Jacob Hewlett ’24 creates a premier digital marketing agency

headshot of a student against a lake and hills at sunset

Like many of us when the pandemic arrived Jacob Howlett was left contemplating “What’s next?” After graduating from high school in the spring of 2020, Howlett—now a sophomore computer science major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science—noticed how quickly everyone and everything was transitioning online. Howlett realized this transition presented a big opportunity and he wanted to capitalize on it. He just wasn’t sure how.

While quarantining at home in Post Falls, Idaho—Howlett came across a very long Twitter thread in which a successful graphic designer spoke openly about their career. This designer explained how investing in himself by mastering a skill at a young age was critical for his future career. 

Shortly after reading this story, Howlett stumbled upon a social media ad. Usually, Howlett would skip ads, but this video was so well constructed and enticing that he watched the entire 40-minute clip. Howlett wanted to learn how this digital advertiser captured his attention so seamlessly. The advertiser was selling a social media marketing course in which he taught individuals and companies how to advertise effectively on Instagram and Facebook. Howlett saw that this guy knew what he was doing, so he jumped at the opportunity.

After taking the course, Howlett launched Alpha Advertising Agency—a premier digital marketing agency that helps small businesses realize their full potential online. Nearly two years later, he is now a Facebook ads expert and has worked with more than ten companies —including service businesses such as landscapers, tree removers, and photographers. His job is to direct as much traffic to these businesses’ websites as much as possible while overseeing ad development and copywriting. For potential new clients, Howlett typically sets up a two-week trial period in which he charges the client a set-up fee and a percentage of the revenue that he generates for their business. In his first two-week trial, Howlett helped his client make $20,000, and he fondly recalls when a client messaged him, thanking him for generating $50,000 in revenue. Now, Howlett is working with the largest photography business within his home region.

Alpha Advertising Agency’s success has not come without its challenges and Howlett has learned several skills that go beyond mastering Facebook’s advertising formula. He notes that managing potential client relationships was especially difficult in the beginning. Having conducted over 30 sales calls, he now knows how to negotiate and communicate with clients as a business owner and has learned the importance of re-messaging leads to close sales. 

Howlett is a new member of the Blackstone LaunchPad at Bird Library. He describes a feeling of fulfillment after joining an on-campus community where he can talk about business and new venture development. “I remember leaving Start-up in a Day feeling so happy to be around my kind of people.  It’s rewarding being around those creative minds and having people who you can bounce things off and they’ll bounce stuff right back.”

Moving forward for Alpha Advertising—Howlett is focused on improving his organic marketing tactics, strengthening his relationship with the new photography company, and getting more clients. On the horizon for the digital advertising industry, Howlett says that the Apple ios15 update has made re-targeting and tracking people a lot harder for social marketers. However, he is bullish that the future of digital advertising will center around content creation.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Howlett recommends that you act. It is okay if you don’t always know where you are going; you will get somewhere just by putting one foot in front of the other.

For more information on Alpha Advertising Agency, check out their website: .  Additionally, to get in contact with Howlett, reach out to the Blackstone LaunchPad at Bird Library (

Story by Selim Dangoor ’23, Blackstone LaunchPad Global Media Fellow

Charlie Zeeve ’22 on Crypto ‘Cuse and making cryptocurrency accessible and understandable for all

headshot of a student in a pink shirt and blue jacketjacket

A broadcast digital journalism major in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and spanish minor, Charlie Zeeve ’22 plays an important role in educating students on blockchain as the secretary of the new Crypto ‘Cuse club. While Zeeve might not strike you as a crypto junkie, this only speaks to the larger aspects of the cryptocurrency market which makes the field so intriguing. You don’t need a tech or finance background to succeed in the market.  All you need is passion and curiosity.

Zeeve, an avid sports fan with ambitions of becoming a sports journalist, wanted to expand his portfolio of expertise beyond the realm of communications. After initially learning about the cryptocurrency market while in high school, Zeeve began familiarizing himself with the space and digging into smart contracts and NFT’s in 2019. Zeeve became more immersed in the market in 2020. Building upon his communications background and love for current events, he started scavenging the internet for crypto articles in order to better understand how the news will affect the market. What he finds most fascinating about this research is trying to piece together the overall psychology of the market. 

