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Judging Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs

April 15th, 2016

SUNY Poly Collegiate Business Plan CompetitionAs part of the New York State Business Plan Competition, SUNY Polytechnic Institute hosted the Mohawk Valley Collegiate Business Plan Competition: Regional Qualifier. Katie Ullman, Marketing Supervisor at First Source Federal Credit Union, participated for her third year as one of the judges.

“This is such an inspiring day,” Katie said. “I really look forward to it. These budding entrepreneurs come in armed with ideas and presentations that they’ve been pouring their soul into. We are an integral step for them to learn and grow, and potentially move on to the state qualifier in Albany and win prize money to fund their concepts. It’s very cool to share our knowledge and expertise with them and be a part of their journey.”

There were 4 categories: Products/Services, Social Entrepreneurship/Non-Profit, Energy/Sustainability, and Information Technology/Software. Each category had multiple groups present. Some are still in the infancy concept phase, while others have full business plans, cost/income analyses, and even prototypes.

Each group gets 10 minutes to pitch/present to the judge’s panel, and 5 minutes of Q/A time. Then each is graded individually using a standard rubric. Once they have all presented, the judges gather as a panel and really discuss each candidate, their concept, concept need within the marketplace, competition, concept development, presentation, costs, success potential, etc., and final decisions are made on advancement.

“One of last year’s winners came back to present to the group this year. It was so gratifying to see his growth and the success of his business,” Ullman added. “He was a true inspiration to the collegiate competitors in the room this year. As someone in marketing, I was thrilled to hear him tell the group how important it is to think about your marketing up front, develop your brand, live your brand, and make sure you get a well-designed, timeless, relevant logo to showcase what your business is all about. He gave the competitors very pertinent, real-life business advice.”

The regional qualifier competition drew interest from 13 student teams from nine accredited New York colleges and universities. All came to pitch their game-changing business proposals, for a chance to reach the final round and win part of the more than $500,000 in total prizes. Semifinal round competitions in nine other regions across New York have either already been held, or are scheduled to take place prior to the final round. That round is expected to draw hundreds to SUNY Poly’s Albany NanoTech Complex on April 29, 2016, when the best student teams from each region will go head-to-head. One grand prize winner will be announced, and will earn $50,000 cash and more than $50,000 in in-kind services.

Six teams advanced as regional finalists, and will head to Albany:

Information Technology/Software Category
• NPMWare – SUNY Poly (Utica)
• Travelsee – SUNY Oneonta, Cornell University

Energy/Sustainability Category
• Underground Greens – Mohawk Valley Community College

Social Entrepreneurship/Non-Profit Category
• Vets2Farm – Morrisville State College

Products/Services Category
• Vertica Entertainment – SUNY Poly (Utica)
• My Wine Class – Fulton Montgomery Community College

Congratulations to all who participated in another successful event! And thanks to SUNY Poly for the invitation. We can’t wait for next year!

First Source Helps Choose Young Scholars

April 13th, 2016

Young Scholars Selection CommitteeWe’ve written about the Young Scholars Liberty Partnerships Program (YSLPP) before, and our new entry takes you behind the scenes. This multi-year collaborative project between Utica College and the Utica City School District (UCSD) is designed to motivate talented students to stay in school, earn a New York State Regents Diploma, and pursue post-secondary education.

Each year, Young Scholars serves approximately 350 students from grades 7 through 12. UCSD teachers nominate students in sixth grade—those who possess potential for success in secondary and post-secondary school, but who may not achieve their full potential due to social and economic factors—and the finalists are selected by a panel of professionals from the area.

Chosen students receive mentoring, counseling by social workers, a summer program prepping them for the following school year, college and career exploration, community service, and enrichment activities.

This year, Pam Way, our Community Relations Specialist, was on the selection committee, a group charged with the difficult task of narrowing 160 candidates down to 60 students. Once a year, this group meets to review the nominated students, and select those who will go on in the program.

“I was honored to have been asked to join the Young Scholars selection committee, and take part in the process of selecting the newest cohort of Young Scholars students,” Pam said. “There were up to 30 educators and community leaders present on selection day, and I was paired with several educators who were familiar with the process.”

Each set of 3 committee members received 15 student files containing students’ last 3 years of grades, attendance records, disciplinary records, teachers’ nominations, personal essays, student interviews, and parent/guardian questionnaires.

