Christopher Appello

Trevor Miller ’20 on creative expression through drag

It’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has halted business operations across many sectors.  With shutdowns of the Broadway stage, nightlife and nearly every performance space across the country, it has become incredibly difficult to land a position in the entertainment industry. Actors, actresses, drag queens and many other creative entrepreneurs have needed to be extra resourceful just to survive amidst this economic and public health crisis. 

Pursuing his bachelor’s degree in English and sociology at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, senior Trevor Miller was ready to launch the next phases of both his drag queen and acting careers before the world was sent into quarantine back in March 2020.  

“I was preparing to send a short-film that I had been working on to a prestigious editor in NYC, and I was going to do a summer tour as Lizanga through a couple of different states,” says Miller. “And literally all on the same day, everything was cancelled.”

Miller started performing back in 2017 when he debuted as Lizanga at the SU Drag Preliminaries. After sweeping that round of the competition with ease, Miller went on to win the final round, a moment in which he recalls “literally collapsing.” 

“Unlike any other year, they didn’t announce a runner-up, and so I thought I won runner-up when I was the first name called. I got to the end of the runway and someone from the balcony yelled ‘girl, you won,’” recounts Miller, who had the opportunity to meet famous drag queens Trixie Mattel and Milk while they hosted the event.

From his gaudy and whimsical performances as Lizanga, inspired by Hairspray’s iconic Edna Turnblad, Miller found immense passion for the performing arts and the self-expression that comes with it.

Trevor Miller as Lizanga

With innate curiosity pumping through his veins, he then auditioned for many films in hopes of gaining a different kind of acting experience.  He landed the starring role in psycho-thriller “Daddy Knows Best,” a new film by LaunchPad alumni film production company 410 Pictures. Entering the 2021 Film Festival Circuit, the film explores the twisted world of Johnny Peters’ masculine psyche.

Founded by Syracuse VPA alumni Peter Hartsock ’19 and Daniel Simoni ‘19, 410 Pictures “is one of the most welcoming production companies that I have ever been a part of,” shares Miller, who has previously struggled with landing roles on sets with predominantly straight white male casting crews. 

 “Whenever I go into an audition, no matter what I’ve prepared, I’m always walking in with the worry on my shoulders of how I look in my clothes, how people are seeing me and how I am presenting myself to them,” says Miller, who came out as gay back in 2010.  

Initially receiving little to no acceptance of his sexuality from family and friends, Miller is very familiar with the negative social stigmas placed on LGBTQ+ individuals, all of which prevent substantial and truthful queer representation from existing in media to this day.

Luckily, 410 Pictures wants to change that narrative by lending its platform to champion diversity in all respects.

“From the minute I met Peter, he acknowledged my queerness and worked with it, unlike any other director I’ve encountered in the past” says Miller, bringing his drag queen persona to every scene on set. In fact, his drag queen persona is one of three key components to his acting formula.

“When I act, I give a piece of myself (actual Trevor), a piece of Lizanga in the dramatization of how I would normally do drag, and then a piece of what I think the director wants, and I put that all together cohesively,” he says.  Lizanga most certainly shines through in every piece of his work.

After reflecting on his drag persona’s larger-than-life personality and trademark characteristics, Miller was enthusiastic to share that “she fills the void of literally everything that I am not in my daily life. She’s so unafraid.”

Although there are still challenges, Miller feels fortunate to be living in a time when drag has never been more socially accepted.  “When I first came out in 2010, drag was still underground. It was something that when you spoke about it, straight people would be confused.  And now it’s on billboards across multiple states,” says Miller, whose career would not be the same without the brilliant femininity of his drag identity.

With an Instagram platform followed by more than 1,500 people, Miller has made it his mission to be a source of light and love for everyone currently struggling in life.

“I just want to be the person that I needed when I came out of the closet,” he says, and he most certainly will be with his unapologetic confidence as both an entertainer and individual. 

