16 small businesses to get Beehive boost

Delvin Ergott, Staff writer

Mercyhurst University, Gannon University, Penn State Behrend and Edinboro University are continuing their collaborative work in 2019 to increase entrepreneurship in the Erie area through the innovations and specialties of these four colleges.

This year, the Beehive network plans to help even more companies in small business start-ups.

According to Brad Gleason, Ph.D., director for the Center for Information Research Analysis and Training (CIRAT), the Beehive projects are a “huge collaboration unequaled in the area.”
Mercyhurst’s contribution is centered around its intelligence programs capacity for market research.

Just last semester, the group helped seven startup companies adjust their strategies to fit trends within their industries.

The Beehive program began with funding from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority under a program called “Ignite Erie.” According to Gleason, this was “a special pot of money for the schools to come together to support Erie County entrepreneurship.”

The Beehive plans to help another 16 companies in the next year. Gleason reached out to four economic nodes in Erie — the City of Erie Economic Development Office, the Idea Fund Erie, Gannon’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Ben Franklin Technology Partners — that he saw as good sources for potential clients. The clients were scored and prioritized through a custom matrix meant to objectively determine which businesses would benefit most from the Beehive project.

Recently, the network received a $1 million grant that will be evenly divided among the four schools. Mercyhurst’s $250,000 is to be dedicated toward 23 market studies, including the seven that were completed this Fall semester. Each team in charge of these projects includes two Mercyhurst students joined by a student from Edinboro, Gannon and Penn State Behrend who are the other universities in the partnership.

So far, the inter-collegiate initiative is running smoothly and helping to keep new, innovative small businesses in Erie. It is also a great opportunity for students to get involved in real-world projects, developing their time management and teamwork skills and allowing them to actually see the results of their work.

“When the final product is briefed to the customer at the end, they can go back to their business tomorrow and implement what comes with that report,” Gleason said.

Initially, only Mercyhurst and Penn State Behrend were partners, with Gannon and Edinboro University joining more recently. For three years, Mercyhurst and Penn State Behrend used Quickstarter, a crowdfunding program run by Kristan Wheaton, JDD. The program had a 93 percent success rate.

Quickstarter was sold, but the success of the Beehive model and some dedicated representatives from Gannon and Edinboro led to a broader and more robust partnership that has initiated rebranding as well as new and exciting Beehive network developments.

Gleason wanted to credit the efforts of Beehive partners to include Gannon, Penn State Behrend, and Edinboro.

“The thing I like the most in the larger Beehive is one school takes the lead and in this case its Gannon University and decided to be the applicant and they have been great to work with,” Gleason said. “Having a good partner is half the battle, and Gannon has been a wonderful partner on this. If it weren’t for power of all the university nodes, I think the region would be in a different place than they are.”