Entrepreneurship in NWPA ... Get Involved!
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Meet an Erie Entrepreneur
Welcome Home, Alex Brzozowski!

Alex returned to Erie recently to launch his startup after graduating college!

He is a distinguished 2012 graduate of Cathedral Prep and 2016 graduate of Miami University.

Alex has been very entrepreneurial and an active leader throughout his academic and athletic careers. For instance, he served as an Assistant Coach on the Varsity Women’s Tennis Team at Miami for 3.5 years. He also served on the Executive Board for High Street Startups, which is a student-run incubator. They bring ideas to life throughout the course of a semester.  At the end, student members have the opportunity to pitch to a panel of 40 angel investors, other venture capitalists, and startup founders from the Midwest & greater Cincinnati areas. 

In addition, Alex also represented Miami University’s Farmer School of Business at the fall 2015 Harvard Illuminate Entrepreneurship Conference in Cambridge, MA.  Currently, Alex continues to serve as a member of the Lululemon Athletica Research & Development Team.

We asked Alex about his entrepreneurial journey with ShoeShine 2 Go

Here is what he shared:

SS2go originated while he was involved with High Street Startups.  At the beginning of the semester, ideas are written on a beloved white board.  There were a few good ideas that had potential.  It is up to individuals or teams to take charge and drive a product idea or business beyond the ideation phase. 

That is exactly what he did!

"The most daunting task that I had was to just ‘start!’.  I was sitting in a coffee shop on a Thursday night. Alone. Attempting to start a business from nothing. I remember opening up a blank Word document and thinking to myself, Okay. Let’s do this. You have to start somewhere."

If Alex had not attended Miami University, he doesn’t know how he would have the business acumen that enables the startup experience that he is having today.  He is forever grateful for his experiences there.

Being a part of High Street Startups, participating in Google’s Startup Weekends for several years, attending conferences at Harvard, and other experiences within the Cincinnati Startup Ecosystem really helped him to understand what it’s all about.  The single best thing that The Farmer School of Business provided him with was the ‘opportunity’.  He was able to learn from and seek advice from tenured professors. He attended speakers’ events at the business school weekly. He heard from business men and women that are at the pinnacle of their disciplines. One of those great stories was from Ryan Graves, a Miami Alum who is one of the Founders of Uber!  Lastly, he is “uber” grateful for his friends at Miami.  "We always pushed each other. There was never a sense of jealousy; more a sense of comforting motivation and caring about where we were at in our career searches and in our startup ventures."

While developing his business, ShoeShine 2 go, at Miami University, Alex decided to plug in to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Erie during Christmas break his senior year.  Since then, he has moved home and joined TechTank while officially launching ShoeShine 2 Go.

ShoeShine 2 go is experiencing great progress early on!  SS2go Kickstarter campaign was fully funded in just SIX DAYS. The campaign ultimately exceeded its goal by 200%.  Key strategic partners (big brands) are reaching out to partner with SS2G ALREADY. 

Here are some tips that Alex has learned: 

  1. Kickstarter (crowd funding) is a great place to validate your product. Often times, people that run Kickstarter projects put a lot of money into public relations. In Alex’s case, he was on a strict budget, just graduating from college. He chose not to use a PR firm that can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000, depending on the scale of the campaign. It is great to raise as much money as you can on Kickstarter, though more importantly, it is a better way to validate your target market and your product!
  2. Be open to feedback. You are not always right! When you think that you are the one calling the shots, you probably think that your first answer is the right one. In reality this is absolutely not the case. Beg for feedback from customers and potential customers. This is very valuable! It is very important to LISTEN and take this feedback seriously as constructive criticism to ensure that you're delivering what your market is asking for!
  3. “I wear many hats.” Starting a business forces you to understand every facet of a company: product development, business development, marketing, branding, finance, etc. Learning from the experts is key. Find a mentor or mentors and learn their craft. One thing that Alex strives to do is to network. Often it is hard trying to find time to meet with someone that you are asking a favor from. But for Alex, he met with several people for coffee in the mornings in Cincinnati which worked out for him during his time there. It is true that people are honored to be asked and love to help others with their lessons learned.
Alex’s plans for the future, beyond fulfilling his Kickstarter backers’ orders, include scaling ShoeShine 2 Go and helping to lead the growth and success of TechTank. He is also focusing on how he can help the whole entrepreneurial ecosystem thrive through volunteering his time and talents to the Innovation Collaborative.

We’re happy and grateful to have Alex back in town, contributing to our tax rolls while he grows his and others’ businesses.

