Startup Spotlights

Sandra Appiah Babu-Boateng ’10, Techstars Boston, partners with the Syracuse LaunchPad to beta test her mentor matching platform, LegacyShift

Hours of studying, networking, writing cover letters, and practicing interviews is something college students work tirelessly at for one purpose: getting their first job after graduation. However, when that offer letter comes in and that first day of work arrives after graduation; it can be hard to adjust from the world of classrooms and papers to offices and project reports. Full-time jobs, particularly corporate jobs, often throw one into a completely foreign world with different language, workflows, and expectations. 

Sandra Appiah Babu-Boateng, 2010 graduate from the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications hopes to prepare students and graduates to thrive in their newfound professional world. Through LegacyShift, a network platform that smart-matches members for skills training, mentorship, and career support, she is attempting to change the system so that entering the workforce is a smooth transition, not a jarring adjustment. 

Babu-Boateng’s drive for starting LegacyShift comes from her own experience entering the workforce after she graduated from Syracuse University. As she grew up in a family of immigrants, working tirelessly to pursue her dreams and create a rewarding and enriching career for herself was at the center of her drive to succeed while in college. However, thriving in her career was not as straightforward as she believed it to be. “This was my American dream, but I got there and realized that hard work was not enough,” said Appiah Babu-Boateng. 

Once in her job, she found that much of success in the workplace wasn’t related to simply hard work and focus, as much of success in school is. Instead, she found that successful careers demand excellent communication skills, navigating and collaborating with teams, and consistent networking and widening your support and professional circle. However, all these skills were not taught to Babu-Boateng through her college education, and she began to feel lost and burnt out navigating an unfamiliar professional system. “I felt more and more invisible and there wasn’t an easy way for me to find support internally,” she said of her time in her first job. 

Babu-Boateng didn’t just see this struggle in herself, but also realized that many young professionals around her were struggling with the same feelings of skills gap, confusion, and inadequacy. Particularly for young people of color, professional workplaces can often be predominantly white and do not create welcoming and supportive spaces for individuals from diverse backgrounds. Babu-Boateng decided she wanted to change this harsh environment. 

Babu-Boateng recognized the importance of mentorship and coaching as a catalyst for life and career success but saw inefficiencies and biases around how organizations run and manage these programs. She built LegacyShift to help organizations automate and streamline these programs so they can operate them at scale and more democratically. Organizations can use the platform to set up internal mentorship networks, create professional development courses, and use data analytics to understand skill gaps and how they can improve these programs. What excites Babu-Boateng the most is how LegacyShift is helping universities engage their alumni network to provide mentorship and coaching to students so they can be better prepared for the next stage of their life. Reflecting on her early experience in corporate world, “this is something that would have been a life changer for me,” she says. 

The core of LegacyShift’s work is helping professionals to not only succeed in their careers but helping companies to support their workers. Appiah references that lack of growth and opportunity are the leading reasons people are switching jobs or searching for different industries post-pandemic. This is not the same thing as individuals truly hating their jobs, but searching for spaces where they can continue to grow, learn new skills, and advance. “The Great Resignation is turning into the Great Regret- the grass is not greener on the other side,” said Babu-Boateng of the current marketplace shifts. She hopes that LegacyShift will help companies and organizations effectively leverage their own internal talent to hone new skills, elevate and inspire their members at scale. She currently invites organizations to join LegacyShift’s waitlist here.

In thinking about the success of companies and organizations, Babu-Boateng highlights that at the end of the day, all success stems directly from humans. People are the driving force and visionaries behind all work and accomplishment. To create successful businesses and meaningful careers, companies and individuals need to invest in professional development and creating systems of support. “It’s critical to have people who are sharing experiences with you, teaching you, and helping you navigate specific experiences. We will be the #1 solution for human centered learning and development which will become critical for organizations, particularly those who want to win the “war” for talent,” said Babu-Boateng of LegacyShift’s impact on the professional world. 

