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Young entrepreneurs bring new ideas to Central Pennsylvania

Top row, from left: Matt DePrato, Josh Hoke, Christian Quinlivan, Ganesh Harinath, Ole Hongvanthong and Rebecca Howell Foote. Bottom row, from left: Sarah Lanphier, Kristen Lanza, Derek Lau, Melissa Miller, Matthew Troup and Jake Walker. Photos/Amy Spangler, Cathy Ginder and submitted.

It takes hours upon hours of hard work and dedication to take a simple concept and make a successful business out of it. However, young entrepreneurs from across the Central Pennsylvania region are doing just that.

Some of them knew all along they wanted to start their own businesses; others had sudden strokes of genius and decided to see where their ideas took them.

From opening a brewery to selling bags of granola to designing websites, these men and women, whose ages range from 24 to 29, are finding success and bringing new ideas to the area.

Matt DePrato, Josh Hoke and Christian Quinlivan

27, 26 and 29, owners of Liquid Hero Brewery, York

“The idea of making our own beer was, to us, an obviously great idea,” said Matt DePrato, co-owner of the York-based Liquid Hero Brewery. “Who wouldn’t want to brew their own beer?”

DePrato and his two friends, Josh Hoke and Christian Quinlivan, were watching the television show “Modern Marvels” on the History Channel when they decided they wanted to brew beer.

“(It was) the episode about brewing,” DePrato said. “Halfway through the episode, we all looked at each other and said, ‘We can do that.'”

The group brewed for more than three years before deciding to open Liquid Hero Brewery this fall.

“We’ve … been able to perfect our recipes and share our beer with thousands of local beer drinkers at various events throughout downtown York,” DePrato said. “Now that we’re just about opened, we’ll be able to share our beer with even more local drinkers by selling our beer out of the brewery and also having it on tap at several local restaurants.”

DePrato received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Elizabethtown University. After graduating, he entered the real estate market. Most of his experience is with commercial real estate acquisition, which helped him handle most of the company’s financing and business development.

Hoke and Quinlivan both received associate degrees from Pennsylvania College of Technology. Hoke studied collision repair technology and Quinlivan studied plastics engineering.

“(Hoke’s work) experience has allowed him to handle most of the technical aspects of the brewery, which include the custom fabrication and design of the brewing equipment,” DePrato said.

All three dreamed of owning their own companies one day. However, they were not expecting to open a brewery, DePrato said.

“Actually, Christian always dreamed of owning his own hobby shop (and) Josh always mentioned the thought of opening a collision repair center,” he said.

In the fall, the company will launch an American ale and a strawberry wheat ale. After that, it will introduce an Irish red ale and a hefeweizen-style beer.

“Our beers will be on tap at several local bars and restaurants and will also be available in growlers straight from the brewery,” DePrato said.

Liquid Hero Brewery is all about beer and the people who love to drink it, he added.

“We love beer, and we love to talk to people who love to drink beer,” he said. “We built the brewery around this premise.”

DePrato said he wants to see the company experience healthy growth and expand its capacity to meet growing demand.

“We have some scenarios mapped out, but in the end, we just want to be successful,” he said.

Ganesh Harinath

29, owner of the Dilatorg Group, Harrisburg

“I always wanted to be in marketing,” said Ganesh Harinath, owner of the Dilatorg Group. The company is a full-service marketing company with a focus in social media.

Harinath received a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy from the University of California Los Angeles. He graduated within the top 30 of his class. Afterward, he received a master’s degree in business administration from the Penn State University Smeal College of Business.

Before starting Dilatorg, Harinath worked for IBM in its marketing and analyzing division.

“I sort of realized I had a pretty strong niche for that,” he said.

However, Harinath said starting his own company was not one of his long-term dreams. What persuaded him to do so was the market.

“There are little barriers to entry,” he said.

Living and working in Harrisburg has been great, Harinath added.

“Typically, you find your clients to be small- to medium-sized businesses looking to develop their capacity and space,” he said.

Harrisburg Young Professionals and the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and the Capital Region Economic Development Corp. are two organizations Harinath partially credits for his success.
“These are groups and entities that I can rely on,” he said. “Harrisburg is a good place to own a business.”

