Greene County students have a new option to be productive and jump-start their future during the summer, thanks to a new entrepreneurship program at Waynesburg University.
The college has partnered with Innovation Works, a nonprofit organization in Pittsburgh, to bring the organization’s Startable program to Greene County. The summer program teaches entrepreneurship and “maker skills” to students aged 13 to 19.
“We wanted to figure out a way to deploy the program in other southwest parts of the region,” said Pam Eichenbaum, senior business development associate for Innovation Works. “It seemed like a great fit.”
The eight-week program, which started in June and will run through mid-August, is taught by a consultant with Innovation Works, Justin Harvilla of Mather. The students will work 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday on entrepreneur projects and receive a stipend.
“They work through something that’s a problem they see in their community or they’ll come up with a product that could solve a problem,” Eichenbaum said. “They have to determine ‘how do we solve it.’ We teach the students that process, along with how to market and brand the products so you can sell it.”
Owen Farrier’s problem involves chickens. The 15-year-old Waynesburg student owns chicken, and he said coops are a problem for him. The product he’s designing and building in the class is a “higher quality” coop with wheels that’s easier to maneuver.
“There are not a whole lot of people improving on chicken coops,” he said.
Another student in the class, Mike Hillier, also 15 and attending Waynesburg High, wants to build and market a laser pet toy that can attach to one’s belt. The intention is for people to be able to use the laser to get exercise with their pet next to them.
“It’s for you and your pet to be active,” he said.
At the end of the class, the students will get to showcase their products with a formal “pitch” to their peers, then present the same pitch to the Startable students in Pittsburgh.
Eichenbaum said one Pittsburgh student a few years ago created a cat bed that was also a planter with wheatgrass growing in it, which is good for a cat’s digestion.
“That was an issue she wanted to solve,” Eichenbaum said. “The product was then actually put into local pet stores in Pittsburgh.”
That student went on to study biochemical engineering and returned to the Startable program years later to help guide other students, Eichenbaum said.
The Startable program, which Innovation Works started in Pittsburgh about five years ago, was designed to help “create a pipeline of talent” for technology start-ups and the manufacturing industry, Eichenbaum said.
The program is funded through grants from Chevron Appalachia, EQT Foundation and the Grable Foundation and Equitrans Midstream Corp., Eichenbaum said. Innovation Works wanted to pilot the Startable program in Greene County because of its success in Pittsburgh, she said.
“We would like to potentially grow this program beyond Pittsburgh and Greene County, and this is an opportunity to see what works,” Eichenbaum said. “It’s a different population of students.”
Waynesburg University was happy to help facilitate the program here, since the college has recently started an entrepreneurship program, according to Stacey Brodak, the vice president of institutional advancement and university relations.
“We were able to be the catalyst for this program geared toward high school students,” she said. “Our hope is that over time, people will understand the value and it will grow.”
She said their students have been helping to tutor the high school students throughout the program and that the high school students in Startable will be able to participate in the college’s Something from Nothing Innovation Challenge in the fall.
The Greene County class has three students so far, with room for seven more, Eichenbaum said, as they’re still trying to fill those spots. To join the program or for additional information, contact the college at 1-800-225-7393.