By George Dornbach
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Twelve student entrepreneurs from the 2016-2018 cohort of E-Scholars program have no shortage of ideas. Over the course of two years, these students have used their skills to create their very own businesses. The business ventures range from acne clinics, jewelry making, travel apps, film production and natural beauty projects.

Under the McNeely Center, the E-Scholars program was started in 2004 when business professor Paul Marsnik saw a gap in classes offered around entrepreneurship.

“This program was created to be interdisciplinary — for
students from any major. It’s a community based program,” Marsnik said. “When students come from different walks of life everyone’s diversity of thought brings greater ideas.”

Its first cohort, the “E-1’s”, graduated in 2006 and since then more than 140 students have passed through the program, some producing businesses such as Clemens Perk, Extending the Link and the T-Spot. Students typically apply their sophomore year, and about 12 are accepted annually. Three courses are taken throughout their junior and senior years, in which they meet with mentors and expand the classroom to Silicon Valley, Hong Kong and Shanghai where other entrepreneurs share their expertise. Through their studies and experiences, each student is expected to try and launch their own venture.

SJU senior, Sam Labine’s venture, Refine Acne Clinic is slated to begin operations this December.

Running an acne clinic wasn’t always his dream, but with a dermatologist for a father, Labine noticed how inefficient the process was for patients to meet with doctors.

“I saw a need,” Labine said. “And where there’s a need, there’s most likely a solution. I was determined to find a more cost-effective way for patients to get more effective, faster treatment.”

In December, he will open a clinic in conjunction with Lakewood Dermatology in Sartell. Patients will use telemedicine, filling in the necessary information online before a visit to the clinic. When it comes time to see a doctor, effective treatments can be given. Doctors will be online and available to respond to text messaging 24-hours. Their clinic will be open after normal work day hours which, after extensive surveying and research by Labine, will help cater to the clientele most in need of dermatology services.

Being a student and the owner of an L.L.C. can be time consuming, but Labine has found time to balance both.

“It’s a juggling game, but my professors are understanding and very supportive,” he says.

Another student, Precious Drew, alongside two of her cohort-mates, Lucy Cervino and Ashley Lee saw a gap in the sustainability of the coffee industry. Their venture, PERK: the Natural Beauty Lab, makes beauty products from up-cycled coffee grounds.

“Other aspects of sustainability in the coffee making process were being addressed,” said Drew. “Where beans are grown, an emphasis on reusable cups, energy usage, but nothing was being done about the leftover coffee grounds.”

The trio connected with Johnnie Java/The Schu to use their coffee grounds to make PERK’s beauty products. The team also connected with chemistry majors on campus to help create a useable product.
Drew says she’s excited for what’s to come and has learned a lot from her time as an E-Scholar.

“We’ve received good feedback from other students and are in the process of refining our products. It’s satisfying to finally see your ideas come to life,” Drew said.