Babu-Boateng recently completed Techstars Boston. She invites any investors, organizations, or companies interested in learning more to reach out at

The Syracuse University Blackstone LaunchPad is currently one of the first beta users of the platform, with peer mentors on the system. Students interested in trying out the platform to match with a Syracuse LaunchPad mentor should reach out to the LaunchPad by e-mailing

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Claire Howard ’23; photo supplied 

Kai Patricio G’23 takes on a graduate degree and creating Design Led No Code

headshot of a man

Kai Patricio is an extraordinary thinker who has taken a small idea and turned it into an idea that may be untouchable. Working towards his dream and ambitions, Kai is currently a graduate student in his second year in the Masters of Fine Arts program (MFA) at Syracuse University. He has pursued his passion for design with a background in product design but considers himself a multidisciplinary designer who works in a variety of mediums.

Last year, Kai made an app in one of his classes but soon realized this idea was brighter than any app. With an ambition to expand, Kai met with designers over the summer and began building off his design training. He then utilized the design research he had throughout his graduate program. After countless hours of dedication, thought, and hard work, Kai began Design Led No Code. He believes Design Led No Code is a great way to approach UX research and is the benchmark for an even more powerful idea he’s developing.

Design Led No Code is an intersection of UX research/design and no-code tools to create human-centered user experiences that drive innovation. It’s a multistage process that takes an idea and creates it into a prototype for design research or market. This year’s, Design Led No Code Hackathon event took place on September 23rd- 25th, 2022, and allowed students and individuals around the Syracuse community to apply their knowledge and skills to innovate and compete with peers. Competitors use the tools they have and combined them with no-code tools to create a product; they can then use it in the future for themselves and others who can benefit from the product. As a result of students and individuals building these prototypes, it’s progressively improving the potential user’s experiences.

At Hackathon, LaunchPad had a small group of motivated and dedicated students who had a wonderful panel of judges from the Intelligence ++ Program, Newhouse, Whitman, and LaunchPad. These participants were evaluated on their work and the efforts to create their prototype which challenged their presenting skills, and commitment to their idea.

Kai stated, “The competition went well, and the participants enjoyed the opportunity to build connections, use new tools and code, and the interview process.” Moreover, Kai was very pleased with the group’s great work as well as the support and collaboration with one another. Furthermore, the only limitation that the competition may have had was only having a few days to complete such an amazing experience and environment for competitors. Kai is taking into account all the feedback he’s received, along with his personal experience with the competition, to improve and make for the best experience at the next Design Led No Code event.

The countless hours Kai had spent building and executing the program, have brought him great success. He is thrilled with a new ambition to expand Design Led No Code into the spring and hopes to provide another opportunity for students to build off their ideas and for Kai to incorporate more fantastic features to enhance digital interface development.

Kai is one of the most driven and aspiring creators with an ambition to take his ideas further. With this, he is developing a website for the Design Led No Code approach, and he wants to be the author of this methodology, and implement more design into the no-code space. He believes that no code and design together can create a brighter future for students, users, and workers. The next steps include continuing innovation, applying the process to real-world applications, and reaching higher goals to use in the world.

Moving forward with his methodology, he’s hoping to take this idea further than just software development and make it a new approach for designers. In the coming years, Kai is planning on patenting his idea and is hopeful that Design Led No Code can enhance the role of other designers everywhere.

Story by Sydney Gross ’23, Blackstone LaunchPad Global Fellow

Vanessa Lora G ’23 on embracing her Hispanic heritage, identity and creative artistry

When musician, videographer, recorder, and producer Vannessa Lora is asked who she is, she answers simply: “I’m just an artist.” From her roots in the Bronx to her graduate music studies at Syracuse University, Lora has always used her energy to weave stories of love and resiliency and is now inspiring others to do the same through her self-owned record label.

When Lora first arrived at Syracuse University in 2014 for her B.F.A in Film, Cinema and Video Studies; she learned for the first time what it meant to feel like an outsider. Lora, who grew up in The Bronx in New York City, was used to an environment overflowing with celebrated diversity. Her family moved to New York City from the Dominican Republic, and in the Bronx Lora celebrated her cultural roots along with millions of other New Yorkers from different nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures. “In such a vibrant place you’re immersed in so many different cultures and one human being is like a melting pot of so many different things,” Lora said of her formative childhood in the Bronx.

However, when she moved to Syracuse, Lora suddenly felt different. She felt as if she did not belong. So much of her identity- her Hispanic heritage, her personal legacy as a first-generation college student- she felt made her somehow inadequate in a predominantly white university.