“I felt the moisture in my eyes gather as I read their personal appeals for help,” Pam relates. “It was very difficult to choose one deserving child over another. You can change one child’s future, and at the same time, severely disappoint another.

“It was amazing to see how these sixth grade students really knew what the Young Scholars program was all about! Their essays described how being selected would shape them as students and individuals, and give them a greater balance of academic, personal, and social growth. There are many factors to consider. To say the decisions were difficult is an understatement.”

The program has proven quite successful. Program graduates have a 93% graduation rate, 88% with regents or advanced regents diplomas, and since 2005, 86% of them have enrolled in college. A number of YSLPP students have served as summer interns in the local community, and the program’s partnership with Workforce Development has provided hundreds of its students with summer jobs.

We are very excited to have partnered with Utica College’s Young Scholars Program, and feel that their goals align very well with our community mission. We are already working to expand our partnership to help fulfill the dreams of more of our youth here in the Mohawk Valley, with job shadowing and internships for Young Scholars interested in banking and/or financing, donations of tools to teach Financial Literacy in their summer program, and plans to team up with Young Scholars this fall for community giveback for the Stevens-Swan Humane Society.

Easy Savings for Kids

April 6th, 2016

Start saving youngFor kids, saving can be simple and fun. A great way to start is with clear jars, so they can watch their money grow, and learn good financial habits. An easy way to do this is to create “Save”, “Spend”, and “Donate” jars.

Each time “income” (like birthday money) comes along, together decide how much they should put in the Spend jar, to get something they really want right now and can afford. Then look at how much can go in the Save jar, for that more expensive item they need to wait for. Then how much they might want to Donate to a child who’s not as fortunate as they are.

Parents can use this approach on a more sophisticated level, with a “Club” or “Special Purpose” account. A Club account is a savings share that you create for whatever it is you’d like: a vacation, planning for the holidays, concerts, or other events. You get the idea. You can auto-transfer a set amount from each paycheck, and start saving today! You can open this type of “Special Purpose” share right through memberONLINE.

It Pays to Save…Literally

April 6th, 2016

Save early with compound interest“Compound interest” is an important term to be familiar with. Let’s say you’re in your early 20’s, just graduated from college, and got a job making roughly $35K. You save about $5,000/year for retirement. Let’s say you do this for 10 years, saving a total of $50K. Then something happens, you have a life change and end up not contributing any more to this initial savings. Your existing savings will still continue to grow until you retire when you’re 65.

Now let’s say instead, you were unable to save right away. But at around 40, you had a secure job making roughly $75K, and then you can start to save. So you save $10K/year for 10 years, saving a total of $100K. At 50, you have a life change and cannot contribute any more. But your initial savings grow until you retire at 65.

In both scenarios, let’s say your investment grew at 10% per year. At age 65, your totals would be very different. The “you” who started saving in your early 20’s would have a little over $1 million to retire. The “you” who started saving at 40, even though you contributed more, would have only a little more than $500,000.

Why? Time.

Investments take time to grow, and the longer you have, the better. So even if it doesn’t seem like much, it’s better to start saving even a little now, than waiting to save more later.

For young kids, saving can be simple and fun. A great way to start is with clear jars, so they can watch their money grow, and learn good financial habits. An easy way to do this is to create “Save”, “Spend”, and “Donate” jars.

LMV Day 8: Opening My Eyes to the Mohawk Valley

March 23rd, 2016

LMV Meeting

I cannot believe how quickly the time at LMV has flown by! This was our second-to-last program day! The topic was Economic Development. The highlight of the day for me was our tour of the Griffiss Business & Technology Park. I had not been to “The Base” since I was a little girl. There is so much great stuff happening!

We toured the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS), and one of our very own LMV classmates gave us a briefing before our tour. EADS is instrumental in protecting our air space. They monitor all flights for the eastern half of the country. We learned how their mission changed dramatically after the September 11th attacks, and they shared actual recordings of EADS personnel from that very day. It was extremely moving. It’s a very serious operation under high security, and was eye-opening for me. These immensely important jobs for national security are handled right in our backyard. I found this part of the tour very inspiring. I have always been drawn to elements of strong self-discipline and purpose. I like the idea of dedicating oneself to a noble purpose. Maybe I was a monk in a past life! I learned other things throughout the day, but this part was what stuck with me the most. Our tour continued to the Griffiss International Airport. I had no idea it was still active, and that private airlines routinely use the airstrip.

