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Entrepreneurs share success stories during first Entrepreneur’s Jam at Morrisville State College

MORRISVILLE, N.Y.—When Karl Driesel was turned down for a bank loan to help start up his own custom woodworking business, he refused to close the door on his idea.

The aspiring entrepreneur hit the streets and wouldn’t stop applying for loans, despite the number of times he was denied.

“It was a struggle to get financing,” said the graduate of Morrisville State College’s wood technology associate degree and entrepreneurship and small business management bachelor degree programs. “I had zero debt. Everyone told me I had great credit, but I didn’t have the credit history.”

Driesel eventually secured a small loan, which when combined with money he’d saved working three jobs through college, helped him start up KDI (Karl Driesel Incorporated) Woodworking, in Kent.

Like his company, his projects started out small. He made a church mailbox, crafted poker tables, built a front porch, then moved on to larger projects like designing an entire hickory kitchen. Later, he reconstructed an elaborate judge’s bench for the Town of Kendall’s Courtroom.

As his one-room shop expanded to include a paint booth and a warehouse, so did dreams for the 25-year-old entrepreneur who launched his business while he was still obtaining his entrepreneurship degree.

Driesel was among five young, local entrepreneurs who shared their business success stories during Morrisville State College’s first Entrepreneur’s Jam held in the STUAC Little Theatre.

“Entrepreneur’s Jam is a day of celebration and learning for the field,” Cydney Johnson, assistant professor, School of Business, said. “It’s a great event for the college’s entrepreneurship program and it also aligns with our mission for entrepreneurship and community engagement.”

Dr. David Rogers, provost and chief operating officer at Morrisville State College, noted the numerous students and graduates he has seen go on to start their own businesses.

“The success of our program is evident in the success of our students,” he said as he looked at the budding entrepreneurs that filled the room. “This event is all about promoting the true spirit of entrepreneurialism.”

Entrepreneurs who shared their stories were:
Kimani Smith, of Manlius, sales agent at Pyramid Brokerage Co., Morrisville State College Class of ’10, entrepreneurship and small business management bachelor degree; and Class of ’07, business administration associate degree. www.pyramidbrokerage.com/agentpages/syr_smith.html, e-mail: ksmith@pyramidbrokerage.com
Paul Farnham, of McDonough, owner of In Motion Designs, Inc., Morrisville State College Class of ’10, entrepreneurship and small business management bachelor degree; and Class of ’07, business administration associate degree. www.inmotiondesignsinc.com, e-mail: inmotiondesignsinc@hotmail.com
Karl Driesel, of Kent, owner/artisan, KDI Woodworking, Morrisville State College Class of ’09, entrepreneurship and small business management bachelor degree; Class of ’07, wood products technology associate degree. www.karldrieselinc.com, e-mail: sales@karldrieselinc.com
Kathryn Hunt, of East Northport, owner of Fashion Geek for Hire and iKat Gear, a current student in Morrisville State College’s entrepreneurship and small business management bachelor degree program. www.fashiongeekforhire.com; KH@fashiongeekforhire.com
Carrie Blackmore, co-owner of Good Nature Brewing Inc., in Hamilton. www.goodnaturebrewing.com,
e-mail: info@goodnaturebrewing.com.

The event, funded through a grant from the Kauffman Foundation, kicked-off with a luncheon followed by presentations and a reception at the Copper Turret Restaurant in Morrisville featuring Good Nature beers.

The audience listened intently as each entrepreneur offered advice.

During his presentation, Smith, of Manlius, advised students to take internship opportunities seriously. Smith moved from Kingston, Jamaica to the United States 10 years ago to follow in his grandfather’s shoes in the real estate field.

Smith’s internship at Pyramid Brokerage Co., a commercial brokerage real estate firm, landed him his current job as a sales agent.

“Internships are a very beneficial part of your education and a stepping stone for anything you want to do,” said Smith, who graduated with five job offers.

Equally important, he advised, is networking. “Shake hands and talk your business up,” Smith said. “Build relationships and always stay in contact with them.”

Presenters also shared their personal experiences which helped guide them to where they are today.

Farnham credits Morrisville State College’s entrepreneurship program with keeping him on track with his goals for the design, screen printing and vinyl signs business he started in January.

“The program gives you the ingredients: financing, marketing, human resources, and knowledge,” key components to be successful, he said.

Morrisville State College also played a role in helping Driesel streamline his business vision.

“Morrisville gave me a lot to think about with growing a business, helping me to see the big picture of where my business could go,” he said.

The program is also helping Hunt who runs two businesses, iKat Gear, a collection of services and products, including apparel and jewelry to promote a fashionable lifestyle, and Fashion Geek for hire, a concierge fashion service, which took off last year.

“I chose Morrisville’s program because it was business-focused,” Hunt said. “I needed that solid business core in my background and not having it was my weakness.”

A native of East Northport, in Suffolk County on Long Island, Hunt came to Morrisville State College to earn a bachelor degree in entrepreneurship and small business management that will complement an associate degree she has in fashion design from FIT.

During the jam, Blackmore, whose nano-brewery with co-owner Matt Whalen opened in January, talked about leasing, different factors with sourcing locally, and utilizing community resources.

“Use as many resources as possible to help you,” she said. “Reach out in the community and take advantage of the support groups and programs already out there.”

Farnham also advised the audience to look down different avenues. “Always look at the things right in front of you and you will find opportunity you never imagined.”

That opportunity was the start of each presenter’s entrepreneurial career, along with hard work and dedication.

“No matter what happens, you just have to keep driving forward with a laser focus,” Smith said.

“Always be passionate and dedicated to what you do,” Driesel said. “Be committed and willing to put in a lot of long hours and not get frustrated when things don’t go according to plan.”

Morrisville State College’s BBA in entrepreneurship and small business management is designed to provide graduates with an initial business plan and an entrepreneurial toolbox that will point them on their way to self-employment. Planned as an upper-division program (2+2), it is geared primarily for two-year graduates who have a desire to use the technical skills developed in an associate degree program toward opening their own business.

Morrisville State College sets the world in motion for students. Curriculums are enriched with applied learning and pave the way for opportunity at both the Morrisville and Norwich campuses. An action-oriented, interactive learning lab, the college is a national leader in technology. Lauded for its exemplary, innovative and effective community service programs, the college was named to the 2012 President’s Higher Community Service Honor Roll. Visit www.morrisville.edu to experience, Morrisville in motion.