Dynamic panelists bring entrepreneurial spirit and energy to Abington

The cold, dreary, damp evening of March 23 proved to be no hindrance to the 60-plus members of the audience who weathered the weather to attend the most recent event of the Penn State Abington Examines series, “Penn State Abington Examines Entrepreneurship: Taking Control of Your Career Success.” Three dynamic former Penn Staters -- all entrepreneurs -- answered questions posed by moderator Ross Brinkert, assistant professor of corporate communication, and the audience.

The panelists shared their entrepreneurial experiences, advice and stories.

The youngest and newest player into the foray of entrepreneurship was Melonie Butler, cofounder of Flexcom Consulting, a flex-schedule marketing communications firm that links former full-time marketing professionals with small to mid-sized business clients who have marketing needs but limited marketing budgets.

Kevin Heenan, a 1969 graduate who earned his bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management, had the most experience of the panelists, with his decades of entrepreneurial work in the hospitality field. Through the years he’s created a variety of start-ups, including restaurants, food service providers and management companies. Currently, he is founder and president of The Next Course, a food service management company located in Spring House.

The third panelist, Sustainable Solutions Corporation cofounder and CEO Tara Radzinski, a 1985 graduate of Penn State, cofounded the full-service sustainability consulting firm -- which helps businesses build sustainability strategies to save money and reduce environmental impact -- at a time when being green didn’t mean anything more than harboring envy.

“Just dealing in the entrepreneur world, going into that arena ... it takes a lot of hutzpah to do it. It’s important that you appreciate yourselves and the people in this room. To leave that womb of the corporate world and go out and venture -- it’s really what makes this country great," said Heenan.

The panelists shared several primary points of wisdom:

  • -- Make sure your spouse or partner is committed to the new business idea, create boundaries when working from home, and set days aside on the calendar to spend time with family.
  • -- Be clear on expectations. Have a business plan.
  • -- Always ask, "What would a successful company do?" when making a business decision.
  • -- Be calculated about your risk taking.
  • -- When it comes to branding and marketing it’s important to look and feel the part.
  • -- Persistence, persistence, persistence.
  • -- When hiring, pick the right people for the job. Put training procedures into place.

“The right people in the right job is always an issue,” said Radzinski. “Hiring people with the right skills and learning how to see the pearl in someone (is essential). I always ask, ‘Is the person smart, proactive? How quickly do they catch on to things?’”

“If you’re truly considering it (entrepreneurship) and you’re currently doing it, then you understand the difficulty and rewards," Butler said. "Continue to press on. It is difficult sometimes to move on to the next thing, but the next thing is going to happen with or without you; with or without your good attitude or optimism. Don’t be bummed out by that activity or difficult circumstances or your first few ‘No’s.’ Continue to press on -- you’ll have a story to tell. You’ll be up here on the panel next time."

For information on the next Penn State Abington Examines series event, send an email to Judy at [email protected].