As Lora adjusted to life at Syracuse, she began reflecting more on the home she had felt utterly accepted in. Lora’s understanding of home stems from her family. Raised by a single mother, Lora understood what it meant to be resilient as she watched her mother, aunts, and grandparents work tirelessly and overcome terrible difficultys to be able to give her privileges such as going to college. They taught her to embrace and take care of herself, always highlighting the importance of building a life that aligned with your core self. “You cannot do anything until you have a grasp. of yourself. In order to be able to pour from a cup, you have to make sure your cup is full,” said Lora of the values her family raised her with.

This grasp of herself was fully realized when Lora left her family and home to study film in an entirely different community. But rather than let such feelings undermine her identity, Lora leaned more fully into understanding herself and her home. Her feelings of strangeness led her to embrace every aspect of what it meant to be her: Hispanic, queer, Dominican, New Yorker, first-generation college student. Through her art she began to articulate a definition of identity and home. “I want to represent where I come from and where I am,” reflected Lora.

After her undergraduate degree in film and a few years spent creating, Lora decided she wanted to pursue her artwork in a different medium: music. Currently she’s back at Syracuse studying at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for a masters in Audio Arts and is using her music to celebrate her home and identity through pulling from jazz and hip hop: two music genres at the soul of life in the Bronx. But for Lora, the most important part of her music is the stories it tells. Lora’s music weaves stories of resiliency and love; stories that honor the difficult paths her family walked and celebrate the vibrant communities that nourish her.

Lora’s music does not just stop at telling her own story. Motivated by the desire to inspire others to share their stories of love and resiliency as well, she created her own independent music label. She is currently producing her own music and hopes to grow her label in the future to produce the songs and music of other storytelling artists.

Lora’s growth as an artist is a love letter to the meaning of home. Her own story of her and her family’s love and resiliency through toughness is a story crucial to what it means to be human, and through her new record label Lora celebrates the stories of humans and artists growing towards love.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow.

The future of protein supplementation: Tyrin Fernandes ‘20 and Fauna

“Do you want to try some pita?” Those were among the first words Tyrin said to me when I first met him in the LaunchPad last week. In his hands, he held a Tupperware container with two different varieties sliced into triangle-shaped pieces. One was a bread typical to something you might find at your local grocery store; white, fluffy, and wonderfully baked in Tyrin’s own apartment kitchen. But the other was unlike anything I’d seen before. It had the same fluffiness, texture, and consistency, but it was an interesting shade of greenish-gray and had a slightly nutty flavor. Both were delicious.

The catch? One of those pita breads was baked using dried cricket powder.

Ew! Dried up bugs? In my bread? No thank you!” That is what the average consumer might think when their imagination runs wild on the idea of putting crickets into their bread, but Tyrin is determined to normalize the consumption of insect-based food as a regular form of protein supplementation with his food venture, Fauna.

“It’s the idea of the crunchiness that might be putting people off,” he said. “Eating something like a cockroach seems disgusting because you think about it being squishy on the inside, but when you are eating insect protein that’s mixed into your normal food as powder, it’s easier to take baby steps. That is what I’m hoping for with Fauna. I do not want to turn anybody off right from the start.”

Tyrin graduated from Syracuse University in 2020 with his B.S. in computer science and has been working in the LaunchPad for the past three months, brainstorming different ideas. At the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey, he was more interested in the green technology industry; thinking of ways to use technology to improve the current state of our global climate crisis. But as time went on, he began to consider ways that we could reduce the current level of emissions rather than enabling them to stay at their current level. He had also been studying up on the long-term health benefits of vegetarian and vegan diets through books and documentaries for some time, and movies like Bladerunner 2049 portrayed the usage of insect farms as efficient method of meeting the protein needs of the population. That is where the seed for his venture was planted.

The funny thing is that Tyrin claims to be a picky eater, and you would hardly expect for someone like that to be experimenting with insect-based protein in the first place. “I don’t enjoy seafood or pork, and not for religious reasons,” he divulged. “I hardly eat beef either. It is bad for the environment, so I’ve been consciously choosing not to eat it. We are in a place where we need to slow down the global climate crisis. In a lot of ways, it is already past the point of no return. There is a lot of droughts happening, and coastal regions will be flooding in the next few years at this rate. Holding cattle as livestock contributes to that problem, but if the demand for beef is high then the farms will reason to keep supplying.”

