By Olivia Schmid || Opinions Editor
F&M’s Entrepreneurship Program is a new initiative centered around a holistic, entrepreneurial approach to solving problems on campus, in Lancaster City, and beyond for years to come. The program has opportunities for everyone, offering numerous ways to help aspiring entrepreneurs get started, no matter where they stand in the process of building their start-up concept.
Justin Kupa ‘21, Saad Mahboob ‘22, and Ojima Abraham ‘23 are three students who have reaped the benefits of this rewarding program. Following his graduation last year in May of 2021, Kupa spotted a family picking through the trash bins outside College Row in search of salvageable items. While Kupa and Abraham had been developing their original start-up idea that already worked to address this issue, this experience propelled their interest further. That summer, they reached out to Mahboob, a fellow computer science major who, similar to Abraham, is an international student who understands the inconvenience of getting personal items to and from Lancaster as well as the lack of accessible options for donating. With its nickname, “America’s refugee capital,” and the many low-income communities it inhabits, the city of Lancaster and its community members would benefit from receiving secondhand items that would otherwise be discarded.
The three students took this idea and worked primarily with the Incubator, a partnership between the Creativity, Innovation, and the Future of Work and the Entrepreneurship Program. It served as a launching pad for the three students by assigning them a mentor and holding meetings to discuss and gather feedback from different voices of the program. Kupa, who was a student in one of the first cohorts of the Creativity, Innovation, and Design class, gained creative thinking that later proved beneficial throughout his entrepreneurial pursuits and during his independent study with Professor Kerry Sherin Wright. He notes, “When we got into the incubator program, they made us break down our approach and focus on the customer and the problem at hand. Then, we focused our solution around the information we gathered from customer discovery and further research.” This propelled them to think deeper.
With overarching guidance from the Entrepreneurship Program, notable insight regarding previous sustainability initiatives from Dean Proffitt and Professor Crannell, and Professor Novak’s computer science knowledge, the students created Dibs. Dibs is a solution that provides an entirely free ecosystem with decentralized access to “pre-loved” items in the local community. Tight deadlines, lack of systems, and impending move-out cause many otherwise socially-responsible students to throw unwanted but reusable items in the trash, harming the environment and neglecting community members who can find a use for them. With Dibs, newfound access to these items in your local community is created. Donating and collecting items with Dibs benefits everyone, as users of this service gain redeemable points after each successful donation. While the team is wrapping up the development of their very own mobile application for the Lancaster community at large, they are starting an initiative at F&M on April 11th to provide F&M students the opportunity to donate items to their fellow classmates. More information can be found in the flyer attached below.
The Dibs team is happy with their current progress but not content. Mahboob advises, “Never fix yourself on one thing or one idea. Always be ready for change based on circumstance and research along the way.” Taking advantage of new perspectives and resources from the program has allowed them to take their initiative to the next level. They’ll be participating in F&M’s first Demo Day on April 16th, in which they’ll be able to pitch their developed start-up (cultivated by their participation in the incubator program) to a wider audience and have the chance to gain more funding.
As they advertise, “At Dibs, we plan to improve sustainability in Lancaster and resurrect the feeling of community where neighbors consider and look after one another.” It is only a matter of time until this sense of community transcends Dibs and finds itself in the physical space of a more sustainable and caring environment for those of all backgrounds and lived experiences!
Photo Courtesy of Dibs.
Sophomore Olivia Schmid is the Opinions Editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.