Mobile loyalty startup CardStar was acquired by Constant Contact earlier this year. Then there’s Candy.com, which quickly became the “go-to destination for everything candy,” selling more than 6,000 different items from 500-plus manufacturers. Yet, what do the two have in common? They’re both run by Suffolk graduates.
Within four years of founding the entrepreneurship program in 2004, Suffolk became nationally ranked by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the “Top 50 Entrepreneurial Colleges.” And in the four years following that initial ranking, nearly 30 companies have launched from the school. George Moker, Suffolk’s director of entrepreneurship programs, says that “rate is only accelerating.”
Suffolk’s entrepreneurship major has two tracks: a launch track and an impact players track. The launch track, however, isn’t for the fickle or faint of heart. For those who opt in, they’re tasked with launching a company by the time they graduate. If they don’t, they don’t graduate. “They’re really betting their college degree on launching a company,” Moker admits. Albeit daunting, the program fosters entrepreneurship, showing the students what it feels like to take a chance.
“If I had an analogy, it’s ‘they drive the bus,’” Moker says. “The whole program is about students driving the bus.” To Moker, it’s all about building confidence which, in turn, often translates to leadership. “We have those choices, you can be the passenger or the driver,” yet Moker claims the Center for Entrepreneurship will give you every opportunity to learn more about yourself and take the wheel. “In our program, you have the chance to shine.”
Suffolk alum Joe Nigro, the business evangelist of Boston-based Vsnap, recently testified in the senate on behalf of the University, saying, “Suffolk provided me with the ‘book smarts’ to understand the complexities of entrepreneurship and, more importantly, the ‘go-out-and-do-it’ type of mentality.”
That ‘go-out-and-do-it’ mentality has clearly affected several Suffolk graduates. Beyond CardStar and Candy.com, other Suffolk ventures include:
ArtVenue — ArtVenue makes it easier for artists to show and sell their work in local businesses.
SUMOSkinny — Targeted toward college students and young professionals, SUMOSkinny is a social reading rewards site coined as “part local, part national and all college.”
Café Piazza Dolce — Located in Winchester, Café Piazza Dolce was opened by Alessandra Siniscalco when she was only a sophomore at Suffolk, and the restaurant’s become known as “one of Winchester’s best Italian eateries.”
New Leaf Legal — New Leaf is a startup law firm that was built by entrepreneurs and works exclusively for entrepreneurs.
Battery Park Bar & Lounge — Located in the Financial District, Battery Park was opened by alum John Verrell and is described as “a chic sports bar with an old Boston feel.”
Because Moker oversees both Suffolk’s academic entrepreneurship programs and the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the two are tightly woven, encouraging collaboration and strengthening the program’s cohesion. “I really believe entrepreneurship is how well people collaborate,” Moker says.
Considering how quickly Suffolk’s program is growing, he appears to be on the right track. “We create things — we create opportunities, we create jobs and we create innovation,” he admits. “We’re creators.”
And if you didn’t believe that before, hopefully you do now.