Features Editor
Alex Delaney-Gesing

Finding a suitable outlet for an original product can be difficult. Creating your own business and selling your very own products is an opportunity available for students and alumni at LCCC. Within the past year, Commodore Books & More has partnered up with Blackstone LaunchPad (BLP) to help promote student entrepreneurs and their endeavors.

Agreeing to assist in providing aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to put their products on display in Commodore Books & More was a no brainer for Patti Clark, general manager of Commodore Books & More.

“I thought, what a great way to help promote the college and its students. So, what we did was designate a certain area with window exposure as the BLP area. The students come in and meet with myself and one of my buyers and talk about their products and describe and sell it to us. They own the inventory, Commodore Books & More does not own the inventory.”

The process of selling products through the BLP entrepreneurs consists of selling their inventory through Commodore Books & More’s registers. At the end of each month, they receive a check for 80% of their sold profits, while the other 20% goes to the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the grant that funds BLP. “They’re actually giving back to the foundation that started this whole program,” Clark said.

By working with the staff of Commodore Books & More, Clark said the entrepreneurs are able to develop ideas for marketing their products.

“They’ll ask about pricing; that is probably one of the hardest things for an entrepreneur to decide,” Clark said. “ You don’t want to go too high and you don’t want to give the product away either, So since this is their first exposure before they become maybe a big company, it lets them get a feel for who’s buying it, what students like and what don’t they like.”

Currently, five entrepreneurs are in collaboration with Commodore Books & More. Featured in the store are two of the five’s products; Mulligan Ball Holder Accessories (consisting of golf ball holders and various additions) by Mario Burton and Global Trendsetters (clothing, scarves and handbags embroidered with traditional designs) by Amy Storrow.

“They have their own little shop in our store,” Clark said.

By displaying LCCC’s student and alumni business’ products, Commodore Books & More is not only supporting the endeavors of the student body, but also has the chance to receive business with the outside community.

“When we have new students promoting their products in our store, they and they’re so proud they bring in their relatives and friends, so it gives [Commodore Books & More] exposure to the community, to show them what other items we have to offer,” Clark said.

“I think it’s been successful for the individual students who have set up their wares there, for Commodore Books & More because it’s bringing in a new element of the student body and it’s been successful for [BLP] because we’ve been able to work into a good relationship with the bookstore to help out the furtherance of the students,” Kolczun said.

“We’re all about collaboration here,” Clark said. “With Blackstone LaunchPad and every part of our store, we try to do everything we can to make individuals be successful in every way.”

The BLP program is a campus-based entrepreneurship program connected with career services that offer students, faculty and alumni opportunities outside of the classroom to develop business ideas with the help of counseling and coaching, according to the Burton D. Morgan Foundation website.

In 2011, the Blackstone Charity Foundation (founded in 2007) and the Burton D. Morgan Foundation came together in a three-year partnership to support the next generation of entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio by awarding $3.2 million in funding to several area colleges and universities.

“We received a grant through the foundation from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation to allow the Blackstone LaunchPad program to be on four campuses throughout northeast Ohio, including LCCC, which was the only community college,” said Garis Distelhorst, director of the LCCC Foundation. “We in turn then passed that money through the foundation through the college to support the work of BLP.”

The three four-year universities who also received funding for Blackstone LaunchPad included Baldwin Wallace University, Kent State University and Case Western Reserve University.

In 2013, LCCC’s BLP program came to Commodore Books & More to give enrolled entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their products.

“The intent was to help the members of BLP with their products and to give them the experience as to how to work with the retail facility in getting their products out to the general public,” said Lee Kolczun, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad program.

“The Blackstone LaunchPad program allows students to sign up for the program, but they have to take certain courses in order to do so, and it teaches them how to be successful as a business,” said Patti Clark, general manager of Commodore Books & More in describing the process that students go through in order to start up and advertise their business and its products.

“What steps are involved, what licenses they need, how to market to their audience, who do you market to, they learn all of that. You can have a great product, but if you don’t license to the people it’s going to flop. So, they’re taught the courses and get connected to the right people.”