Story by Christopher Appello ’21, Blackstone Global Fellow, advertising major, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications; artwork and photo supplied

Insights: How to build a successful digital brand

Building a digital brand

In 2020, an estimated 3.6 billion people were using social media, and that number is only projected to increase exponentially in the next five years. As social media platforms establish interconnectivity among those billions of users, ordinary people have the ability to transform themselves into influencers, small business owners, food bloggers, and more. Tapping into Instagram’s bountiful potential for doing just that, I have created a digital brand of my own that has already amassed nearly 250 followers within its first month of creation. Under the username nonnas_cuisine_, I take on the role of a fiery Northern New Jersey Italian grandmother, incorporating classic Italian American slang into every post that I upload to the page. At first, I only uploaded recipes and food reviews, but after witnessing a growing interest in my homemade pasta sauce, I started selling jars and have already made over $150 in profit in the process.

His homemade pasta sauce is as delicious as a fiery Northern New Jersey Italian grandmother

When creating your own digital brand, there are key elements that need to be integrated at all times. Without cohesion and consistency, it will lose trust and loyalty among the masses. If you are interested in building a digital brand of your own, walk through my following tips for guaranteed success:

Establish a Voice, and Stick with It

When creating a digital brand of your own, the first and most important step to take is establishing a unique, authentic voice that is cohesively present in all of your content. For example, if I began speaking in a British accent on my Nonna’s Cuisine page, my audience would be both confused and less likely to engage with my content because of my brand’s unexpected behavior. To optimize viewership among your target audience, your messaging needs to follow a consistent voice and tone so that your audience knows what to expect from your brand. Without this cohesiveness, your brand becomes lost in translation to your consumers, thus minimizing your content’s receptivity tenfold. 

Select a Target Audience

When developing strategic communication, the receiver of that messaging is the focal point for determining whether or not it was both effective and convincing. To generate exposure, your target audience must be receptive to your voice, word choice, overall product and marketing strategy; thus, it is imperative to focus on a niche group of people that will respond most enthusiastically to your brand’s content. You don’t want to waste the time or money invested in uploading posts for people that will pay no attention to them, and so selecting the audience is the perfect fit in order for your content’s metrics to be optimal. In the instance that a target audience resonates with your branded content, they will provide you, the creator, with a number of digital interactions including likes, comments and shares, all of which hold the potential for gaining new followers.  

Talk With Your Audience, Not At It

Traditional advertising models followed a formula of brands consistently marketing at consumers via media channels like television, radio and print, solely communicating what they wanted those consumers to know about their products. In the past 20 years, these advertising models have proven to become ineffective due to the power of social media platforms. Consumers are now content creators of their own, and they know now more than ever what they need. Therefore, today’s consumers seek brands that communicate with them to better understand those needs, as opposed to the tradition of brands shoving unwanted information in their faces. When developing communication for your digital brand, pay attention to your target audience’s needs and listen to what they are saying. Through this listening, you will know exactly what you need to communicate as a brand to your target audience.

Prioritize Earned Media

The best way to grow a following for your digital brand is through the accumulation of earned media. When I say earned media, I mean getting word-of-mouth exposure for your brand. If people are talking about your brand, you are receiving free advertising that directly supports its growth and exposure. As sponsored advertising on social media platforms tend to get expensive, generating free, earned media should be the ultimate goal for propelling your digital brand towards greater recognition among your target audience. By focusing on your product’s quality and establishing a cohesive brand image, you are more likely to get people interested enough to talk about your brand with others. It only takes one person to spark a snowball effect of endless conversations about you, so continuously polish your business until you see positive results.

By following this helpful guide, you should be able to successfully construct a digital brand of your own. As a digital advertising major at Syracuse University with a love for food, I established an authentic brand persona targeted at a large community of student peers that I have developed connections with throughout my college years. By making use of the supportive network which Syracuse provided to me, my idea was able to come to life. When uploading content to my nonnas_cuisine_ page, I am always interacting with my audience to gauge their preferences, dislikes and more importantly, their general mentality as consumers. By doing so, I have over 100 people currently talking about my brand, granting me the earned media I need to develop Nonna’s Cuisine into a successful prospective small business.