Tyrin’s thinking is that by making the push to popularize insect protein in the market as a tasty alternative, it might create an extra incentive for the demand of beef to decrease. “Insect farms are probably going to be a thing of the future. Bugs seem to be abundant. They are even in places you do not want them to be,” he joked. “About 60-70% of their bodies are made of protein. That means for every ten grams of cricket powder, you are getting about seven grams of protein. Insects are also easy to farm and transport because of their size.”

Even so, the insect populations are decreasing as well. “Have you heard of the bug splatter test?” Tyrin asked. “It is when you drive on a highway, and you see the number of bugs that end up on your windshield. That bug splatter is becoming less and less because the ecosystems are being destroyed. I personally do not like insects that much, but it’s still important that we preserve them.” The hope is that insect farming and a higher demand for insect protein in the future could also help slow or reverse the decline in the population numbers.

Later in our conversation, I asked Tyrin why he chose to focus specifically on making a bread product using insect protein. “Protein bars are already popular,” he said. “And I thought about doing pancakes at first or even crepes as well, but the crepes especially are delicate to make. People have found ways to sell the powder on its own as a supplement too. The only issue there is that it is quite expensive, and the nutty flavor is also strong, so a lot of effort would go into diluting or substituting that.”

With bread however, this was not nearly as much of an issue for Tyrin. Throughout the month of August, he spent many hours learning and perfecting the recipe for his pita. He does not own a stand mixer currently, so he had to knead it the old-fashioned way. “I kept going until I was able to get something that was at least edible, and I thought hey, at least we’re getting somewhere with this,” he remarked.

The recipe for his bread has a minimal amount of insect powder. It is just enough to get that extra bit of protein in without ruining the structure of the bread, making the flavor too potent, or making the color too dark. Tyrin is wary that the darker green the bread gets, the less likely people may be to try it if they see it on a shelf. “If you make it tasty above all else, people will be willing to try it,” he said. “But if it is too dark, not so much. That is why I put the plain pita side by side. If I can show people that they are not too different from each other in a taste test, then maybe those people will go and tell their friends as well.”

Currently, Tyrin makes pita out of his apartment and sources his insect protein from Amazon. He will be looking for wholesalers in the future, as well as a test kitchen to experiment with different production methods. Right now, he needs to keep his oven on for at least an hour before he can even begin the baking process, which can be expensive for the power bill. Not to mention that he shares his apartment with another roommate, and contention for that space can lead to some friction when baking pita all the time.

Crickets have been in human diets for centuries, and they are consumed in most countries of the world, though most commonly in Southeast Asia and Mexico. I was curious if a diet including insects was a custom in Middle Eastern heritage as well, but Tyrin said that was not the case. He told me that he had not tried eating them until recently. However, most of his youth was spent in New York City where he did experience a melting pot of cultural cuisines. When I asked for his thoughts on the matter, he said this: “Traditions are supposed to evolve. There is this one place in Chelsea Market for example where they put Japanese food into taco shells, and it’s delicious. The whole point of the culinary world is fusion. You want to keep mixing food to try and find new things to enjoy.”

Right now, Tyrin is pushing to get the legal documentation and processing for Fauna completed by October and has plans to get his cricket pita on the shelves for customers to enjoy sometime in December.

Story by Jack Rose ’24, Global Media Fellow

Catherine Forrest ’22 on leadership and entrepreneurship in

Catherine Forrest ’22 is co-founder and CEO of Secwins a startup venture that helps companies analyze and interpret huge amounts of data in real time. She recently graduated from the HUSTLE Defense Accelerator, an elite 12-week training academy for seed-stage startups at the Griffiss Institute. As a student, she was founder of CryptoCuse, headquartered at the LaunchPad, and WiTec, headquartered the iSchool where she received her undergraduate degree with a focus on information management and technology, data analytics and web design. As a student, she worked closely with Dr. Lee McKnight, her mentor, and first became engaged in the world of entrepreneurship through the LaunchPad.

