initiative for students interested in learning how to create solutions that can have a positive, lasting impact in the world.
Students participated in a hackathon-style program that focused on idea generation, testing and implementation, and pitching ideas to five faculty members and five alumni.
“They were able to apply their real-world experiences and tell us early on if our idea would work in the marketplace,” Dorf said.
Dorf and her team’s resulting app, InFocus, is inspired by the Pomodoro Technique, a time-management method that uses a timer to divide work into 25-minute intervals separated by short breaks.
“The Pomodoro Technique is something I use, so I knew it worked,” said Dorf, who hopes her peers will benefit from the app.
Dorf left the workshop empowered to see her idea through to completion. The next step will involve teaming up with developers on campus – a step supported by a new program on campus called The Incubator.
Change for the Better
The Incubator is a collaborative effort between Creativity, Innovation, & the Future of Work at F&M (CIFOW) and Entrepreneurship at F&M. CIFOW sponsors project-based courses and a competitive summer research program based in Lancaster.
“The Incubator provides whatever support the teams need at the stage they are in,” said Joaquin Villarreal, who is leading entrepreneurship efforts on campus.
The program walks students through various tiers of methodology, design thinking, customer discovery, testing, and mentorship from faculty members and alumni.
Entrepreneurship at F&M “is not necessarily about launching a tech business,” Villarreal said. In fact, 80 percent of three-day startup participants were non-business majors.
“It’s about creating and making a project a reality – a nonprofit, for-profit, or something in between. It helps students connect the dots between their majors and what they can achieve independently,” he said.
Villarreal noted the synergy between entrepreneurship and a liberal arts education: “The vast potential of a liberal arts education can be a perfect precursor for innovation. Entrepreneurial skills can build upon this potential and help students develop a problem-solving mindset that is especially effective at dealing with uncertainty and turning ideas into real and sustainable solutions,” he said.
Social entrepreneurship – an approach that seeks solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues – has been enthusiastically embraced by the campus community.
“F&M students seem to be extremely interested in social change, and I believe social entrepreneurs are the key to changing the world for the better,” Villarreal said.
Friday. Feb 5: F&M Incubator applications due
Wed. Feb 17: F&M in Entrepreneurship Panel (in partnership with OSPGD)
Wed. Feb 24: Research to Start-Up (And Everything in Between) featuring Don McCandless, CEO, ConidioTec LLC, and former director of the TechCelerator at State College. This workshop will introduce participants to the process and vocabulary industry experts use to determine if a particular research topic or area can fulfill a need in the marketplace.
Summer 2021: Entrepreneurship at F&M Summer Academy (online) is open to all students, regardless of major.
Lynn Greenberg ’14 stewed on ideas long before she called herself an entrepreneur.
In her keynote speech to Three-Day Startup students, the founder and CEO of Pivt emphasized the importance of “intrapreneurship” – entrepreneurship within an organization such as your workplace or campus.
“Entrepreneurship is a mindset. It’s about being curious. It's about wanting to improve things,” Greenberg said.
Pivt was born out of Greenberg’s tribulations after relocating to London to work for Bloomberg. After three years of research, trial, and error, she launched Pivt as a consumer app to help other movers and travelers acclimate to life in a new city. Eventually, corporations began requesting a Pivt business platform for their relocated employees and mobile workers.
But before she found success with Pivt, Greenberg seized smaller opportunities.
At Bloomberg, she formed a book club for the global company’s employee base. As a sophomore at F&M, she created Pink Shabbat, an annual breast cancer fundraiser.
“Don’t worry about building the next big thing. Just seek to make things better and learn," Greenberg said.
Entrepreneurship, Greenberg emphasized, goes beyond the stereotypical Silicon Valley tech startup. It can start anywhere – including F&M.
“It was F&M’s entrepreneurial mentality that first attracted me to the school. I’m so glad there is now a dedicated program at F&M to foster this,” she said.