Lunch with President Barron

I have been attending Penn State’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) for the past couple of years. I started as an undergrad when a professor approached me about trying to start a business. I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t raised by entrepreneurs. Starting a business was about as foreign as it gets for a kid who had spent much of his college career in a greenhouse, library, or lab. I wasn’t sure about pursuing the normal path, but I wasn’t quite sure about this new option either. Sometimes taking chances work in your favor. GEW was my first step to starting my business journey.

This past year was the most fun I have had at GEW. I was working at the LaunchBox at the time and was able to take part in so many of the events. I met the owners of Straub Brewery and they opened my mind to what it really meant to be a business that gives back. That impression has augmented the way I think about business and the communities they take part in. The reason we invest in people is that they return more than any stock. GEW brought some really amazing people in to learn from and speak with.

The best part of GEW was that at the end of the week I was selected to have lunch with Dr. Barron, President of Penn State. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t let pass. We talked about Cherry Springs, chaotic schedules, and general life stuff. It was refreshing to know that people who hold high positions and have a lot of pressure deal with the same struggles with time, family, and being a human in general. Yeah, he is the President but he’s also a husband, grandfather, and a solid guy.

I was struck most by his order — a Nittany Lion Burger, no onions.

I was one of the first to order and was thinking, “Who would order a burger at a luncheon with the president?” I was expecting him to order a steak or maybe caviar. Yet, he had chosen one of the most democratic foods, the humble burger. I truly believe you can tell a lot about a person by what they order and how they treat the servers. He was kind, honest, and appreciative. Everything you want in a fellow human.

It was during our meal that I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Barron about what piqued his interest in entrepreneurship. He began to tell us a story about the late Jim Moran. He told us about Jim’s simple beginnings and his journey from gas station owner out of high school to billionaire Toyota dealer. The reason he told his story was because Jim saw the need of entrepreneurial education and assistance for blossoming entrepreneurs. Moran is the namesake of the Entrepreneurship Center at Florida State University’s campus. Dr. Barron wanted to bring the same entrepreneurial spirit to Penn State. He wanted to invest in the students, not neglect students in the way that most other universities had been doing.

It has been really amazing to be part of this massive initiative at Penn State. With programs like the Ben Franklin TechCelerator, SBDC, and Happy Valley LaunchBox, I have never felt more supported in my entrepreneurial pursuits.

I can always get a normal job, with normal hours, but there has never been a better time to start something new. I am so excited to be part of a wave of entrepreneurship here in the area. I’m starting here and I’m here to stay.

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