“For centuries, some of the world’s most valuable resources were oil and gold,” Forrest said in a recent Conversation with Leadership interview with Stan Linhorst, a writer for “But today, one of the most valuable resources is data.”

Read the full story here:

Maxim Glagolev ’20 builds B2B marketplace for lab-grown diamonds with his co-founder Dmitry Semchenko

Maxim Glagolev

It is nearly 2 a.m., and Maxim Glagolev is lost, deep in focus. He and his partner, Dmitry Semchenko, persevere through time zone differences as they aim to start their U.S.-based startup while living abroad. Although both founders were born in Moscow, Maxim is temporarily working from Turkey, while Dmitry does the same from Armenia.

Maxim is a beloved alum of Syracuse University’s Blackstone LaunchPad. He participated in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship to study International Leadership and Technology Management at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in 2019 when he first started working with the LaunchPad. Armed with newfound hope, Maxim joined the LaunchPad to work on his dreams and break the glass ceiling in his career. There, he fell in love with the world of possibilities that entrepreneurship unlocked.

Working with the LaunchPad, Maxim overcame his mental limitations about starting a business and founded GeekLama which helps children around the world receive an IT education that empowers them to pursue better jobs and a better future. Since its founding, GeekLama has launched in the U.S., Russia, Israel, Ghana, and Qatar. Maxim remains engaged with the LaunchPad as a mentor to current student startups working in software development, ed tech and impact entrepreneurship.

Dimitry Semchenko

Maxim’s best friend Dmitry was inspired by this entrepreneurial journey. As someone who adores innovation and appreciates a challenge ripe to be solved, Dmitry looked for a way to partner with Maxim to start another venture. With Dmitry’s expert knowledge of the diamond industry and Maxim’s entrepreneurial prowess, the duo kickstarted LGDeal, the first B2B marketplace that connects lab-grown diamond producers with jewelry stores.

The idea was born when Dmitry was sitting in a sales office at work, observing how long it took to receive information about diamonds. He learned that diamonds would switch hands from three to five intermediaries, increasing their cost by 200-300% along the way. LGDeal solves this by creating a thorough database that enables producers and buyers to connect directly. Jewelers can filter for parameters such as shape, price, carat, cut, color, clarity, production location, and seller rating.

Although lab-grown diamonds are a young, emerging and rapidly growing market, the diamond industry overall remains conservative. A marketplace model like this one plays by different rules than what players in the field are used to, revolutionizing the industry in a way comparable to what Amazon did for consumers. LGDeal offers greater transparency and lower costs than the market had ever seen before.

Maxim and Dmitry built their MVP in less than a year, an incredible accomplishment for the scale of the platform they were aiming for. How did they create a team that was able to do this so efficiently? Maxim and Dmitry leaned on each other’s best talents — while Maxim built a team of his best IT developers, Dmitry could recruit growing companies to join and salespeople who were familiar with jewelers worldwide.

Dmitry also added, “It is important to hire people who are smarter than you, who do better than you. When hiring, spend a lot of time choosing the right candidates because it is better to spend more time now to find the right fit than it is to spend time fixing a problem later.”

Maxim nodded, saying, “Time is a crucial resource for startups.”

Aside from the skillset of the team, Maxim noted the importance of team camaraderie: “There would not be a company without Dmitry. He drives all of us when we are down and lifts our spirits. We did this all together.”

Dmitry echoed similar wisdom: “We try to make the company feel like it is not just me and Maxim’s baby. It is everyone’s baby. We always receive other people’s input because in many cases, our initial assumptions are wrong or made better by the team. Don’t give your team a solution — give them a problem to solve. Then listen.”

The founders explain that they never vote on decisions. Instead, they continue discussions until they discover the single best solution that everyone agrees with. Their favorite decision was the naming of the company.

“That was when the company was born — when we created the name,” Maxim said, smiling.

As with all startups, the process was not without its challenges.

Maxim particularly recalls learning a valuable lesson in being realistic in his time commitments: “I promised to give a lot to the company, and sometimes I could not. I had to evaluate the work on my plate and be honest with myself from the beginning about what I can take on.”