Story by Christopher Appello ’21, Blackstone Global Fellow, advertising major, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications; artwork and photo supplied

Jose Arrieta ’21 on tackling climate change through innovative food waste management

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently reported that by 2030, carbon dioxide emissions need to be cut by 45% to keep the rise in global temperatures in check for this century. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are 3,091 active landfills in the U.S. and two thirds of that waste is biodegradable, producing carbon dioxide and methane upon their decomposition. Amidst this evident climate crisis, innovation is key for shifting theexpected path upon which the Earth is currently navigating.

Studying marketing management and entrepreneurship at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, Posse Scholar Jose Arrieta is working towards halting the staggering rise in greenhouse gas emissions through unprecedented waste management. He founded Viridi with four team members as a capstone project and devised an alternative method of waste disposal for food retailers that is both environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial.

“We partnered with professionals to create an industrial-scale fast-acting composter which currently doesn’t exist. Instead of throwing away excess produce that hasn’t sold by fresh dates, grocers could compost it on site and sell the high nutrient value output to local farmers and nurseries,” says Arrieta, who served as chief marketing officer for the team.

“A huge component of capstone and beginning a business in general is truly starting something unique that fixes a problem. I feel like it’s so hard to come up with something new, especially in modern times. If people are going to do something, even if it is imaginary, they should at least do something that can do some good,” says Arrieta, who project the team’s waste management model could drastically reduce the 10 billion+ pounds of produce wasted in grocery stores per year.

The LaunchPad’s Executive Director, Linda Dickerson Hartsock, serves as one of the judges for this capstone competition and was extremely impressed with the team and the amount of research, planning and execution that went into the idea.  She also thought it was a viable solution that had further merit. Arrieta shares how much she believed in Viridi despite the team not winning the competition. “She told us that she gave us the highest possible scores and recommended advancing us to the final round.  That was very affirming because it was really a semester’s worth of hard work. This semester in particular wasn’t an easy semester for anyone, so just imagine the weight off our shoulders when we presented and got that feedback.”

Following the capstone competition, Hartsock was so impressed with Arrieta and his team that she invited them to the Hult Prize, an international business competition focused on sustainable solutions for urgent global problems. Each year, the Hult Prize selects a social problem around which competitors build solutions, and this year’s challenge happened to be “Food for Good,” or developing solutions that transform food into a vehicle for change. 

While Viridi was not selected to move onto the global regionals, the team again demonstrated resiliency and commitment, and will continue working with the LaunchPad in spring 2021 to keep refining their idea and advancing it. “Seeing this play out in person and become a full-blown venture is more than enough of a reward for me,” says Arrieta, who will continue to further develop the concept with the unwavering support of his team.

When thinking about waste management on the macro level, Arrieta shares a meaningful insight on the use of landfills in the current food waste model. “It should be the responsibility of those in control of our food systems to tackle our environmental obstacles.”

Until food retailers and consumers are no longer reliant on unsustainable methods for disposing of their food waste, alarming rates of greenhouse gas emissions will continue to erode our ozone layer, leaving us critically vulnerable in all aspects of our lives. 

Story by Blackstone LaunchPad Global Fellow Christopher Appello ’21; photo supplied

Maggie Sardino brings authenticity to telling refugee stories

Person outdoors looking at camera

With a population of only 143,000 people, Syracuse has seen the resettlement of nearly 9,500 refugees in the last decade alone. Growing up in Syracuse and attending Corcoran High School in the city’s school district, Syracuse University sophomore Maggie Sardino has both seen and heard the community’s struggle throughout her entire life.

Before pursuing both writing and rhetoric in the College of Arts and Sciences and citizenship and civic engagement in the Maxwell School, Sardino experienced difficulty when having to choose an academic discipline that spoke to all of her interests.

“I was thinking political science and even engineering but wasn’t completely sure what it was that I wanted to study,” shares Sardino, “but then I enrolled in a Writing 114 class and soon I found a space where I could explore the intersection of all of my interests and passions.”

