Director of La Salle’s Center for Entrepreneurship (LCE) Steve Melick has been helping students strengthen their entrepreneurial mindset since 2011. Under Melick’s guidance, one of the LCE’s three primary programs, the Business Engagement Center (BEC), has grown immensely.
“We put students in the shoes of entrepreneurs by providing business support to small and start-up companies,” Melick says. “We manage marketing programs and advise on strategy, participate in product research and development, run social media campaigns, help with business planning, and more— virtually anything short of legal and tax advisement.”
The model is a win-win. Students receive pay and are given the freedom to lead all projects, with oversight and final approval provided by Melick. The companies they assist receive the help needed to take their business to the next level. “It’s a great match and we’ve had a lot of success,” says Melick. “By the end of their experience students are working autonomously with our clients in various ways, like true entrepreneurs.”
Dr. Elliot Menkowitz, ’67, has been instrumental to the BEC in finding investors for the program and in finding businesses for partnership. A hyper-investor who has been involved in over 75 different ventures throughout his career, Menkowitz’s love for start-ups and loyalty to La Salle has been instrumental in helping the BEC land significant clients from the area.
One company Menkowitz introduced to the BEC is also one in which he is an investor, Kiki Vodka, founded by La Salle alum John Jameson, ’04, in 2015. Previously, Jameson worked as the owner and operator of a successful liquor delivery service, but recognized the need for a gluten-free, non-GMO vodka. “After years of research, and a course at a Chicago-based distillery and consulting firm, I wanted to develop a unique vodka,” Jameson says. “That’s when Kiki Vodka was born.”
The brand is growing fast among Philadelphia’s popular craft scene, making its way onto the shelves of many notable local restaurant bars. BEC students have been involved in helping the brand grow, including developing social media content, research, and insights on brand development. Students even capitalized off of the summer chart-topper and viral sensation, “In my Feelings,” which repeatedly begs the question “Kiki, do you love me?” by holding a giveaway for Drake concert tickets in September as part of a comprehensive social media campaign. “These are our students,” Melick says. “They understand how to connect with millennial consumers.”
“The Entrepreneurship Center is amazing and such an asset for La Salle students,” says Jameson. “It gives students hands-on, real-life business experience and brings out their creative side by challenging students to think outside of the box.”
The BEC is possible because of the generosity of donors who invest in La Salle’s student entrepreneurs. As for the future, Melick says, “We are always seeking new relationships with alums and members of the greater La Salle community to allow us to grow.”
Clients of the BEC include:
- Rock da Rooster
- Kiki Vodka
- Kreative Soles
- Palladino Metals
- Nouevelle Thrift