McNees Accelerator at York College of Pennsylvania Helps City’s Businesses Grow
The eight-week program provides entrepreneurs with information and mentorship to launch businesses and achieve success quickly.
The economic vitality of City of York has progressed in the 15 years since Dr. Jay Azriel moved there. The greatest change has occurred downtown, where businesses have sprouted along the main thoroughfares.
What makes Dr. Azriel proudest is the role York College of Pennsylvania has played in some of those ventures.
“It’s my responsibility to help the College be part of the community,” says Dr. Azriel, the Department Chair for Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship at York College. “It’s important for the College to reach out to the community to provide its expertise in the economic development of this area."
The College has helped local businesses grow for years. Its J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship is home to several young ventures. Its new Knowledge Park will build on that endeavor, working with more mature firms and organizations to flourish.
Last year, the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship developed the McNees Accelerator. Through a partnership with the law firm McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC, York College created an eight-week program in which College faculty members and experienced entrepreneurs lead classes and guide enrollees in starting businesses.
“We’re like the catapult that gives an aircraft the ability to launch off a carrier,” Dr. Azriel says. “We give these people the information and access to education to help get their business off the ground.”
Through the program, entrepreneurs receive weekly lessons and homework aimed at starting their businesses. The teachers also offer mentorship outside of class.
“These people we have teaching are experts,” says Oscar Winters, the Associate Director of Entrepreneurship Programs and Engagement at York College. “They know the struggles because they’ve been through this before. They want to see people succeed.”
‘Determined to make it work’
The McNees Accelerator’s eight-week program ends with a pitch day. Each participant presents a business plan to a pair of judges, who award a combined total of $5,000.
Two of this year’s participants received money to develop their business ideas.
Ambient Home, created by Alex Louderback ’21, received $4,000. His product would connect smart devices in a home through an internet router. As the devices communicate with one another, commands will trigger automatically when someone walks into a room.
“Right away, Alex was comfortable talking and explaining his company,” Winters says. “He was the first person who wanted the extra mentorship. He did his research, and when he gave his pitch, you could tell he was passionate about his product.”
MaineCourse Mobile, a food truck proposal developed by Jermaine Carroll, won $1,000 through the accelerator.
“Jermaine had the groundwork laid out for his business, but needed the guidance to move further,” Winters says. “We were able to help him home in on what he needed to complete.”
What Winters appreciated most about the proposals was that many were developed by participants who weren’t business-first people.
“Alex is a Computer Science major and Jermaine was a construction worker for 12 years,” Winters says. “They had ideas and were determined to make it work.”
The participants have a greater chance of success by creating better teams, not necessarily the best ideas.
“Venture capital firms are looking to invest their money in good teams,” Dr. Azriel says. “The A team with a B idea wins more often than the B team with the A idea. You want to put the best team together, and this accelerator helps create those teams.”
‘A mecca for entrepreneurship’
Winters believes the McNees Accelerator has been a success. Both winners this year are using the funds immediately to advance their ideas.
“There are so many people that want to make York this awesome place,” Winters says. “They’re taking their ideas and making them a reality.”
The accelerator allows York College to help strengthen York by deploying knowledge resources to those whose businesses can become more successful as a result,
“We want to make York College a mecca for entrepreneurship,” Dr. Azriel says. “We want the external community to come to the College to grow and find ways to solve the world’s problems. The McNees Accelerator does just that.”
Participants in the 2022 McNees Accelerator program
- MaineCourse Mobile, Jermaine Carroll: A local food truck offering a variety of tasty options.
- MsLagbeh, Teresa Bryndza: A shoe brand specializing in customizing luxury, comfortable, and inexpensive shoes for women.
- Soul Authentic, Johnny Kennevan ’24: A United States entertainment company that prides itself on creating products that turn memorable moments into collectables people desire.
- Load Near Me, Amer Alic ‘15: A service to help freight drivers relocate to preferred areas so they can get better-paying jobs using freight-matching algorithms.
- Pride and Joy Benefit Corp., Shakyrah Eason: A minority- and woman-owned precision medicine and genetic nursery start-up. The company provides remediation, education, and genomics testing services to growers and patients in the cannabis industry to create medicine.
- Ambient Home, Alex Louderback ‘21: Ambient Home transforms the smart-home industry by shifting away from a voice remote-centric platform to a contextually aware automation system, allowing for privacy and universal compatibility.
- Paparazzi Selfie Museum, Nakysha Haywood: Paparazzi is where social media users can create content. It aims to promote positive self-esteem among its customers.
- Kram, Kaitlin Dannenberg ‘25: Kram’s goal is to assist people with the installation and understanding of a home hydroponic system to legally grow their own cannabis.