Adding a Spark to the Local Business Scene

This summer, Ursinus students are again helping area business owners expand their digital footprint and marketing strategy.

With a few short clicks and some creative posting, businesses today can spread the word about their brand and services to anyone with an internet connection. Well-maintained websites, eye-catching social media accounts and data analytics are an integral part of any company hoping to grow their customer base.

The U-Imagine Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies is connecting Ursinus students with businesses looking to expand their digital footprint with the UC Digital Spark program, now in its third year.

Each company is providing a unique challenge or request for the students, ranging from the maintenance and growth-tracking of a social media presence, to the creation and implementation of an online merchandise shop.

The Digital Spark program is an opportunity for students across all disciplines and class years to apply their liberal arts skills to a focused project. The students work independently to create and execute a project plan while using their critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communications and research skills to test and evaluate marketing strategies and identify problems, propose solutions and take risks. Students gain first-hand entrepreneurial experience and expand their confidence in their own skills as the program continues throughout the summer.

Kiley Addis ’20 helps run the social media account for Starr Books in Royersford, Pa., “I keep track of their follower growth and the likes on posts. I am also creating an in-depth guide to running social media account for business owner so she can take it over once the program has ended,” she says.

“The most challenging part of the program is the guessing game of what posts will attract our audience and when to post them. The first week has been a lot of seeing what works and what doesn’t. This is also the most exciting part because when posts do well, or when one of the social media accounts gains followers, you feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Michael Anthony ’20 and Siam Owen ’20 are working together alongside Crypto-Ventures, a new company that specializes in education and merchandise surrounding cryptocurrency.

One challenge, they say, is educating the general public about cryptocurrency, a digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds.

“Many people don’t know much about it,” Owen explains. “We hope to be able to make those who do not feel completely comfortable with it more comfortable by providing tools to help them navigate cryptocurrency.”

Anthony shared his thoughts on what it was like to work with a developing company.

“I see myself growing along with the business,” he said. “Everything I give and do for my company is returning back to me in the form of valuable business experience that I will be able to use for myself and business ventures in the future. It’s exciting to have the chance to rub elbows with local business owners and learn from them. The chance to network and make new connections is amazing. I’m working with a complete start up, from the bottom up, and I really feel like I’m a part of their team and vision.”

With more than 17,000 digital marketing jobs listed on LinkedIn alone, the skills that many Ursinus students use on a daily basis are in high demand. UC Digital Spark has provided Ursinus students with the opportunity to learn, grow and benefit from the experience provided by the businesses they partnered with while also adding some hands-on experience to their resumes.

Those businesses are simultaneously supported by the students whose creativity, passion, and technical-savvy have helped them develop lasting connections with their customers. —By Mary Lobo ’15

The following is a list of participating businesses and Ursinus College students who will work with them:

Ambler Flower Shop (Ambler, Pa.), sells flowers and gift baskets. Esther Lawson-John ’20.

Crypto-Ventures, a start-up business that deals with the changing world of investments in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Siam Owen ’20 and Michael Anthony ’20.

EGA Associates, LLC (Philadelphia, Pa.), a consulting firm that focuses on contract management and government acquisitions. Bernard Steyaert ’19.

Pie and Plate (Ambler, Pa.), which started as a food truck and eventually became a brick-and-mortar shop. Jacob Kang ’20 and Matthew Furgele ’21.

Starr Books (Royersford, Pa.) sells gently-used books and will also buy used books for store credit. It uses an online customer book request system. Kiley Addis ’20.

Attract Engage Inspire, LLC (Pottstown, Pa.), a start-up that provides empowerment mentoring, leadership development and effective communications training for individuals, businesses and nonprofits. Ria Malones ’20.

Natural Balance Gymnastics (Colmar, Pa.), a new business that provides gymnastics instruction for toddlers through competitive levels. Caela Flake ’20.

Roost Home (Amber, Pa.), supplies beautifully curated home goods and gifts to the Ambler community as well as the surrounding areas. Gwendolen Lasser ’20.

VitalInsight Technology (Blue Bell, Pa.), engages district/school stakeholder groups in assessing research-based best practices that represent what the organization can do to influence outcomes. Catherine Curran ’20 and Zack Brink ’20.

Expressive Path (Jeffersonville, Pa.), is committed to enriching, educating and inspiring at-risk adolescents by providing resources for them in the areas of theater, dance, music, humanities and the visual arts. Katherine Hickman ’20.

Moss Mill Brewing Company (Huntingdon Valley, Pa.) specializes in small batch brewing and creation of collaboration beers with others both inside and out of the industry. Robert Rapp ’19 and Peter DeSimone ’19.

Gothic Stone (King of Prussia, Pa.) began in 1996 as an importing-wholesale distribution company for natural stone products and is opening in a new market with two new “ultra-green” products.  Zachary Goss ’20.