Maxim calls this his illusion theory. Filled with ambition and vision, entrepreneurs often come up with more ideas than they can realistically pursue within 24 hours of a day. Outside of his startup work, Maxim is also a Chief Business Development Officer at Yandex Practicum and has a family to tend to. Dmitry also works full-time and cares for a family of his own. Balancing these has helped Maxim develop a greater self-awareness of what is realistic and what is an illusion.

Despite the challenges of time and distance, the founders have built a successful venture. They now have a collection of over 150,000 stones on their platform that is updated weekly, and LGDeal is even listed as a member in the Jewelers Board of Trade (ID #02738458) and the Jewelers of America (ID #1013659).

By the end of the year, Maxim and Dmitry are planning to open an office in New York City, where they can expand to honor certain clients’ requests for quality control, checking and storing diamond stones before they are shipped to customers. Their goal to be an ecosystem and a one-stop shop for jewelers is well underway.

Both founders offer aspiring entrepreneurs words of advice as they begin their own journeys.

Dmitry advises entrepreneurs to build a strong support network first. “Make sure to have support from friends and family before you start because the process will be challenging, so you need this support from people you love to be sustainable.”

Finally, Maxim encourages all potential entrepreneurs to take a shot at their idea: “In the worst-case scenario, you might fail. But you can tell yourself, ‘At least I tried, and then move on, building on lessons learned along the way.’”

Story by Sasha Temerte ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photos supplied

Ethan Tyo ’17, G’22 is featured in the New York Times and Seattle Times as he grows AlterNative

student looking into the camera

Ethan Tyo ’17, G’22 is featured in the New York Times and Seattle Times as he grows AlterNative

Growing up on the Mohawk reservation of Akwesasne, Ethan Tyo ’17 G’22 had no idea his land was poisoned. Despite the rich and long-established cultural traditions of the Mohawk people to plan, harvest, and prepare their food from the earth, Tyo never did that growing up. Instead, he and his community shopped at the Walmarts and fast-food chains not far from the reservation, not knowing why they did not fish or farm as their families used to.

As Tyo returned to Syracuse University to pursue his master’s in food studies, he learned the concept of food sovereignty — the access to culturally appropriate and nutritionally complete foods. But today, the ability to historically cultural food practices of fishing, hunting, and growing are lost on most reservations; and the resulting diet is often nutritionally inadequate.

Frequently reservations are built downstream from industrial cities and industrial plants where the resulting waste pollution renders the nearby soils and water sources unsuitable for agricultural production. In simpler terms, the land is poisonous, and the food grown from such land poisons its inhabitants.

To live on a poisonous land is unsuitable for any community, but it is particularly devastating for the American Indigenous communities. As tribal nations, they were forced to leave behind their lands that they grew their lives upon and create homes on lands that offered nothing. The tradition of tending to the earth and reaping its fruits is core in much of Indigenous culture. For example, the “Three Sisters” of squash, beans, and corn are highly symbolic in Indigenous culture for the traditional practices of planting the three in one field to agriculturally balance each other. The rich traditions and dignity of passing down cooking practices and recipes generationally have been stripped away.

Tyo hopes to restore food sovereignty to the tribal nations through The AlterNative Project. This project, inspired by the knowledge of Indigenous cultural practices Tyo only learned once he started formal university studies, aims to create widespread access to Indigenous knowledge and further scientific research within Indigenous communities.

“I know so much science and research but none of this is given back the people who need it – how do we create a space within academia to decolonize this information?” Tyo asked himself as he started The AlterNative Project.

Through The AlterNative Project, Tyo is working to create a world where knowledge about Indigenous history, culture, and current challenges is accessible across communities. He’s already started implementing this understanding of Indigenous culture here at Syracuse University, with a dedication in Pete’s Giving Garden to the Three Sisters for the Native Student Program in the Office of Multicultural Affairs- hoping to increase awareness of the importance of Indigenous food staples and provide space for experiences from our home communities for future generations of Indigenous students.

This year, he has also been named as Todd B. Rubin Diversity and Inclusion Scholar for the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University, where he will be using his role to bring more awareness to indigenous issues withing the entrepreneurial community.

