Intelligence Professor expands Quickstarter Initiative

Intelligence studies professor Kristan Wheaton received a $10,000 grant from Ben Franklin Technology Partners to expand his crowd-funding initiative Quickstarter.

Quickstarter, an initiative Wheaton started last year, functions as a chance for students to apply their skills to real life experiences by assisting local entrepreneurs to execute campaigns on Kickstarter, an online crowd-funding platform that hosts a variety of entrepreneurial projects. The grant will allow Wheaton to run a total of eight projects this year.

Students selected to take part in the projects take on leadership roles and apply skills from their respective fields of study. Key areas of interest include making videos, writing copy for creators’ projects and inventions, managing social media accounts and analyzing businesses. Students are paid for their work.

“Campaigns typically run 30 days, with preparation of one to four months. This fits perfectly within the context [of college semesters],” said Wheaton. “I’ve got all these college students who have learned all this stuff in the classroom and want to be able to go do it for real, and get paid for it. That’s why we got the grant. I want to pay you to do the work that you want to do.

Wheaton emphasized the strong résumé credibility it gives students.

“The thing I really like about Quickstarter is I can take a look at that campaign and tell you, this is how successful it was. Everything is quantifiable. That’s pure gold on a resume,” he said.

He said Quickstarter is the perfect way for students and local entrepreneurs to work together.

“That’s the basic thing, to take local creators who want to be successful on crowd-funding but don’t have the skills to do that and combine it with the skills of the students at Mercyhurst,” said Wheaton. “To get them real experience, resume credibility, and have them increase their odds of being successful. That’s what Quickstarter is all about.”

Last year, Wheaton ran the Quickstarter project Mercyhurst Liturgical Dancers Journey to Jerusalem, which was created on Kickstarter by C. Noelle Partusch, associate professor of dance, and successfully funded. Senior intelligence studies and public health double major Emily Francis, then a junior, helped manage the project by finding students in different areas of expertise.

Francis is running two of the projects this year.

“We’re trying to reach out to students to get them to be more involved with the campaigns,” said Francis. “You have professional meetings, a set of expectations, guidelines. You get paid for it. Why wouldn’t you want to do it?”

Three of the eight projects are already in the works. The first, whose campaign launches Nov. 4, is a local man’s square foot gardening planning guide. The second is a local couple’s restaurant called Like My Tie, launching in early 2015. The third is an independent producer of a local comic book company, whose launch date is not set. The other five have not been decided upon. The project candidates are up to the discretion of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

According to Wheaton, the number of students working on each project varies, but typically consists of a team leader, and two to four other students.

“The message I’d like to get out to the student body is we’re looking for people who have the skills, or think they have the skills and are looking to get paid. They can contact me directly or they can contact someone on my team,” said Wheaton.