SU alumni entrepreneurs give lecture on starting businesses

SU alumni entrepreneurs give lecture on starting businesses

Five Syracuse University alumni spoke about their experiences starting businesses during a lecture on Thursday night.
Published: November 15, 2019

Five Syracuse University alumni entrepreneurs discussed their experiences in the business startup world during a lecture in Hendricks Chapel on Thursday night.

Daniel Folkman, the vice president of business at goPuff; Julia Haber, the founder and CEO of WAYV Inc.; Erin Miller, cofounder of Out There Productions; and Michelle Schenandoah, founder of Rematriation Magazine gave advice to current student entrepreneurs. Each speaker graduated from SU within the last eight years.

Kelsey Davis, founder and CEO of CLLCTVE, a business that helps connect college creatives with brands hoping to reach younger audiences, moderated the event, presented by University Lectures.

Daniel Folkman, who graduated in 2012 and now works at goPuff, a snack and convenience item delivery service in more than 100 markets nationwide, began the lecture speaking about founding a startup as a college student.

Folkman created a startup credit card fraud detection company, through the Martin J. Whitman School of Management’s capstone program. He said the company was a “miserable failure”, but the experience taught him how to start a company from nothing. Now, he said, goPuff looks for entrepreneurs who have failed when making new hires.

Other speakers described how failure is a necessary part of learning how to start a business. Julia Haber, who graduated in 2018, founded WAYV, Inc., a company the helps brands create pop up experiences on college campuses.

In Fall 2019, she helped Shopify launch a pop-up experience on the SU’s quad. Unbeknownst to her and her team, the experience coincided with heavy rains in Syracuse. The trailer housing the pop-up sank into the mud and required the help of four tow trucks to pull it out. The generator powering the event also broke down during the stop in Syracuse.

“When you’re caught in a million different scenarios in life, it can be uncomfortable,” Haber said. “Be comfortable with the outcome first.”

Founding a startup is always time consuming, the entrepreneurs said. Erin Miller, who graduated in 2016, co-founded Out There Productions, a company that creates videos for startups and small businesses.

But her first foray into entrepreneurship was during her second week at SU. She started a business in the DellPlain Hall dorm selling food like milkshakes and pizza. The hours of her business were 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

“It was great but it was also terrible,” Miller said.

Out There Productions, which Miller later founded with two other students in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, raised more than $15,000 through business competitions to buy and refurbish a school bus. Miller and the other founders converted it into a mobile production studio. They lived in the bus and traveled around the country, helping startups and other businesses create promotional videos.

Michelle Schenandoah, who graduated from SU as a master’s student in 2018, is the founder of Rematriation Magazine, an online media platform dedicated to leadership development and reclaiming of Indigenous women’s traditional roles within their respective nations. Schenandoah herself is a member of the Oneida Nation Wolf Clan of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

Schenandoah explained how she formed Rematriation Magazine as a nonprofit, because the nonprofit model better blends the business with its mission.

“I really have to adapt in different ways that business models don’t lend itself to,” Schenandoah said.

Adaptability and the ability to move on from failures is key to success as an entrepreneur, the speakers said.

“Nothing’s easy,” Haber said. “All of us have failed 900 million times.”