From an introductory writing class, Sardino actualized the power of storytelling. With immense pride for the local Syracuse community, Sardino sat in front of her keyboard and began typing the raw, human truths about all of the stereotyped and overlooked refugees that she encountered at the Narratio Fellowship program, a storytelling workshop partnership between the College of Arts and Sciences and Syracuse’s Northside Learning Center. Beyond the writing, Sardino currently mentors two fellows, Isho Adan and Rayan Mohamed, serving as both a support system and role model for the young girls.

When speaking on Narratio’s mission as a program in a recent interview, founder Ahmed Badr says that, “Hopefully we’re creating spaces where the fellows can transcend that aspect of their story in a way that feels authentic and makes sense for them. It’s all up to the fellows to choose what kind of stories they want to tell.”

With the programs’ young refugees performing poems at the MET, filming autobiographical documentaries about their lives for professors in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) and more, the Narratio Fellowship program successfully fosters self-expression for a community that notably depends on it as a sustainable outlet for unifying around reflection. Writing her own profile series for the program, Sardino amplifies refugees’ voices through her powerful storytelling, organically capturing their identities beyond the shallow and dehumanizing labels placed on them.

Wishing to grow viewership of her inspiring profile pieces, Sardino researched prospective publications that closely aligned with Narratio’s vision and values. Shortly after, she stumbled upon the SU Globalists publication and joined as a contributing writer without hesitation.

“I really just felt like these organizations paralleled each other in that they really aren’t trying to put people into boxes or labels. They are just trying to allow the human experience to show itself,” says Sardino, repurposing already published Narratio profile pieces while drafting a new issue regarding howCOVID-19 has disproportionately impacted individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

With the goal of highlighting stories that exhibit diverse perspectives and creating an inclusive community, SU Globalists explores a plethora of topics including pop culture and poetry pieces with curiosity and honesty. SU Globalists was established in 2017 to give students an outlet to start conversations about global issues and express their perspectives on various subjects.  It was founded by LaunchPad entrepreneurs Saniya More, Hanna Benavides and Divya Murthy, along with Jane Lee, and hosted its early meetings at the LaunchPad pre-pandemic. The LaunchPad and SU Libraries sponsor SU Globalists annual print edition.

“You can get lost as a writer trying to do something really interesting in terms of style, or trying to pull an interesting quote, but they taught me to root everything in authenticity, especially as a profile writer,” says Sardino.

Through authentic storytelling, Sardino believes that stigmas and stereotypes can slowly erase themselves from people’s perceptions, particularly on refugees. 

“I think that there is certainly a universal aspect in the refugee struggle, but when we think about refugees, we have this idea in our head that they are from worn-torn countries. For every single refugee, it’s a unique and distinct experience,” says Sardino, who is dedicated to preserving the human dignity and respect of a misunderstood community near and dear to her heart.

In the coming weeks, Sardino will continue uncovering the moving stories of countless Narratio fellows, along with fulfilling her internship responsibilities at Interfaith Works of Central New York, whose Center for New Americans provides resettlement and post-resettlement services to local refugee families.

Bearing authenticity when tackling any story that is thrown her way, she will always hold the truth at the forefront of every story that she writes.

Read some recent articles by Sardino here:

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Christopher Appello ’21; photo supplied

Aley O’Mara on championing gender identities, diversity and inclusion

student in an outdoor setting

Freelance writer and Syracuse University English PhD candidate Ashley “Aley” O’Mara is restructuring the conservative systems of academia through their background as a queer, asexual and non-binary individual. With their work in university organizations like the Graduate Diversity and Graduate Employee Committees, O’Mara aims to redefine conventional schooling by diligently researching gender identities and their implications on perceptions of normalcy.

“Academia tends to preserve interpretations that are considered more natural. It’s more natural to assume heterosexuality than it is to to assume queerness. That gives a particular narrative about what is imaginable and what is so unimaginable that you need proof to prove it,” says O’Mara, who has fought tirelessly for LGBTQ+ representation and inclusivity on Syracuse University’s campus.