Ole Hongvanthong

29, owner of PhotOle Photography, Lancaster

“People can go anywhere for photography; but my clients know that if they come to me, I will take care of them the way no one else can,” said Ole Hongvanthong, owner of Lancaster-based PhotOle Photography. The company specializes in wedding, corporate and pet photography, along with photo booth and green screen services.

Hongvanthong graduated from Conestoga Valley High School in 2001. He booked his first wedding shortly after that and developed his skills at the New York Institute of Photography. After working for Lifetouch National School Studios for six years, he decided to quit and start his own business.

“I started … with the goal of being published nationally,” Hongvanthong said. “I immediately thought about how a national publication would never know who I was if the community I lived in didn’t know who I was.”

Hongvanthong began supporting nonprofit organizations, schools and associations in his community and putting his name out there. He joined Lancaster Young Professionals and the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, where he became the youngest-ever board member.

“I told everyone I met (about my company) and soon began getting work,” he said. “I never had to spend money on advertising because everyone that contacted me knew who I was and already wanted me as their photographer.”

Hongvanthong said he did not start his business immediately, but he knew he wanted to enter the wedding industry, as there was a high demand for wedding photographers and he had a strong background in portraiture and weddings.

Hongvanthong also had confidence.

“I knew I had the right tools,” he said. “I had learned the business side of photography, I had discipline and ambition, I enjoyed getting to know people very well, I was good at photography and I wanted to do it full-time.”

Besides taking great photographs, Hongvanthong said his company is about customer service.

“My clients know that if something is worrying them or they have a question, they can text me, email me or call me at any time and I will answer immediately,” he said.

By doing that, Hongvanthong said, he builds relationships with his clients, and those relationships help him take great photographs.

“You don’t really know what someone truly wants unless you know who he or she is,” he said. “When you know someone, they trust you, they open up to you, they tell you their likes and dislikes and their goals and aspirations. … When I photograph someone, I know whether the person is giving me his or her real smile.”

Hongvanthong said he wants to develop software to help other photographers.

“At this point in my career, I have learned what works and what doesn’t and I want to share that with others,” he said. “When I launched my business full time, nobody wanted to share information, help or guide me. I don’t want anyone to get discouraged from starting his or her own business because I believe there is plenty of work for anyone who truly wants it.”

Rebecca Howell Foote

28, co-owner of The Carlisle Vault and vice president of Foote Capital Mortgage Co., Carlisle

“One day I figure I’ll just be sitting on the beach,” said Rebecca Howell Foote, who over the past five years has started two Carlisle-based businesses with her husband, Shaun Foote.

But until then, she plans to continue working the long hours day in and day out to build those companies.

The couple in 2006 founded Foote Capital Mortgage Co., a mortgage planning firm that services both residential and commercial clients. In January, they opened The Carlisle Vault, a special event and conference venue that operates out of the former Pennsylvania State Bank building on North Hanover Street.

“For almost three years we watched it sit there for sale,” Foote said about the old building near the square, which now houses cocktail events for more than 200 people in the front and the mortgage company’s offices in the back.

Foote was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug around the age of 5. As a youngster, she used to help her parents sweep the floors of their Cumberland County Harley-Davidson dealership.

She graduated in 2004 from Shippensburg University with a degree in marketing and ended up working for Integrity Bank before embarking on her own business at age 23

“We decided to grow on our own and align ourselves with the products we needed to help clients,” Foote said. “We didn’t like the corporate atmosphere.”

The mortgage company has grown from two to five full-time employees. Revenue doubled in 2009 and grew another 25 percent in 2010, Foote said. The business relies completely on referrals

The banquet facility, which Foote calls a “pure accident,” has taken off as a year-round venue for weddings and other special events, primarily due to its unique look. The Footes partnered with John and Nadeen Bogonis to make the facility a reality.

Before she turns 30, Foote said, she envisions another building purchase to grow the two businesses. Investing in the 200-year-old bank building through exterior renovations also is part of the plan, she said.

The Carlisle Vault recently added an event coordinator and Foote said the goal is to have a wedding every weekend, if not more than one, and be open for corporate events and other festivities throughout the week.

Sarah Lanphier

24, owner of Nuts About Granola, York

When Sarah Lanphier was a student at Elizabethtown College, she decided she wanted to attend the USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship. To do so, she sold granola as part of a fundraiser.

“I thought I’d be a little more in line with the healthy thing triathlons are,” she said. “It ended up being a very successful fundraiser.”