Zeeve attributes a lot of the club’s early success to its president Catherine Forrest and vice president Zach Goldstein. After becoming more invested in the space, Zeeve joined the club this past summer and hit the ground running to help craft the club’s vision for this upcoming school year.

Nested at the Blackstone LaunchPad in Bird Library, Crypto ‘Cuse educates Syracuse University students in cryptocurrency, DeFi, NFT’s, and blockchain. At the core, Crypto ‘Cuse makes investing in cryptocurrency easier to understand and more accessible to all students, no matter their experience. Through a series of workshops, lectures, and projects, Zeeve and the rest of the Crypto ‘Cuse e-board emphasize interactive experiences to get all members involved during meetings. Crypto ‘Cuse recently expanded into the world of NFT’s.

Through Crypto Kitties—a game centered around breedable and collectible NFT creatures—they created “Annabel the Crypto ‘Cuse Kitty” as a Crypto Cuse mascot. Annabel is based on a real cat who is part of the Crypto ‘Cuse family — industry advisor Phil McKnight and his dad, iSchool professor Lee McKnight.  Annabel achieved icon status when Linda Hartsock, Crypto ‘Cuse advisor and director of the LaunchPad, cat-sat her for a few weeks, capturing her daily adventures on camera for the McKnight family and solidifying her cat celebrity status.

CryptoCuse provides resources to help students get started when building their crypto portfolios. On the club’s website, students can find in-depth instructions on how to set up a Meta Mask wallet. Meta Mask is a very fast and secure decentralized wallet. It allows you to buy things like NFT’s through the Ethereum network that you would not be able to purchase on other exchanges like Coinbase. A lot of club members use Meta Mask and love it. 

Fascinated by the future of cryptocurrency exchanges and DeFi, Zeeve is eager to see how society will react to the further integration of blockchain in the future. He is most curious about the influence that China will have on the cryptocurrency market through laws and regulations. Zeeve believes that, while there will always be setbacks in the space—whether a specific coin or the overall market—cryptocurrency is here to stay and will continue to increase in importance.

While the club does not give financial advice, Zeeve stressed long-term growth and avoiding the craze around short-term gains. The club likes to say that “this is an accumulation game.”

If you’re new to the crypto landscape, Zeeve recommends a few different places to get yourself more familiar with the space. He strongly suggests reading various newspapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Forbes to gain a firmer understanding of the broader markets. is a great resource for crypto-specific resources, articles, and current events. However, above all, Zeeve says that students can do a lot of their initial learning through YouTube. Some YouTubers such as Coinskid—who has over 230,000 subscribers—provide in-depth technical analysis.

You might also find yourself overwhelmed by the many coins available for purchase. Zeeve mentioned that some coins to look out for include Cardano, Maddick (Polygon), and Helium. He also mentioned that XRP has potential, but proceed with caution when looking at this coin as it is not available for purchase on Coinbase and other exchanges due to recent fraud allegations by the SEC.

Zeeve praised Hartsock for her help throughout this process of launching Crypto ‘Cuse. She has been instrumental in many ways such as assisting with industry and alumni connections, outreach and creating awareness for the club.

Zeeve cannot wait to see what awaits Crypto ‘Cuse in the future, and big things are already on the horizon for the club. Zeeve stresses that, no matter your background, Crypto ‘Cuse welcomes all students as the club places an emphasis on networking within the space and fostering a collaborative learning community. 

Crypto ‘Cuse meets each Friday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Blackstone LaunchPad in Bird Library and new members are always welcome.

Use the scan code below to join.

Story by Selim Dangoor ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photo supplied

Team Sweatration is tackling the dangers of dehydration for athletes and fitness enthusiasts

Student team practicing in the LaunchPad
Zach Stahl ’23, Anthony Mazzacane ’24 and Paul Franco ’22 practicing their pitch in the LaunchPad during Invent@SU

During last summer’s Invent@SU program, the Sweatration team identified a problem: “80% of NCAA athletes had suffered from dehydration.”  Paul Franco ‘22, Zach Stahl ‘23, and Anthony Mazzacane ‘24 put their heads together to come up with a solution. The trio invented a wearable hydration status monitor that can be worn on your wrist, head, or wherever else you sweat, and can notify you when you are becoming dehydrated. 