Following the 2014 Diversity and Transparency Rally organized by The General Body SU at Hendricks Chapel, the university’s Chancellor at the time established a task force on Diversity and Inclusion to revamp the institution’s outdated structure. The mandated task force not only expanded the options for preferred or chosen names on the university’s student portal, MySlice, but it also led to the formation of the Pronouns, Gender and Preferred Name Advisory Council (PGPNAC) in 2018. 

“We pretty much have free reign over making any recommendations or changes as we see fit. People want to do the work, and we have the power and resources to do that work,” says O’Mara, one among the organization’s many original co-creators and co-facilitators.

Striving to make queer individuals feel more comfortable in the college environment, the PGPNAC successfully stopped deadnaming, the non-consensual use of transgender or non-binary persons’ birth or other former name, from occuring on the university’s Handshake job-search platform.

“For a very long time, the Career Services’ Handshake kept deadnaming people by refusing to accept their preferred names stored in the MySlice system. Luckily, we investigated and successfully stopped it,” shares O’Mara, who emphasizes the importance of changing systems in order to change people. By restructuring the Handshake platform to accommodate those with preferred names, O’Mara transformed an exclusive environment into a fair space for countless individuals to scout employment opportunities.

Feeling the absence of community during the coronavirus pandemic, O’Mara decided to participate in the LaunchPad’s SummerStartup accelerator this past summer, and they were instantly connected with a network of people interested in their studies on gender and sexuality.

“They gave me advice on how to do what I love doing, while making a living off of that. I could see a game plan for the future where I would be able to make a living for myself without relying on any individual employer,” says O’Mara, who has been hired for several guest lectures on topics like ‘Asexuality and Politics’ across the country.

With the recent launch of their consulting business, Our Chosen Name, O’Mara challenges businesses and institutions to deeply self-reflect about their own structures in hopes of fostering, impactful, material changes to them. Through their expert background in gender and sexuality representation, diversity and inclusion, their focus is on dismantling systems of oppression which have perpetually marginalized communities.

“By changing systems and structures, you can change people,” says O’Mara, hoping for their company in its infancy to become an organization fostering substantial education for institutions deeply entrenched in current heteronormative structures.

When reflecting back on the start of their graduate studies, O’Mara shared how Syracuse University’s education regarding gender and sexuality was extremely lacking: “there was no research on asexuality and literary studies published, to now, where it feels like there’s a moment happening. You can feel the field beginning to shift and that’s always been my goal.”

Now, thanks to O’Mara, the university is only gaining more knowledge on these topics, and it will continue to do so under this young educator’s leadership.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Christopher Appello ’21; photo supplied

Jason Kuperberg ’18 on building communities and a culture of innovation

Young man outside in a blue zipped jacket

People and communities have always driven the success of Syracuse University alumnus Jason Kuperberg. Before graduating in 2018 with a major in biotechnology from the College of Arts and Sciences, Kuperberg belonged to the Syracuse Hillel and LaunchPad communities, both of which catapulted him in the unexpected direction of entrepreneurship.

From his experiences at Syracuse and the community he established within Hillel, Kuperberg quickly moved into the role of Springboard Innovation Fellow at Stanford University to launch his post-graduate life. Designing student experiences and partnering with students to build community using design-thinking, Kuperberg excelled and thrived in this role through the 2019-2020 academic year, along with his role as a Fellow in the Social Entrepreneurship Lab based out of the Stanford University School of Medicine.

While Kuperberg was working at Stanford University, Syracuse LaunchPad’s director Linda Dickerson Hartsock often visited the California Bay Area to meet with accomplished Syracuse alumni working in tech and business, and she brought Jason to SU alumni network gatherings in the Silicon Valley to share his experiences as a LaunchPad member. Kuperberg had been a very successful student entrepreneur at Syracuse – winning the campus Impact Prize and Hunter Brooks Watson Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award, as well as the campus Hult Prize competition and going on to the global regionals.  He stayed in close contact with the LaunchPad after graduation, often mentoring other student startups and participating in programs and events. Hartsock asked Kuperberg to judge the LaunchPad’s Summer Startup Accelerator and, not yet knowing what she would create, connected Kuperberg with Matt Shumer and Miles Feldstein, two Whitman entrepreneurship students who were involved with the LaunchPad.