Hopefully, lots of regional future grads will follow Alex Brzozowski’s lead!
**If anyone would like to reach out to Alex, he would love to meet up for coffee in the morning. He enjoys networking, meeting new people, and of course listening to new ideas! "I am really excited about being back in Erie, and can’t wait to meet new people in the startup ecosystem here!  Please feel free to reach me at!"
What’s Happening Across the Ecosystem?!
  1. Support NWPA Business Networking - TONIGHT
  2. Entrepreneurs' Summer Splash Meetup - THURSDAY!
  3. Back our Erie KickStarter Campaigns ASAP
  4. Athena Erie is Encouraging More LEADERSHIP!
  5. Erie Regional Chamber's  Business After Hours is coming UP!
  6. ERIE Conference July 27th
"... the independent voice of innovators, facilitating, measuring, and communicating progress for northwest PA's entrepreneurial ecosystem ..."

It’s all about LEADERSHIP…

2015 ATHENA Young Professional Award recipient, Emily Francis
and 2015 ATHENA Leadership Award recipient, former City of Erie
Mayor Joyce Savocchio, with former ATHENA International CEO,
Dianne Dinkel and ATHENA Erie Founder, Linda Stevenson
Photo credit: Jennifer Dworek Photography

Coming up on SEPTEMBER 15th, join the ranks of Erie’s established and EMERGING women leaders!

The goals of the 2016 ATHENA Leadership Luncheon are to help to create balance in leadership for our community; support, develop, and honor women leaders; and inspire women to achieve their full potential.

The ATHENA Leadership Luncheon reflects the dedication to putting established and emerging leaders together to collaborate, build relationships, and learn from each other. Participants in this event are exposed to making new connections and relationships with other emerging and established leaders. Emerging leaders receive support and guidance from established leaders. Established leaders gain the satisfaction of mentoring and learning from emerging leaders. All of this results in a stronger network of women leaders in our community!

“For profitable firms, a move from no female leaders to 30% representation is associated with a 15% increase in the net revenue margin.”

To join us on September 15th, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the
Ambassador Conference Center
REGISTER HERE: or call 814.504.6362 for more information!
*This event sells out quickly!!

ERIE Economic News

13th ERIE Conference will be on Wednesday, July 27th

Friends of ERIE:
You are cordially invited to participate in the 13th conference of the Economic Research Institute of Erie in the Black School of Business at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.
The conference will be held on Wednesday, July 27th at the Samuel P. “Pat” Black III Conference Center on the campus of Penn State Behrend.  The theme of this year’s conference is The Impact of immigration on the Local Economy.  With economic, social, political, and technological changes taking place across the world, often at a rapid pace, immigration and its impact have increasingly become contentious issues for discussion and debate.  We therefore believe this an important and timely topic that will be of interest to many people, including local leaders in business, labor, and industry; individuals working or interested in local economic development; government officials; as well as immigrants who have joined our community.  We hope the ideas discussed at the conference will spark further discussion of immigration-related topics across our community.
Highlights and topic coverage at the conference include:
  • A summary of important recent trends in the Erie economy, including the newest edition of the ERIE Index of Entrepreneurship and innovation, and a brief overview of some of the immigration issues and trends in the Erie region
  • Disentangling some immigration facts and fallacies
  • An overview of the resources, challenges, successes and opportunities from the perspective of “practitioners” from the Multicultural Community Resource Center (MCRC) and the Erie Field Office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
  • Reflections on immigrant experience from the perspective of a successful local immigrant business owner
  • Some immigration issues from the perspective of a practicing attorney who specializes and works in this field
We are especially pleased to feature a keynote speaker, Dr. Pia Orrenius, a nationally known and highly respected expert on the economics of immigration.  Dr. Orrenius has served as Senior Economist on the Council of Economic Advisers in the Executive Office of the President, and is currently Vice President and Senior Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.  Her academic research focuses on the labor market impacts of immigration, unauthorized immigration and U.S. immigration policy.  She has written extensively on immigration issues and is co-author of the book Beside the Golden Door: U.S. Immigration Reform in a New Era of Globalization.
We hope you will be able to join us for this event.  To register for the conference, please visit our official conference registration website at:
The registration fee is $175 (with a discounted price of $150 for members of nonprofit organizations) and includes a continental breakfast, lunch, and refreshments during a break.  Seating is limited, so please register early!
We have made the conference registration website as user-friendly as possible.  However, if you experience any problems with registering on the website, please feel free to contact our staff assistant Grace Martin at (814) 898-6716 during regular business hours.

Disclaimer - Innovation Collaborative supports initiatives for growth in Erie. We amplify messages about events and opportunities from our partners and the community (meaning we do not own the companies), in an effort to increase awareness of the amazing opportunities. 

Copyright © 2016 Innovation Collaborative, All rights reserved.

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