What started as a fundraiser became a full-fledged business for Lanphier, who incorporated the York-based Nuts About Granola with her mother before she received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Elizabethtown.

“I developed the business through my business classes,” said Lanphier, who concentrated in entrepreneurship and marketing. “I ended up using (Nuts About Granola) as a topic for all of my projects.”

Before running Nuts About Granola, Lanphier’s only work experience was being a lifeguard, working in her college’s dining services and completing two internships, one at a marketing firm. Now, her company has been featured on the “Rachel Ray Show,” was selected for the International Emmy Awards gift bags and is expanding into larger wholesale markets.

“We’re starting to get to the point where we’re hiring more help,” Lanphier said.

Lanphier said she plans on releasing new products in the future, one being a vegan brownie made with black beans. It will be sold at the company’s farmer market stands in York Central Market, Lancaster Central Market, Gettysburg Farmers Market and New Eastern Market.

Lanphier also said she wants to educate people about buying local.

“My mom is a registered dietician,” she said. “We both believe the best diet is a whole foods diet and eating everything in moderation and eating everything with real ingredients.”

Nuts About Granola products have no artificial ingredients and no preservatives.

“You can pronounce all the names of the ingredients,” Lanphier said. “All of our granola is made and sold within a week, so you’re getting a fresh product with a short shelf life.”

Lanphier said people have the tendency to buy granola and leave it in their cupboards for months.

“Granola is not supposed to sit there for two years,” she said. “We really want to make sure our customers are getting a fresh product that tastes good.”

Kristen Lanza

29, owner of Sorted & Staged Home Enhancement Services, Elizabethtown

When Kristen Lanza was 11 years old, she started rearranging and organizing homes for everyone she knew. She also held a variety of jobs as a teenager, including cashier at Burger King and the Easter bunny at a local mall.

Lanza went to Kean University to study public relations and received a bachelor’s degree in 2004. After she graduated, she was a marketing intern, personal assistant, marketing coordinator and a receptionist.

She also volunteered a lot of her time in elementary school classrooms through Junior Achievement of Central Pa. The organization’s purpose is to educate and inspire young people to value free enterprise, business and economics to improve the quality of their lives.

“On a consistent basis, I was encouraging students to follow their dreams when making a career choice and taught several lessons about the many benefits of entrepreneurship,” Lanza said. “After teaching that same curriculum for around the tenth time, I had an epiphany and decided it was only fair to practice what I was preaching.”

In 2008, she took her passion for home staging and turned it into a business: Sorted & Staged Home Enhancement Services. The Elizabethtown-based company is a professional home enhancement company that specializes in sorting and decluttering, interior redesign, and home staging services, Lanza said.

“Our decluttering services allow us to assist homeowners in sorting through belongings that are no longer needed, loved or fitting correctly in one’s lifestyle and then organizing what’s left,” she said.
The company’s interior redesign services involve maximizing the focal points of rooms through the rearrangement of furniture, lighting and the flow of traffic areas to maximize the efficiency of a room. Through its home staging services, Lanza said she tries to appeal to a wide range of buyers by highlighting a house’s best features to make it sell quickly and at top dollar.

Lanza said she also tries to provide clients with an upbeat, fun and productive time when evaluating the importance of their belongings.

“Becoming more organized and efficient doesn’t necessarily have to be a grueling process,” she said. “I want my clients to continuously feel motivated and confident about tackling the entire house.”
Lanza said she never thought she could turn her passion into a career, but is glad she did.

“By starting my own business to cater to my talents, I have officially and successfully turned my dream into a ‘real’ career,” she said.

Derek Lau

28, executive producer of aideM Media Solutions, Lancaster

Derek Lau graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia in 2004. Two years later, he started his production company, Lancaster-based aideM Media Solutions, which produces instructional videos, television commercials and videos for business.

“I wanted to do my own thing, and I like being my own boss and the freedom of running my own business,” Lau said.

He said he discovered his passion for making videos when he was in high school.
“I had gotten into video by making skateboard and dirt bike videos,” he said. “I’ve always skateboarded and rode dirt bikes, (so) I took as many video and photography clips as I could in high school.”

Before starting his business in 2006, Lau worked part-time at a couple of different companies in Philadelphia and Lancaster

He admitted starting his own company was difficult.