“Whenever I saw Linda, she would always update me on the exciting happenings of the LaunchPad. She always mentioned Visos, a medical VR venture which Matt and Miles were working on at the time. She encouraged us to meet, and she said she just knew we would work well together and create something great,” shares Kuperberg.  “She wasn’t wrong.”

Serving as a judge at the LaunchPad’s annual summer accelerator pitch competition, Kuperberg evaluated a pitch by Feldstein while Shumer was observing in the Zoom event. When Shumer reached out to Kuperberg through the Zoom private chat, the magic finally happened.

“The next day the three of us had a meeting and it just took off from there,” shares Kuperberg, who is now a co-founder of OthersideAI, along with Shumer and Feldstein. 

As a founding team member, Kuperberg and his business partners have a mission of making people more productive by automating monotonous tasks like sending emails in order to optimize time spent on more important and meaningful endeavors. Kuperberg has been personally onboarding each user of OthersideAI, in order to create a community and maintain constant dialogue with users.

“I want to establish a close relationship with each individual who is testing our product. I want them to feel as if they are part of our team, and that they can contact me whenever they have an issue or feedback,” says Kuperberg, whose focus on user-centricity has made a significant impact on the early success of the company.

When reflecting on what he misses most from his undergraduate experience at Syracuse University, Kuperberg says, “Without a doubt, it’s the people and my communities. Being able to walk into the LaunchPad or Hillel and seeing the people that I love and love me back can be so hard to find.” The communities catalyzed Kuperberg’s entrepreneurial development and paved a clear avenue for the young entrepreneur’s success through a mutual, unwavering loyalty that has been pumped through the veins of his relationships with these communities.

Amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Kuperberg is working virtually from his home in Rochester, NY while further developing the new company and community he is passionate about. In the meantime, he continues to pay it forward to the Syracuse University LaunchPad and Hillel communities, building on his passion while giving of his time and talent to inspire other young students and startups.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Chris Appello ’21; photo supplied

Kate Regan is repurposing vintage clothing into fashionable streetwear

As the print editor of Syracuse University’s premiere fashion publication, Zipped Magazine, Kate Regan not only publishes fashion content but also lends a voice to aspiring stylists, costume designers and those with an interest in the industry. Having assisted celebrity stylist Erin Walsh in her New York City showroom, Regan has even had the experience of working with household names like Sarah Jessica Parker and Anne Hathaway. With her arsenal of professional experience, Regan is a formidable force awaiting her start as a prospective innovation pioneer in the fashion world.

She’s putting that savvy to work by tapping into a powerful Gen Z platform. It’s no question that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has drastically limited employment opportunities in America, especially for recent college graduates. Businesses are laying off workers left and right, the unemployment rate is nearly 11 percent and the professional plans that many young professionals once had have been halted indefinitely. During this time of economic strife, Gen Z is turning to platforms to build small businesses of their own.

With a network of nearly 20 million users, London startup Depop, founded by Simon Beckerman in 2011, is redefining the ways in which one can make a living. With a download of the platform’s app, users instantly become clothing vendors, uploading images of their own vintage clothing for other users to purchase. Depop vendors even have the option of leaving their sold items on their profiles, creating a unique fashion collection that, in time, has the potential to amass hundreds of followers.

”While I never really cared about my number of followers, it definitely takes a while to build them,” says Regan, a Syracuse University Depop ambassador and Newhouse magazine journalism major.  She has been uploading her clothing on the platform for more than five years and has achieved success through that partnership.

Regan says that she struggled finding employment long before the coronavirus outbreak.  She made her Depop profile at age 16 when she had her first sales on the app. On Depop, Regan takes on the role of momjeans25, her profile name which has amassed more than 1,500 followers.