Beyond Syracuse, Tyo’s work to further Indigenous knowledge is already making headway on a national level. In a piece for the New York Times, he shares background on Native American agriculture, and in a piece published for the New York Times Cooking and re-posted under his by-line in the Seattle Times, he creates an homage to the Three Sisters with a hearty bean patty brightened with a raspberry aioli.

In the future, Tyo envisions this education will lead to innovation and entrepreneurial solutions to the problems Indigenous communities face today; particularly creating sustainable solutions to counter problems like the poisoned water and plant sources on reservations. “We do not have preexisting things like manufacturing and industrial systems- you cannot just throw money into a community. The problem is we get a lot of federal aid but that mostly goes back off the reservation,” said Tyo.

Community innovation is the key to tackling Indigenous issues. This is the idea The AlterNative Project is built on. Tyo is overflowing with ideas for what this could look like. One is creating a network of Indigenous-inspired food stores across the nation, all filled with products sourced from Indigenous suppliers located on the reservations, ensuring that money flows back to the reservation.

Tyo’s work in increasing awareness of indigenous practices is a work that is not just his own but is rooted out of community gathering and sharing. To the Syracuse community, he encourages us to read, listen and reach out to understand what is happening in the Indigenous communities around us. For Tyo, one of the simplest ways to start learning is to come together through food, whether that is planting corn at Pete’s Giving Garden or trying a new recipe made from the Three Sisters.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, Global Fellow.

Film entrepreneur Jeremy Shinder ’24 featured in SU News

photo of a student behind a camera

Jeremy Todd Shinder ’24 was a teen actor when he got some sage advice from industry veterans. It happened on the set of the Amazon series Red Oaks, where, between shots, he chatted up costars Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), Josh Meyers (That ’70s Show) and Richard Kind (Curb Your Enthusiasm). That experience led to becoming both a film major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts Department of Film and Media and an entrepreneur, as founder of Jere Bear Films. He’s interned at American High and just returned from a filmmaking month in Italy through the Syracuse Abroad Program.

Read more about him in this great Syracuse University news story by Rob Enslin:

Erin Miller ’16 on creative inspiration and evolution

Erin Miller is a native of the Bay Area who graduated with a degree in advertising from the  S.I. Newhouse School Of Public Communications in 2016. As a member of the Blackstone LaunchPad, Erin developed her entrepreneurial spirit and assisted others in growing their projects from the ground up.  To Erin, being an entrepreneur in any industry is “always about building something.”

Erin was the co-founder of Out There Productions in 2016 which was a vital experience in allowing her to further her entrepreneurial pursuits. The goal of the project was to curate promotional videos and advertise for small businesses and startups. Although this was her own venture, Erin also says that “You don’t necessarily have to have your own venture to be an entrepreneur.”

Leveraging Out There Productions to feed her desire to travel and visit startup communities, Erin and her co-founders took the summer after graduation to tour the company in a former school bus outfitted as a mobile recording studio, meeting startups along the way in interesting places. That led her to her deeper interest in connecting communities through venture creation and an eventual role at the Capital Factory, “the center of gravity” for entrepreneurs in Texas, with operations in Austin, Dallas, and Houston. She was actively engaged with building that ecosystem until she decided to relocate back to her home San Francisco Bay Area.

She is exploring her own innate creativity by writing and illustrating children’s books and expanding her freelance skills in visual and performing arts and filmmaking. She is also director of community at a company called  3 Day Startup which provides entrepreneurship education to underrepresented communities around the world, organize accelerators for women founders and put together fellowships for young people who have finished college and are struggling to get a job. The primary goal is to serve communities that do not have access to tools that build their business that other cities have. For Erin, her motive at 3 Day Startup is to make entrepreneurship education accessible. 

In addition, she remains an active mentor through the LaunchPad, and is a frequent judge for SU student startup competitions. Her connections to the LaunchPad run deep. She was the keynote speaker and cut the ribbon to the LaunchPad when it opened in April 2016 and won $10,000 in the first ever LaunchPad student venture competition, the iPrize, in partnership with the iSchool.

