Slippery Rock University program helps businesses go green, make more green
When owner Bob McCafferty wanted to utilize solar power at his North Country Brewing Co., he connected with Slippery Rock University's Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator to formulate a plan.
The Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator (SEA) is a long name for a program with a simple mission: help entrepreneurs start businesses and help established businesses grow.
“We try to show the wisdom in taking a more sustainable approach to business because we really think that's the future,” said John Golden, a professor of business at Slippery Rock and the accelerator's managing director.
Sustainable business practices focus on the three P's — “profit, planet and people” — meaning that they're good for the bottom line, good for the environment and good for customers and employees, he said.
“We recommend that business practices be good for the environment and social concerns of people. You can maximize your profits by doing it this way,” Golden said.
The business incubator is funded by state grants and is staffed by student interns who get college credit for helping clients to make business plans, he said.
Interns worked with McCafferty at North Country Brewing Co. throughout the summer, performing energy audits, developing a plan for installation of solar panels and researching tax credits and grants for businesses using solar panels.
The students also worked with other regional businesses, such as Volant Mill Shops, Slippery Rock in Bloom and Slow Foods Slippery Rock Chapter.
A new batch of fall semester interns will continue these projects and begin new ones, Golden said.
Students involved in the program have backgrounds in business, communication, technology and science and work together in small, cross-disciplinary groups to help budding entrepreneurs or business owners.
Working across disciplines and pairing skills gives students a taste of the business world, Golden said.
“It was nice to get insight into what other people and majors are doing, rather than being around the same people all the time,” said Derek Carr, 24, of Titusville, an environmental studies major at Slippery Rock.
McCafferty said that since the start of his brewpub in 1998, he has tried to make what is typically a wasteful business into something sustainable.
Takeout containers are compostable, waste from the kitchen is fed to his pigs, grain leftover from brewing is fed to his cattle and used oil from fryers is converted into biodiesel fuel.
“The neat thing about SEA is they combine sustainablility and business,” McCafferty said.
“A lot of us want to be green, so we try to look at how we apply this in a commercial setting.”
McCafferty is putting the finishing touches on a production brewery that will enable him to can his beer.
To his reported delight, Slippery Rock students with an interest in video production have devised a plan to embed commercials right into the beer cans.
When customers scan the can's QR code with their smartphones, it will take them to a short, humorous video about the beer on YouTube, said student Cory Forrest, 23, of Mars, an emerging technologies major.
Students wrote, filmed and produced four commercials, he said.
The accelerator program's connection with North Country Brewing Co. grew so strong that McCafferty is offering five $1,000 fellowships to Slippery Rock students to fund projects that enhance or encourage sustainable entrepreneurship, to be awarded at the end of the fall semester.
“If you look at a sustainable business and look at the way it's set up, it's more efficient for everyone involved,” said Patrick Coleman, 23, a Slippery Rock environmental studies major from Allison Park.
“It's a way to lower cost that people don't realize,” added Taylor Schenberger, a 20-year-old accounting major from York.
For more information on the SEA, call 724-738-1606 or visit their website www.seasru.com.
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