“One feature they have which is super cool is you can see how many items you have sold at the top of your profile.  For Regan, that number is 575 and she has made thousands of dollars since starting.

”I definitely think it has allowed me to feel more independent. When I sell something by myself, I feel so accomplished and satisfied,” says Regan.  She also feels part of the platform’s innovative community of young entrepreneurs.

Establishing a mutually beneficial relationship between itself and its users, Depop takes a 10 percent cut of all digital sales while giving other creatives the opportunity to make money of their own. Moreover, creatives can even avoid paying Depop’s fee by meeting with buyers in person. Ultimately, the company values its active buyers and sellers, as they maintain constant dialogue with the platform’s community members, composed of 15 million+ stylists, designers, collectors, vintage sellers, sneakerheads and more.

Besides having this remarkable network of digitally native creatives that value ambition and authenticity, Depop prides itself on being a sustainable force in the current fashion industry. 

“I believe they generally want to help the horrible construct that is fast fashion” says Regan in regard to the company’s main objective of repurposing old, vintage clothing into fashionable streetwear. While fast fashion brands like Forever 21 and H&M continue to unsustainably produce their products, and in turn, devastate the environment, Depop commits itself to a generation that adores sustainably developing novelty, second-hand items into eye-catching gems.

“Representing them as a brand has been the perfect partnership as their business model aligns with my interests,” says Regan, a sustainably minded individual with an impressive resume of work to share besides her momjeans25 Depop profile.

This year, pandemic or not, she is still innovating, while rummaging through her closet for hidden gems to sell to the Depop community.

Story by Christopher Appello ’21, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied

Join the Syracuse eClub to connect with a community that shares your entrepreneurial spirit

group of students in a meeting
Students at the fall 2019 eClub kickoff meeting

If you are a Syracuse University student who has an inherent entrepreneurial spirit, there is an organization on campus that speaks to your passion. Fostering a community of ambitious and hard-working young entrepreneurs, the SU eClub (WebsiteInstagramFacebook) grooms undergraduate students to become future business leaders. Bruno Andres Gonzalez Hauger, senior and president of the student-run organization based out of Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, says that the organization’s ultimate mission is to “inspire, educate and connect prospective entrepreneurs and current entrepreneurship students at Syracuse University.”

When it comes to members that the eClub is seeking, he says that “We don’t want just Whitman students or entrepreneurship majors, or even just entrepreneurs. We want anyone who is interested in this and has something to learn.”

Acting as an intersection between students, faculty and local businesses, the eClub provides professional guidance to entrepreneurially ambitious students in hopes of turning ideas into successful college businesses that can launch post-graduation. However, starting a business is just one of the various paths that members follow. When discussing the different resources available to eClub members, Gonzalez Hauger notes that the organization’s members enjoy listening to dynamic speakers, participating in workshops and getting a job, all of which offer unique perspectives on business and networking that “you can’t always find in traditional academic lectures,” he says.

Amidst the plentiful opportunities available for eClub members, Gonzalez Hauger is not shy about personally advocating for starting a venture in college. “I think college itself is a safety net, and there are so many people who want you to succeed and will help you do just that.” In fact, Gonzalez Hauger, a dual entrepreneurship and advertising major in Whitman and Newhouse, founded ad-tech startup Ambassador Technologies with his brother, and he has relied upon the university’s hub of resources to help them grow the business during the typical stages of venture development. It’s been a great learning experience that you can’t otherwise replicate as a student.  

“The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t launch, and then you can still tell an employer that you started a business in college. That is not the worst thing to fail, pause or not launch,” says Gonzalez Hauger. In fact, can be a great conversation starter. Employers are looking for the soft skills that come with being an entrepreneur.  And they particularly admire both drive and resiliency.

With the novel coronavirus pandemic impacting the ways students and organizations typically interact on-campus, Gonzalez Hauger says the eClub’s turnout for meetings since the start of the Fall 2020 semester has been a creative challenge. “While it’s not the same initial turnout that we have seen in the past semesters, it is an enthusiastic and committed group that is growing.”  And there is no better time to learn the art of entrepreneurship, especially in a world that is demanding innovative thinking and solutions to big problems.