Erin Miller winning the iPrize at LaunchPad opening day in 2016

Erin has an innate desire to frequent those who are “obsessed with things” as she would say. Her interest in passionate people stems from her older brother who was an artist and writer. She was fascinated with how deeply he dove into things he loved, whether it be hobbies or in his studies. He always tested things out before her thus allowing her to follow in her brother’s footsteps in any facet of her life. She recalls a time where he became obsessed with the rapper Eminem and took the initiative to become a rapper. He prospered in rap, winning plenty of competitions and battles. Erin had first-hand experience watching someone close to her grow an obsession and have tangible success from it. For a young Erin Miller, this was a turning point for her to become the passionate and inspirational person that she witnessed her older brother become.

Like her brother, Erin’s obsession was about how people connect with one another. Going from in-person events to virtual events during the pandemic Erin understood the importance of connection amongst people. She then took the initiative to be involved in virtual environments and adapted to virtual community-building.

Erin slowly began to find her niche in the entrepreneurial world which became the ability to build communities. As she said before, being an entrepreneur is “always about building something.” Her enthusiastic and curious personality inevitably helps her to build collective spaces and foster connections amongst people anywhere she is, whether it is a virtual or in-person. 

Her advice for an aspiring entrepreneur is that “You should volunteer for a cause that you’re interested in just to get your foot in the door.” Erin’s philanthropic approach to life has allowed her to prosper in the entrepreneurship industry and beyond. If we can expect anything from Erin in the future, it is that her sympathy coupled with her passion to build will bring people from all walks of life together to create.

Story by Samba Soumare ’24; photo supplied

Julia Haber ’18 is making a difference with her business Home From College

In a world that’s ever-changing with new obstacles arising, Julia Haber has become a powerful and successful female founder. Julia graduated in 2018 with a major in advertising and media in Newhouse an minor in psychology, but she started her journey and ambition at a young age. Her eagerness to solve problems started her hometown in Westchester, NY and flourished when she joined the LaunchPad at Syracuse University.

Throughout her time in college, she used her opportunity to explore and try new activities that provided her with great resources and support. One of those organizations was LaunchPad. A unique fact about Julia was she was one of the first founding members of LaunchPad at Syracuse because of her passion for entrepreneurship. She described her relationship and connection with LaunchPad to be a match made in heaven. She started her first company during her time in LaunchPad in her junior year of college with her dream to continue building it after college. Little did she know, that was just the beginning to a great success story.

Her first business, WAYV, was designed to allow pop-up experiences on college campuses for students to engage with companies. Julia, with her business, visited eight different campuses on a tour for Shopify. WAYV was created in 2017 and by 2018 it had taken off and won a grand prize from a LaunchPad competition. This milestone led her to pursue her business straight out of college.

After graduating, Julia continued to work countless hours on building WAYV, but little did she know the pandemic was about to change her progress for the better. All the puzzle pieces fell straight into her lap. Seeing how impactful COVID-19 had on college students finding internships or jobs after college, allowed her to envision a new idea for WAYV. Julia saw Gen-Z struggling with these issues and made it a goal to ameliorate the issue the best she could. Thus, she created Home From College.  Home From College is a platform that allows students to start their career and take control of their opportunities. Similar to LinkedIn, they can connect with companies in unique ways in which students reach out to businesses.

This idea didn’t just originate from other students’ struggles, but from Julia’s own experience.   She discovered that the lack of internships in college did not produce a sufficient connections or portfolio work for students. Julia realized that internships meant more than what is recognized in a student’s experience on campus. With the couple internships she did pursue, Spotify and Snapchat for marketing, opened her eyes to what others were not fortunate enough to experience. So she built Home From College to connect, build, and maintain relationships. It was built as a space and place for those seeking internships to make connections out of college.

Home From College is wonderful because it is operated by a group of ten individuals dedicated to the success of your future. Furthermore, it is completely separated from colleges that allows for a more personal experience for all ages and no background needed. Users can explore others with the same interests and a space that could truly make a difference.

Julia and her co-founder have both had impactful experiences that led to their dedication to helping others achieve success. Her creative, ambitious, and ideal of not taking no for an answer has led her to wonderful success.

Julia says, “You have to keep on going, it’s the only way to success. There has to be a solution.” Her mentality to push through any hardship and continue working hard has made her into the amazing woman she is today. Just like she always has, her future entails helping as many students as possible and that’s exactly what she’ll do.

Story by Sydney Grosso ’23; photo supplied