“I didn’t really know how to run a business,” he said.

During that time, he worked on 20 episodes of a television show called “Fisher’s ATV World,” which airs on the Outdoor Channel. Afterward, he said, he became more serious about his production company.

“In 2009, I really started learning how to network and get my name out there and meet people and talk to them about the importance of video,” he said.

One year later, his company bought a 1,300-square-foot studio in Lancaster, one of the few in the city. He recently hired two employees and is looking to hire another.

Video are a more personal way for businesses to connect with clients, Lau said.

“You can actually see a person in video,” he said. “You feel like you know them as opposed to reading something in print.”

Melissa Miller

26, owner of Made to Keep, Susquehanna Township

“I’ve always been very artistic and crafty, and ever since fifth grade I knew that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up,” said Melissa Miller, owner of Susquehanna Township-based Made to Keep. Her company specializes in greeting cards, custom invitations, graphic design and graduation announcements.

Miller received a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from the Art Institute of Philadelphia in 2006. During her time in Philadelphia, she completed design work for the Wharton Small Business Development Center and Social Philly.

Miller said she discovered she wanted to design greeting cards when she nearly was finished with college.

“For Christmas (one year), my older sister asked for a ton of gift cards, and I made customized greeting cards to hold (them),” she said. “In January, I made tons of generic Valentine’s Day cards and sold (them) to friends and students, and one suggested I try to sell them in stores right by our school.”

The stores already bought Valentine’s Day cards for that season, but each one offered to buy cards for other occasions, such as birthdays and weddings. Miller said she went home to Harrisburg, bought supplies and made more than 20 sample cards.

“This first store, the American Institute of Architects Bookstore in Rittenhouse, loved them and bought over 40 cards,” she said. “With the great response, I immediately went to another store, Details in Rittenhouse … 
who bought over 100 cards.”

Miller began working for Capital Blue Cross‘s design department after graduation. She eventually left and started focusing on her business full-time.

This year, Miller attended the National Stationery Show, which is for retailers interested in purchasing greeting cards from small and large companies.

“I was able to get lots of orders from boutiques and shops, connect with a representative in California who will sell my cards there and … (finalize) orders with an Australian distribution company that sells to over 2,200 stores,” she said.

Greeting cards is only one side to Miller’s business.

“I have a hard time answering the question of ‘what do you do?’ when people ask, since there are so many aspects of my business and I enjoy it all,” she said.

Since the business is taking several directions, Miller said she is taking the next six months to structure those difference avenues and to hire another person to do office work and ordering. She added that another one of her goals is to see her cards sold in larger chains, such as Target.
Miller said she also is trying to develop relationships with wedding venues and industry professionals as the area’s leading custom wedding invitation designer.

“My three- to five-year goal is to have a small shop where I will sell my retail cards and invitations, as well as many other unique and handmade items,” she said. “The shop also (will) have an open small studio in the back or a loft that I can meet with brides and clients and work on site as well.”
Miller said she is appreciative of all the people who helped her reach success.

“I am so appreciative of my family, friends and associates that continue to speak highly of my business and support me along the journey of anxiety attacks, trade shows that emptied my bank accounts, all-nighters, and all the ups and downs that are leading me to success,” she said.

Matthew Troup

27, owner of Volo Productions, York

Matthew Troup, owner of Volo Productions, is a self-taught Web developer. His company offers Web design services to small- and medium-sized businesses. It stresses the importance of a unique website that is user-friendly and functional.

“In today’s world, your website is your storefront — a reflection of your business,” Volo Productions’ website states. “We design your website from scratch, specifically for you.”

Web presence should be imperative to businesses in this day and age, Troup said.

“If you’re a small business without a large client list, no matter what type of business you are, the best and most effective way to reach your target audience is through the power of the Internet,” he said. “A powerful and effective website will enable your business to do this.”

Troup graduated from York Suburban High School in 2002. After working a variety of jobs at York Volkswagen, Dial Electronics and Atlantic Granite & Marble, he started Volo Productions in January 2008.

“I have always had a passion for Web design and starting my own business, so it just seemed like the natural thing to do,” he said.

Troup has designed websites for York Young Professionals and C.A. Smith Custom Builders.

He said his goals are to obtain a larger client list, open an office and hire more employees.

Michael Sadowski

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