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After a decade, entrepreneurship mindset continues to spread across York College

York College students participated in Spartan Startup Program

Dr. Jay Azriel arrived on York College of Pennsylvania’s campus over a decade ago with a lofty goal: to take the framework of the Entrepreneurship major and turn it into a full-fledged program.

Ten years ago, there were four students in the program. Today, there are about 73 students entrepreneurship majors and minors, Dr. Azriel says. The program isn’t only for students who want to run a business. It’s more about the entrepreneurship mindset, whether a student is starting a business, taking over a family business, or acting as an entrepreneur in a larger company.

Students quickly jump into their major their first semester. The program incorporates experiential learning where students practice starting their own business and pitching ideas.

“I tell my students that the foundation of business is creating value for customers,” Dr. Azriel says. “That’s of key importance.”

Dr. Azriel works to bring in more students from across the campus and different majors with Entrepreneurship, including Music Production, Science, and Math.

“We’ve really grown over the years,” Dr. Azriel says. “The focus of our program is to prepare students for careers in industries that they’re interested in. Employers love the creativity and entrepreneurial skills of our graduates.”

Here are a few examples of past York College Entrepreneurship students and what they’re up to now.

Laying the groundwork

When graduation and uncertainty of his career trajectory loomed, Devon Buettner’s senior business plan ended up scoring him his first job.

Devon, a 2017 graduate, wrote a business plan for a social media firm with the help of a mentor. That mentor, Timothy Fives, went on to hire Devon at FivesSquared.

Devon ran the social media accounts for four or five different clients in various industries. He expanded to do sales and webinar funnels, even assisting with website builds. He left in 2018 for an opportunity at GRIT Marketing Group in York.

“Now, I’m working on helping build websites and running various ad campaigns,” Devon says. “I’m constantly learning. I feel like every week there’s something new.”

Devon says York College’s Entrepreneurship major laid the groundwork for the skills and theories he uses today. Now, Devon is homing in on learning to think creatively, and focusing on the process, just as he did in his college courses.

Thinking outside the box

For Samantha Ferguson, life after college meant starting a number of businesses. When she graduated in 2010, Samantha sold clothing online before owning a hair salon. Then, she sold the hair salon to become a licensed insurance agent in 2011.

Today, Samantha says she’s settled in her “final destination” at her York insurance agency, William Penn Insurance.

In the insurance business, Samantha says she’s always learning and looking for new experiences to give her a leg up in the industry.

It’s something she learned in her entrepreneurship classes.

“Those courses really taught me to think outside the box in terms of marketing, management, and seeking out long-term goals,” Samantha said.

Dr. Azriel’s classes taught Samantha that entrepreneurship is a thought process to “see an opportunity where opportunity may not exist.” She still has some books from college, and even today uses tactics related to guerrilla marketing and elevator pitches that she learned in class.

Always exciting and hands-on

Terri Harmon stepped on York College’s campus already owning her own business, a promotion products company called Logo Xpress. After graduating in 2011, she stumbled on her future career by trying to find a way to pay her student loans.

She worked for the marketing department of a home remodeling company until the company went in a different direction. She started real estate classes the same day she left the job.

“I jumped into it, and I’m telling you, I am just in my glory,” Terri says about her career with RE/MAX PATRIOTS in York. “I’m so, so, so happy.”

Terri went back to school as a non-traditional student when her daughters were also entering college, calling it one of the best experiences of her life. She majored in Business Administration with minors in Entrepreneurship, Marketing, and Advertising.

Within the Entrepreneurship minor, Terri says it was always exciting and hands-on. She learned about reasoning — calmly thinking situations through and finding an answer. It’s a skill Terri uses often as she works with people today.

“I’ve got to be out there with the people,” Terri said. “That’s what excites me the most.”

Learn more about the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program and the Graham School of Business.