My second-favorite part of the day was a panel titled, “Economic Development. Another Perspective.” It was really cool to see how economic development can happen through unconventional methods, like hiring people struggling to find employment to create artistic trash receptacles for the community, which creates jobs and beautifies neighborhoods at the same time. Also, creating channels for promoting young entrepreneurial talent in our area; giving them a place to vet their ideas in a real-world setting with mentors to coach them along the way, growing young minds, and aiding in their confidence to be heard.

We also learned about Upstate Venture Connect, a company focused on creating a local environment ripe for innovation, by connecting local innovators with other thinkers and players in their markets, to bring their solutions to life.

Our Leadership Theme was, “Encourage the Heart,” but since we are nearly at the end of our program year, the group leadership exercise focused on all the leadership qualities we’ve studied over the course of the year in our readings. It was a fun and engaging competition to identify well-known people who really embody each set of important leadership qualities.

I am very close to the end of my LMV journey, and I can actually see and feel positive changes in myself through this process. I have always been a person of focus, preferring to do a few things really well rather than dabble in many. I prefer to connect with fewer people on a deeper level, and am generally more comfortable with a smaller circle. But through LMV, I feel much more engaged and connected with my local community. My eyes have been opened to the great changes happening in our area. This has sparked a more pronounced love of my community. It’s an interesting dichotomy; I feel that my community is smaller because so much seems closer and more accessible than ever before. However, I also feel like it’s much bigger because there is so much going on that I was simply unaware of.

A quick update on our Children’s Museum project: We met with Elizabeth and shared our ideas. Chris Henry, a Landscape Architect, has become an honorary member of our team. We are grateful for the help he has provided in getting our ideas down on paper. We created several schematics of what the outdoor space could look like with the ideas presented. Concepts include a sound garden, a green space sensory garden, and a creative free-play space. Our next step is polishing the vision, getting a cost estimate for the project, and preparing for our presentation on graduation day.

A Place of Learning: Donating a Multi-Purpose Classroom to The Root Farm

March 15th, 2016

First Source staff dedicated the new multi-purpose room at The Root Farm
Dedicating the new multi-purpose training room at The Root Farm, from left to right: Kristy Nole, AVP Marketing and Communications First Source FCU; Gary Heenan, First Source FCU Board Member; John Calabrese, First Source FCU Board Member; Robert Nole, First Source FCU Board Member; Jeremy Earl, Executive Director, The Root Farm; Dean Kelly, First Source FCU Board Member; Bob Jubenville, First Source FCU Board Member; Mike Parsons, President and CEO, First Source FCU; Kathy Hartnett, Executive Director, Cerebral Palsy Association; Liz Crane, Executive Assistant, First Source FCU; Tom Neumann, EVP and COO, First Source FCU.

First Source donated a multi-purpose classroom at The Root Farm in Sauquoit, and attended the official opening ceremony. The Root Farm, in collaboration with Upstate Cerebral Palsy, recently opened a new, expanded facility, of which the classroom is a central part. Using space from Camp Ronald McDonald—and generous community support—the farm offers 112 acres for therapeutic and equine assisted activities, agriculture programs, and arts activities, along with vocational and recreational opportunities for children and adults of all abilities.

The equine program includes integrated, adaptive horseback riding lessons, hippotherapy, vaulting, and private horseback riding lessons. The agriculture program includes raising free range chickens, producing maple syrup and other maple products, managing bee hives for honey production, and cultivating more than four acres of property for growing vegetables and flowers within the next few months. Their arts and recreational programming includes day camps, swimming, hiking, camping, orienteering, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and more.

“All that The Root Farm embodies was a perfect fit for First Source,” said Mike Parsons, President and CEO of First Source Federal Credit Union. “With education, therapy, and natural resources, The Root Farm is truly a wonderful community space, fulfilling needs for people of all abilities in a new way. When we heard what was in the works and saw the healing power of equine assisted therapy, we immediately asked how we could help.”

The result: The Root Farm multi-purpose classroom, currently used for meeting, planning, training, and equine program viewing.

“We are grateful to First Source for believing in, and contributing to, our vision for innovative programming at The Root Farm,” said Jeremy Earl, Executive Director of The Root Farm. “First Source was one of our first community partners for the construction of our new equine center, and has continued to support us as we moved our project from a dream to reality.”

To learn more or make a donation to The Root Farm, visit them on the web at www.rootfarm.org.

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