The team comes from different academic backgrounds. Paul is a Physics major in Arts and Sciences; Zach is an Aerospace Engineering major and Computer Science minor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science; and Anthony is a Computer Science and Mathematics dual major in the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Engineering and Computer Science. 

Franco recalls the start of the summer Invent@SU accelerator program as going by quickly and being a whirlwind of ideation. The first two days were hectic as students had to come up with their concept to work on prototyping over the next six weeks.

The team initially considered how to tackle heat stroke using just a wearable device on the skin. However, as they researched the science of body heat and dehydration, they realized that tracking internal body temperature wasn’t accurate with a wearable device on the skin.  Undaunted, the team did not give up.  It took a step back and pivoted – the hallmark of smart innovators. 

By narrowing their research and drilling deeper, they realized that dehydration is a symptom of heat stroke and Mazzacane soon found a study which revealed that sodium ion spikes translate to higher levels of dehydration. That finding was the light at the end of the tunnel which they pursued with vigor.  If they could invent a way to monitor that spike in sodium ion conductivity, then they knew they were on the right path. 

The trio worked with determination and resilience throughout the six-week program. In the program’s fifth week, they competed in a trial presentation run with the opportunity to win a cash prize.  The team placed lower than they had hoped, and Stahl said that they felt “a fire was lit under them” to persevere.

The next day, they went right to work and finalized their initial prototype. Prior to the final demonstration, the three students proved that this device could accurately track when an athlete reached levels of dehydration. They continued to research.  The listened to feedback by guest evaluators.  They worked with peer mentors and staff of the LaunchPad to refine their thought process and focus.  They continued to work off hard data to support their findings.

They kept learning and iterating.  They welcomed coaching and subject matter expertise.  They did user discovery and testing.  They fabricated a working prototype that Zach used to test their theories based on solid research.  It worked.

Sweatration proceeded to walk away with Invent@SU’s top prize.

While reflecting upon their experience, Franco noted that entrepreneurship is “the best way to reward yourself for having a great idea” and valued the lessons he learned “by seeing it through.” Additionally, entrepreneurship “gives you the opportunity to be your own boss and have a lot of control over your career and the projects you undertake.”

Mazzacane added that compared to working for someone else, entrepreneurship means that “you have to figure out your own direction, which is more work, but you have greater freedom of choice.”

This week, they will be competing again for top prizes in ‘Cuse Tank, sponsored by the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University.  This fall they’ve continued to work on their idea with the LaunchPad staff and its network subject matter experts, alumni and peer mentors, along with the assistance of the LaunchPad’s talented student team.  They are working on their IP roadmap and exploring the FDA landscape with the help of the College of Law’s Innovation Law Center.  Their goal is creating a more sophisticated working prototype to get to full proof of concept, work with a professional design firm to finalize the hardware, create a functioning iOS app with an experienced UX team, and finalize their patent.

Franco, Stahl, and Mazzacane highly recommends the Invent@SU program and firmly believe that more students should apply for it. Stahl notes that it provides a huge advantage for any engineer with entrepreneurial ambitions by forcing them to step outside of their comfort zone. Public speaking might not always be at the forefront of a STEM education and the opportunity to pitch in front of seasoned industry veterans—such as Bill Allyn, retired CEO of Welch Allyn (now Hillrom / Baxter) —is an incredible opportunity to refine one’s communication skills. 

After achieving tech execution during Invent@SU, Sweatration now has a working prototype. They will continue focusing on product refinements in order to bring it to market. Additionally, they will participate in business pitch competitions this year working with the LaunchPad, refine their business model, expand the team, and eventually beta test the device with athletes as the last testing stage prior to a commercial launch. They are currently looking for help with industrial design, graphic design, general business, and intellectual property.

If you’re interested in joining their team, reach out to them through the LaunchPad: or come see them October 8 at ‘Cuse Tank in Bird Library.

Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Selim Dangoor ’23; photo by LaunchPad staff