Because of the challenges of the pandemic, Gonzalez Hauger shares how the eClub’s partnership with the Launchpad is even more important than ever: “The LaunchPad is, in a way, the hub of entrepreneurs on campus. The people who go to the LaunchPad actively run businesses, participate in competitions and try to get funding for their ideas. Having this partnership is an excellent resource for members of our community who are doing exactly this.” From cross promoting the eClub’s events to providing of financial support for initiatives like Entrepalooza, the LaunchPad is the organization’s valued collaborator during such unprecedented times.

The eClub hosts Zoom meetings with interesting guests on Monday evenings at 8 p.m. and spreads awareness and interest in inspiring and educating those who are interested in innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. “We welcome everyone with open arms. We want to be a resource for all students,” says Gonzalez Hauger.

To learn more and join the eClub, a dynamic and passionate group that brings students, faculty, and local businesses together to spread entrepreneurship around the SU campus and throughout the Syracuse community, follow them on social media.

eClub Website

eClub Instagram

eClub Facebook

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Christopher Appello ’21

Chris Appello ’21 on social media as a creative outlet for self-expression

Social media have always been my outlets for self-expression and creativity. When I was a closeted gay man walking among the hyper-masculine jocks of my all-male Catholic high school, I never felt comfortable showcasing my queerness in a space that demonized its existence. Despite living and breathing in that toxic environment for four years, social media provided me with a channel to be who I wanted, free of inhibitions.

On Twitter, I established my own authentic voice without fear of critique or ridicule, and in time, I amassed hundreds of followers by simply being myself. With every tweet, I was unsheathing my sword and slaying my “demons” left and right. After publishing my third viral tweet, I knew that my content resonated greatly with the online community with whom I was engaging. Having this newfound surge of self-confidence, I realized how impactful the digital world can be for the voiceless and unheard; thus, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that involved digital communication.

Upon arrival at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, I began my college career as a newspaper and online journalism major due to my passion for writing. The objectivity and dullness of news writing, however, failed at fulfilling my creative side, and so I knew that a change in my concentration of study was necessary by the end of my freshman year.

After joining the social media team of University Union, Syracuse University’s entertainment programming board, I became aware of my infatuation with digital content production. This sophomore year role provided me with the opportunity to finally produce creative copy, appeasing my identity as a writer and ultimately influencing my decision to pursue the digital advertising major.

As an advertiser, you not only need to be hyper-observant of your surroundings, but also transparent and charismatic in your communication with your selected target audiences.  I learned these two valuable lessons working a social media marketing internship when I traveled abroad to Florence, Italy, and naturally, I was the only American in the company, Flod Republic. Having had only a year of schooling in advertising strategy and concepts, I courageously developed social media campaigns and oversaw an entire social media master calendar storing promotional content of Florence’s best restaurants, sites and activities for tourists.

With the current socio-economic climate brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, I have had to be both creative and tenacious in my job search. Consequently, I applied to be an online contributor for CLLCTVE, a Syracuse University startup that incubated in the LaunchPad and is now in residence at Techstars Los Angeles.  Founded by Kelsey Davis, the digital platform connects creatives across the country and provides them with real job opportunities. Creating and editing blog stories all summer, I have been polishing my written communication skills in preparation for an entry-level job in the digital advertising industry. Whether I’m writing about how Depop is transforming Gen Zers into a generation of young entrepreneurs or tips on how to improve your virtual workspace in quarantine, I am establishing my voice in digital space more and more with every click of my keyboard.

In the meantime, I am enthusiastic to start my new role with the LaunchPad as Global Fellow, writing profile stories on inspiring and innovative individuals within the Syracuse University community, while also helping increase the organization’s social media presence on Instagram. All in all, I crave to make a positive impact with any work I contribute and intend on utilizing this experience as a stepping-stone into an advertising career.

Story by Chris Appello ’21, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied