Tom Gish, Arther Hart & Chris Riley | Law Student Entrepreneurs | August 2019

By: Elikem Tsikata
Chris Riley, Arther Hart, Tom Gish

I had the opportunity to speak with three of my peers for this month’s “Entrepreneur of the Month” feature. Tom Gish ’20, Arther Hart ’20, and Chris Riley ’20 are all in the final year of their law school career here at Dickinson Law. Simultaneously, the three panelists are in the early stages of their own entrepreneurial ventures.

Chris Riley and Arther Hart are co-founders of MetaShift Gaming LLC.  Both are third-year law students at Dickinson Law.  MetaShift focuses on creating the infrastructure of esports from the amateur level through the professional level. Chris and Arther recognize that esports has become a huge point of interest for investors as it has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. MetaShift aims to be part of this growth and part of the foundation of esports as a whole.

Chris is from California and has his Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, with an emphasis in film media.  In law school he has shown interest in cyber security law.

Arther Hart is originally from Millville, Utah. He has his Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Engineering. Arther currently lives in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, with his wife and daughter. Through MetaShift Gaming, Arther is hoping to establish an esports bar in central Utah.

Tom Gish is a Pennsylvania native who lives in Hershey with his wife and two children. He has his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and is currently a member of the Penn State JD/MBA program. Tom is the founder of Greenacre Properties, LLC, a real estate investment company. The company purchased its first property earlier this year, a 4-unit apartment building. Once the renovation of the building is complete, Tom plans to use the equity in the property to purchase another apartment building.

Subtle Beasts

The HBO mini-series The Night Of coined the phrase “Subtle Beast” in its second episode. I’ve always viewed the term, “subtle beast” as one of respect, if not endearment. It’s an acknowledgment of the type of person whose work ethic and drive are aggressive, yet their demeanor is poised and controlled.

I believe that the three panelists personified this term in their entrepreneurial pursuits. Each carries composed confidence coupled with tamed excitement about the future of their individual ventures. I gained an appreciation for the passion and self-assurance displayed for their entrepreneurial processes.

Refusal to be Bound

When asked what motivated each student-entrepreneur to where they are currently, all three echoed an idea seemingly present in most great entrepreneurial minds: A refusal to be one dimensional. While each member mentioned the value of their legal training, they emphasized the importance of professional versatility as entrepreneurs.

“I didn’t want to be limited.” – Tom Gish

As a member of a dual JD/MBA program, Tom knew early in law school he wanted to supplement his legal training with a business background. He felt that he had an opportunity to increase his professional value by combining the two skill sets.

Interestingly, all three panelists were raised with entrepreneurial ties within their families. Both Chris and Arther grew up with fathers who owned businesses, which shaped their entrepreneurial spirits at early ages.

“My Dad was always about helping others with their needs, helping solve problems. I think that just passed onto me.” – Chris Riley

Balancing Act: Being a Student while Starting a Business

As law students, the idea of being perpetually busy is not a foreign concept. Weekly readings, lectures, research, memos, externships, student organizations, and outlining are found in the average week. It would be naïve to believe that the pursuit of a JD wouldn’t be a tasking experience. But to embark on this endeavor while simultaneously starting your own business? That requires a serious level of juggling ability.

“Pursuing my MBA and JD at the same time can be challenging, but I don’t consider it to be a burden. I have to think in terms of embracing this challenge, rather than worrying about it.” – Tom Gish

Tom’s words capture the panel’s mindset of balancing education and business aspirations. At no point during our conversation did any panelist speak in a manner that made me believe they felt burdened. I was surprised by the subtle confidence in their words. Not arrogance at how easy starting a business would be. Not fear at the daunting risks ahead of them. Quiet, steady confidence. Subtle beasts.

Why Law School?

There is still a misnomer in today’s world that going to law school and not ultimately practicing law is abnormal. However, while the tools and training that students receive over three years of law school are rooted in the study of law, they are beneficial in so many other fields.

“The legal education is invaluable for anybody who wants to get into a highly regulated field. The field we want to get into is involved in esports, but it is also involved in alcohol. It is very, very difficult to navigate all of the regulations and laws that come with those sorts of things. Having that legal training really can be invaluable when drafting out a plan to move forward or learning how to deal with government agencies. The skills that you learn in law school are fantastic. As a budding entrepreneur, I wanted to make sure I had set myself up the best I could.” – Arther Hart

“There’s a lot of skills that you pick up in law school. A lot of habits and abilities that will contribute towards being a successful businessman. So, I thought it really tied in with the entrepreneurial spirit I’ve grown up with and thought it could be a good jumping-off point for me.” – Chris Riley

Class Recommendations

The panelists spoke positively about their experiences with the business classes at Dickinson Law. Specifically, all three specifically talked about the Entrepreneurship Law: Company Creation course. The course is described as follows:

“Students survey the legal issues confronted by entrepreneurs and develop the practical skills to effectively and ethically represent them. This occurs through simulations where students interview, counsel, plan, draft, collaborate and negotiate. Students also draft relevant blog posts, client correspondence and memoranda typical of those that surface in small business and entrepreneur representation. This course is designed for anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur or represent one.”

Additional classes mentioned as particularly beneficial include Business Entities I and II, Cyberlaw, and experiential learning classes in general.

Advice for Student-Entrepreneurs

The biggest lesson this panel taught me is that ambition and mindset are everything.  “Take Action. I think that’s something that plagues someone with a legal brain that’s rational and reasoned. It’s counter-intuitive for us to want to take a risk. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you have to be comfortable with some extent of that.” – Tom Gish

Hear more directly from the students by clicking here.

Book Recommendations

Arther: Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, by Alexander Osterwalder

Tom: The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure, by Grant Cardone

Chris: Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon, by Larry Tye

Elikem Tsikata, at the time of this post, is a 2L at Penn State’s Dickinson Law. He is a Ghanaian-American from McLean, Virginia, and a graduate of Miami University (OH). Elikem is pursuing a certificate in Entrepreneurship Law with a Transactional concentration. He is interested in corporate transactional law and international development, specifically in African countries. Elikem is currently serving as the Vice President of the Student Bar Association.

Agriturismo Serafina | A Family of Entrepreneurs in Italy | July 2019

By: Samantha Prince

FURORE, ITALY. Happy to introduce to you the Fusco family – owners of Agriturisimo Serafina. Since we are on break for the summer, I thought it fitting that I write a post about this entrepreneurial family that I had the pleasure of visiting last month.  I am hereby dubbing them our July Entrepreneurs of the Month.

In planning our trip to Italy, it was important to my son and I to visit the Amalfi Coast but do so in a manner that was more adventurous than simply staying in a busy town hotel.  Additionally after being in Rome for a few days, and hiking up Mount Vesuvius, a quiet place to relax was warranted.

In comes our visit to Agriturisimo Serafina!  This 4-generation family run mountainside farm opened its doors to expand its business from agriculture alone to a B&B and restaurant experience that is unparalleled!  The view from there is spectacular as you can see in this photo.

Rosa (one of two daughters in the family) met us upon arrival and enthusiastically showed us their kitchen and farm.  One could easily tell that she was a hard worker (she carried my 45lb suitcase on her shoulder down a very steep flight of stairs), but if there was any doubt, she explained that since they are on the mountainside, all farming needs to be done by hand – no machinery.  They grow what they need in order to provide for their family and guests: Lemons, grapes, mandarin oranges, tomatoes, garlic, olives, etc.  They also sell food items they’ve made.

What’s in a Name?

Choosing a name can be a daunting task for an entrepreneur starting a business. Some choose names that are descriptive and some choose names for the meaning.  In 1996, when Domenico and his wife Giuseppina opened their farm to the public, they had to select a name.  They chose the name “Agriturismo Serafina,” after Domenico’s grandmother.  Why? Serafina was a strong woman who took care of the farm, family and animals but was also known in the village for her generosity: primarily sharing food with lower paid farm workers in the village so that they could feed their families.  In essence she was an early social entrepreneur!

Expanding FarmING into Tourism

Some entrepreneurs change business direction, or include an add-on when they see a need in the marketplace but some expand out of financial necessity.  Given the taxes and other stresses for agriculture in its area, the family farm needed to do something to survive financially.  The answer was to open to the public in the form of a B&B and restaurant, or “agriturismo.”

However, no matter what your initial motivation is when expanding, a conscientious and successful business owner must prioritize customer service and provide quality products. The family at Serafina exemplifies this philosophy.  For example, dinner was from 8-11 and all of the prepared food was grown or raised on their farm.    During those three hours, we were served course after course of delicious fresh food.  Also, each time Rosa brought something to our table, she gave us an explanation.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful homemade wines and liqueurs that accompanied the meal as well!

Know the Laws

No matter what your industry is, you must know the laws that apply.  When expanding your business, you must learn more laws as now additional ones may apply.  In going from solely an agricultural business to one that has overnight guests and a restaurant,  Agriturismo Serafina had to learn about and abide by laws such as hygienic laws governing dwellings and food safety.  Being compliant can take a lot of energy but it is better than violating the law and dealing with the consequences thereafter.


Running a farm is a large endeavor; adding the layer of having guests arrive and attending to them is an even larger endeavor!  Before we departed, Domenic0 handed my son a Serafina card and a bottle of homemade mandarincello and said “tell your friends.” Good service, good marketing, solid business philosophy… or simple kindness?  All of the above!

The Fusco family are a multi-generational family of social and agricultural entrepreneurs.  We were happy to get to know them while on our travels.


Mark Landgren | Entrepreneur of the Month | June 2019

By: Rachel Tunney

Mark Landgren ‘92 is a graduate of St. Lawrence University and Dickinson Law. He served as an aide to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York in the late 80s, founded and sold two successful athletic apparel companies in the early 2000s with Paige Wingert, another graduate of Dickinson Law. Mark went on to establish the boutique law firm Corporate Legal Partners with his wife in 2003. Mark joined a global digital media start-up as Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel in 2008 before joining The Nexxus Group in 2009. Mark served as the COO and General Counsel back in 2009 for The Nexxus Group before transitioning into his current role of CEO and owner


When he arrives for his interview, Mark Landgren immediately fills the space with his presence. His persona is at first intimidating, but that might only be due to my observation of someone well over six feet in height when I barely reach five. Once he approaches the table where I sit, his kind eyes and words make you relaxed and intrigued to hear whatever it is he has to say. As we wait for the video and lighting tests to be complete, I learn one of his secrets to his successful career:

An English muffin with peanut butter.

It is his go-to breakfast at the office. It is an eating routine that he has had for quite some time. And routines create habits. And habits, especially in the morning, can have a significant impact on the rest of your day. The benefits of habit formation go beyond just health, he says. Getting into the habit of smiling at people on the street, making eye contact, can also significantly impact your life. It appears, from listening to his words, that even an English muffin can bring out the best in you. Like a fish to a hook, I’ve bitten the line, and I am excited to have the opportunity to hear more from him.

Leaders: visionary, integrity, collaborative

Our motto as Dickinson law students is not “Practice Greatness” without reason. We hope to be leaders in our prospective legal fields. We aspire to be the next generation of innovators, policy implementors and judges. Mark spoke of three essential qualities that he finds in good leaders:

1)  Visionary: “In order to be a good leader, you have to have a vision. And that vision has to go beyond tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. You need to be able to see into the future.”

Every good idea starts with a vision. When it comes to being visionary in the entrepreneurial sense, a good leader understands the importance of viewing the longevity of the project beyond the company’s current position.

2) Integrity: “If you are not authentic and do not have integrity, it’s really hard to rally people around you, to support you. And you’ll find that no great leader can do it by his or her self.” The journey of an entrepreneur is not a solo adventure.

3) Collaborative: “You have to be willing to fail and have to let others fail.” You need innovation to be successful, and innovation will only arise if you fail.

To hear more of what Mark believes makes good leaders click here.

Improve your entrepreneurial mind: focus on your “lens”

“I have a different outlook on life.”  The Entrepreneurial mind is special, different. Mark described it as having the ability to view the world through a special lens: seeing problems not as annoying roadblocks but as opportunities. Okay, opportunities not problems. I’ve heard that before. But when Mark gave an example of what he meant, I had to smile because it was a brilliant example of this special “lens”:

On his drive down from Massachusetts, Mark explained how he saw a heap of trash on the side of the road. Instead of thinking about how that trash disturbed the pleasant drive through Pennsylvania, he began to wonder how someone might be able to take those abandoned, used plastic bottles and make eyeglasses out of the material. “I wonder what the cost would be. How would you gather it, first of all, and where would you ship it?” Talk about having an entrepreneurial mindset.

To hear more of Mark’s remarks regarding the entrepreneurial mind, click here.

Go to law school: the j.d. was worth it

Someone who has a J.D. but who is not practicing law could never possibly believe that the hours spent at Dickinson Law with casebooks, citations and footnotes was possibly worth it, right? Mark argued otherwise. When I asked him if a J.D. had any impact on his career, he responded with a resounding, “Yes.” Mark stated that J.D. education is crucial to finetuning analytical skills. He said understanding that there are two sides to every issue and learning how to become an expert in a particular side of that issue puts you at a clear advantage regardless of whether or not you become a practicing lawyer. Mark mentioned that when he and his wife, Trish, (also an Alumna whom he mentions frequently and fondly) presented business plans to a bank, the institution was surprised at the level of skill demonstrated by the proposal. He said that law school taught both of them the importance of detail and time, which was evident in their proposal. This degree, according to Mark, will help “no matter where you go.”

To hear Mark’s advice to law students, click here.

one hat, two hat

When it comes to guidance and wisdom for young entrepreneurs, Mark’s advice is to be eternally optimistic but to check yourself along the way. “You think the idea you have is the most brilliant idea in the world…often times, you’ll go too far.” He mentioned that an entrepreneur wears two hats:

Hat One: Operator [Leader]

Hat Two: Investor [Shareholder]

A truly successful entrepreneur, according to Mark, can put one hat on at a time. Mark said a business becomes your baby. Your whole life can depend on its success. It can become your purpose for living. This phenomenon presents a problem. Stepping away can be a struggle. However, the most successful companies will continue to thrive well after their operator and investor is gone. That business succeeds because you were able to teach your team how to manage even in your absence.

To listen to Mark’s advice for entrepreneurs, click here.

An obvious key to success: relationships

My past life in the theater industry made me learn quickly that success in that industry comes with a hefty price: minimal opportunity for a family. I left a world that demanded insane working hours, extensive tour routes and harsh demands for your body to look a certain way at all times. All of these factors discourage family creation and spousal relationships. It was refreshing to hear how essential Mark’s relationship with his family has been throughout his career. “You need to put family first.” Mark lights up with a grin when asked about balancing family and work. He said that support is essential for someone who is handling the challenges that entrepreneurial work brings. He makes it a priority to disengage from work when its family time.

To hear more of how Mark manages to balance family and running a company, click here.

Mark is not only a successful CEO, but he is also an overall great person who makes an effort to establish a great relationship with his employees. Word to the wise should you find yourself working for him someday: Be careful sharing your birthday information. Should he come to know that it is your special day, you can guarantee you will find Mark and an eager grin right at your office desk with a rendition of “Happy Birthday”.

Reading suggestions:

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depends on It

By: Chris Voss with Tahl Raz

Mark mentioned this book, and it sounded intriguing enough that both Professor Prince and I bought it. My classmates have heard me complain numerous times about how hard I find negotiating simulations; not anymore! In this book, a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI offers his advice on high-stakes negotiations. Life is a series of negotiations, he writes, and this book gives you the tools to handle those situations with his proven techniques and tips.

How to Win Friends & Influence People

By: Dale Carnegie

A classic bestseller, this book will teach you how to become a truly likeable person while chasing your dreams. The wisdom within these pages teaches you how to win over individuals with your concepts and ideas, encouraging communication without arousing resentment. Carnegie’s advice in this book has aided many successful individuals in their climb to the top in both their personal lives and businesses.

Formerly a professional dancer/singer in New York City, Rachel Tunney is currently a 1L at Penn State Dickinson Law. Before her law school career, Rachel obtained a B.S. in Fitness, Conditioning, and Performance at Auburn University and designed three original fitness classes at their Recreational Facility. Upon graduation, Rachel Tunney moved to New York City where she completed Broadway Dance Center’s Professional Semester Program and was hired as their Group Services Assistant. Witnessing discrimination and civil rights issues within the entertainment industry led her to pursue a legal career. Rachel is a proud volunteer for the Distinguished Young Women of America program where she has served as a participant, judge, and choreographer.


Picture Sources:

Davy Mellado Photography

Paige Wingert | Entrepreneur of the Month | May 2019

By: Sarah Zomaya

I have the great honor of introducing you to Paige Wingert ’92, our May 2019 Entrepreneur of the Month. Paige founded Legacy Athletic during his second year at Dickinson Law School with co-founder, fellow law student, and roommate, Mark Landgren ’92. With the initial goal of creating the ultimate baseball hat, Paige has since grown his business into a leading supplier in the hat, apparel, and home décor industries. Legacy Athletic recently merged with League Collegiate Outfitter and together, under the name L2 Brands, the merged business is serving the collegiate, resort, and corporate markets. Based in Hanover, Pennsylvania, Paige is now the innovative CEO of L2 Brands and is passionate about leading the merged company.

Prior to my interview, Paige and members of the Legacy workforce gave my Company Creation class a tour of the facility. Following the tour, our class had an informative and fun Q&A with Paige and Legacy’s counsel, Jeremy Frey. You can read about our visit here. Paige appeared to me to be a principled man who rightly takes pride in the company he has built.

Elements for Success

Paige conveyed that in order to succeed in the early stages of running a business, you have to be passionate about your product or service. Companies will inevitably go through hard times and some entrepreneurs start a business because they like the idea of owning their own company, but it takes passion to get over the hurdles and succeed. Paige added that communication is key when it comes to running a business. Entrepreneurs have to be able to communicate their vision competently in order to grow the business. Paige explained that in the early stages of his business he had been working on the product day in and day out for years. In order to grow the business and bring other members aboard, Paige had to take a step back and communicate his vision and ideas for the business.

Watch Paige elaborate on elements for success here.

Follow this link to hear Paige describe his experience when times were tough with the business.

Advice for Entrepreneurs

Paige has had over 25 years of experience with running a business. His advice for entrepreneurs is to self-evaluate; know what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. As Paige explained, the things you’re good at – do that as much as possible, the things you’re not good at – you have to have confidence to hire people who have that skill/expertise. Paige attributes his success, in part, to his well-rounded team. The team at L2 Brands is made up of people with all different skill sets and all different personality traits. Paige described that he is a Type A person, very self-driven and motivated to get from point A to point B. Paige’s Senior Vice President and brother, Brandon Wingert, on the other hand, is very analytical and thorough. As a team, Paige and Brandon are effective and efficient because they have personality traits that complement each other.

Follow this link for to hear more of Paige’s advice for entrepreneurs.

Check out this link to hear Paige discuss his most valuable lesson.

Key Considerations Surrounding Merger/Acquisition

Legacy Athletic recently went through a major merger with League Collegiate Outfitters and Paige was willing to offer some insight into that process. First, you have to make sure that the products or services of the two companies complement each other. If the products or services don’t meld, then combining the two businesses may not be the best option. Aside from the typical business due diligence, Paige explained that you have to put a lot of time and effort into assessing the “people part of the business.” This can be hard to assess, but you must consider how to bring the organizations together and how long it will take to get everyone in step. During the merger process, the executives and high-level employees are working on the deal for months, but they must remember to constantly communicate that information to the rest of the team.

Click this link to hear more about Paige’s consideration surrounding mergers and acquisitions.

Using Your Law Degree in Business

Paige recounts that over the years many people have asked him, “you have a law degree, why are you making hats?” Paige explained, “I have never had one day of regret about the three years I took to get my law degree…the education I got in three years of law school was transformative to me as a person…I deeply believe that you go through law school and the whole teaching method, and you come out really a different person – it’s a tremendous education.” Paige also noted that he benefits from the technical aspects of a law degree too; he can preliminary read contracts and is better equipped for negotiations. Paige emphasized that the real difference maker in how he uses his law degree is his ability to hone in on the crux of an issue. In law school you are trained to cut through the clutter, the red herrings, and get to the heart of the matter – Paige expressed that this ability is not only extremely valuable in business, but in all aspects of life. The ability to analyze and hone in on the true issue will lead you to making wise, informed decisions.

To hear more about how Paige uses his law degree in business, click here.

Best Attribute in a Company’s Legal Counsel

In our conversation about a company’s legal counsel, it was very clear that Paige and his company’s legal counsel, Jeremy Frey, have an exemplary relationship that benefits the entire organization. Paige discussed that when looking for company counsel, your attorney has to have the basic degree of competency – this may seem common-sensical, but don’t take it for granted. Paige also explained that you want to find an attorney who has the ability to emerge and learn about the business to such a point where the company counsel serves not only as a legal advisor but also as a strategic business advisor. The ideal company counsel has a deep knowledge of the organization: the history, the current challenges, and the company’s direction. Paige’s legal counsel, Jeremy, even described a time when his young son pointed out Legacy Athletic apparel while at Disney World. Paige succinctly put it that, “there’s no substitute from really knowing that specific company’s needs.”

To hear specific advice for law students who want to represent businesses, click here.

Book Recommendation

When asked about a reading recommendation, Paige gave me “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni.



I appreciate that Paige was able to take the time to chat with me so that I could share his insights with you!




Sarah Zomaya, at the time of this post, is a second year law student at Penn State’s Dickinson Law. She is from Southern California and is interested in corporate transactional law. Sarah is currently serving as Vice President of the Business Law Society and as an Associate Editor of the Dickinson Law Review.

Olivier F. Noel, PhD | Entrepreneur of the Month | April 2019

By: Zach Gihorski

I have the great honor of introducing you to Olivier Noel, our April 2019 Entrepreneur of the Month. Olivier is an inspiring individual.  In 2017, he was named as a Forbes 30under30 in science, and he is a co-founder of DNAsimple. DNASimple drew nation-wide attention from Olivier’s appearance on the popular entrepreneurship tv show Shark Tank, where his company received a $200,000 investment from, Dallas Maverick’s owner, billionaire Mark Cuban. DNAsimple’s business concept is — quite simply — a match making service between medical researchers and potential research participants. The company creates this relationship by paying willing participants $50 to spit in a test tube and be included in a database that medical researchers can use as a resource.

While the company part of Olivier’s life is quite compelling, it only adds to his academic accomplishments. Olivier is currently completing the clinical rotations portion of his Medical Degree (MD) program at Penn State’s College of Medicine. Prior to seeking his MD, Olivier received a B.S. in Chemistry, focusing on Biochemistry, from Queens College in New York. Olivier subsequently earned his Ph.D in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics from Penn State University.

A question that is often heard floating around the halls of institutions of higher learning is, “where is the optimal intersection between academic theory and practical industry skills?” I believe the answer to that question is sitting across the table from me wearing his lab coat and a smile.  We were fortunate to join Olivier for a conversation at the Center for Medical Innovation in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The Entrepreneurial Mind: Plan. Lead. Innovate.

Overcoming obstacles

“Going forward, I anticipate balancing medical school, seeing patients, research and science, and also the innovation – bringing it all together.”

Olivier expressed that he has faced obstacles along his life’s journey. Born and raised in Haiti, he moved to the U.S. after completing high school. Olivier explained that during his college education in New York he faced financial challenges and worked a mix of retail and tutoring positions, a total of 5 jobs at one point.

Later, Olivier was faced with the extensive challenge of launching a cutting-edge biotech business (DNASimple) during his Ph.D. program. Olivier said that learning how to balance all of the responsibilities of running a business and attending school was quite an obstacle, but one he has overcome.  Having a great team around him has helped.

Hear a little more about the obstacles Olivier has faced.

two elements of success

“Great planning and great discipline”

Most entrepreneurs understand the value of planning and hard work. But Olivier explained it is an important part of problem solving to have a plan A, B, C, D, etc. not because you are planning to fail, but to force yourself to see there are multiple avenues to achieving your goal.

Olivier also believes it takes great discipline to stick with those plans and achieve success. The ability to persist through the setbacks, and keep your ultimate goal in focus is key.

Hear more from Olivier about his take on habits for success by clicking here.

Perspective  – Young Entrepreneurs

It is a difficult path … It takes a lot of perseverance, it takes a lot of determination, it takes a lot of will … I like to say there are a lot of good days and bad months.”

Often, young entrepreneurs are told that if they have a “great” idea they should pursue it. Olivier adopts a more traditional approach to guiding young entrepreneurs: he feels it important to first find a problem in need of a solution and then reverse engineer the business steps.

To hear more advice from Olivier on being a young entrepreneur click here.

Balancing School and Business  

“You just can’t simply hope that you can do it, and balance it, and make it work.”

Throughout the conversation Olivier touched on the topic of balancing school and entrepreneurship. When asked to expand on his experience of balancing the two, he smiled and suggested he is not recommending it for everyone. However, if you are going to do it, you must have more than just hope, you need to have a plan. It is important to visualize what it would look like in a perfect world and be honest with yourself when determining if it would be possible to manage.

Olivier finds it important to look at your level of performance in both school and business and to be critical in evaluating whether you are reaching the level of performances you expect of yourself. That is, you must be honest with yourself about how much help you need from your business team members and support system.

If you want to hear Olivier talk more about the keys to managing school and running a company click here.

Advice for Law Students

“I think the relationship is fundamental and establishing trust early-on will go a long way.”

The relationship between a lawyer and business owner is one that receives a lot of attention in law school. However, it was refreshing to hear from the entrepreneur’s point of view. Olivier first spoke to the critical importance of establishing trust.  From that trust, the entrepreneur can treat their lawyer like a co-founder or partner – as a critical member of the business’s management team. Olivier also spoke to the value of using the lawyer proactively in a full-spectrum of business decisions as well as the importance of keeping the lawyer apprised of future innovative ideas.

Listen to more of Olivier’s thoughts on the relationship between the lawyer and the business owner here.


“When people think of mentors they often think of a one all-purpose mentor, but I think in reality it does not always happen like that.”

What are Olivier’s feelings on mentorship? It is a crucial part of his story. He believes it is important to have different mentors for different areas of your life; taking the approach of creating a personal, trusted board of directors to provide mentorship. Olivier has mentors from college, graduate school, the business industry, and the science field, all who play a regular part in his personal and professional development.

Olivier’s humility was evident throughout our conversation. He explained how grateful he is to have an incredibly talented team helping him, one of them being his former fellow graduate student Joel Coble.  Olivier expressed how he enjoys letting smart and talented teammates do what they do best without needing his constant oversight.

If you want to hear more on Olivier’s take on the value of mentorship click here.

Book Recommendation

Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama”

Many law students, like myself, have an innate love for learning and reading non-legal works. When asked to share some of his favorites books, Olivier replied that he is a big fan of audiobooks and Tedtalks. However, he loves autobiographies, particularity autobiographies of U.S. Presidents, explaining that President Obama’s 2004 novel, Dreams from My Father, was especially inspiring to him.

Closing Thought

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Before the conversation concluded, Olivier and I shared some of our favorite authors and quotes. Ultimately, he left us with a great piece of advice he believes is important in life and in business by quoting the famous leadership author Stephen Covey (see quote above).

Want to learn more about Olivier’s future projects?

In addition to all the impressive endeavors outlined in this post, Olivier is committed to helping fellow medical innovators. He is preparing to launch his Bench to Bedside to Business Pipeline this coming fall, a database designed to connect like-minded medical innovators and allow them to share ideas. Olivier’s new business will also potentially allow companies interested in investing to invest in projects in the Pipeline. To hear Olivier, discuss the Bench to Bedside to Business Pipeline click here. (Olivier’s presentation starts at video time 6:30)

Videos containing Olivier Noel’s powerful insights can be view by clicking the links throughout the article.

If you would like to get in contact with Olivier – please reach out through his personal webpage.

Olivier’s Social Media Contact Information

Zach is a second year law student at the Dickinson School of Law, where he is an active student leader.  He is actively cultivating relationships with outside resources to give opportunities to his classmates. He is passionate about using his experiences in both the private and public sector to find innovative solutions for the world’s agricultural, energy, and environmental needs. Look for the other blog posts that Zach has written for this blog.

 Photo source:

Kevin Harter | Entrepreneur of the Month | March 2019

By: Arther Hart

I have the great honor to introduce you to Kevin Harter, our March Entrepreneur of the Month. Kevin is an experienced healthcare and technology executive, board member, serial entrepreneur, and long-time volunteer for education-related initiatives.

Kevin has more than 35 years of experience in new life science and technology businesses. He has held more than two dozen board seats in healthcare, technology and financial companies. Kevin has served as chairman, president, and CEO of Saladax Biomedical Inc., a leader in personalized diagnostics. He co-founded the Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania and Keystone Medical Systems.

In addition to being named as our Entrepreneur of the Month, Kevin has been the recipient of numerous awards for his professional and volunteer achievements. These awards include the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Ernst & Young/Inc. Magazine, Outstanding Leadership in Technology Award from the Technology Council of Central PA, and the Alumni Fellow and Philip Philip Mitchell Service Award from the Pennsylvania State University.

Kevin has a passion for mentoring and teaching young entrepreneurs. He has taught classes for Penn State Harrisburg and continues to teach business skills through the Penn State Hershey College of Medicine. Entrepreneurs, and law students that are interested in representing entrepreneurs, can learn a great deal from Kevin’s experience.

What does it take to be an entrepreneur?

“It does take some level of courage to jump into the uncertainty and definitely takes a lot of hard work.”

When I asked Kevin what his greatest accomplishment was, I was surprised by his answer. It wasn’t about any of his great business deals or the impressive amount money he raised, it was having the courage to start in spite of the financial risks. Courage, according to Kevin, is an essential part of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Click here to watch the interview.

The other absolutely essential part of becoming a successful entrepreneur is hard work. It is not enough to have the dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur, it takes a lot of hard work to get there. An entrepreneur should treat startups like they are training for a marathon.

Click here to hear Kevin elaborate.

Many businesses follow what Kevin calls “The Startup Curve.” At some point after the initial enthusiasm has worn off, there will be a period called the “Trough of Sorrow.” Hard work is absolutely necessary to pulling a startup out of the “Trough of Sorrow.”

Thinking like an Entrepreneur

“Don’t think of entrepreneurship as getting a job managing a business.”

Kevin emphasizes that entrepreneurs need to recognize that entrepreneurship is not the same as management. While it is true that entrepreneurs are managers, they are not confined to that role. Kevin explained the difference between the two is that entrepreneurship is identifying, creating, and acting upon an innovative opportunity to create value while management is the administration of an organization.

Entrepreneurs, according to Kevin, should have a 2-stage mental process. One side is very creative and optimistic while the other side is risk averse and pessimistic. An entrepreneur has to be very optimistic about the opportunities and where they are going to take the business while at the same time being careful and looking out for the things that can go wrong.

Watch the interview here.

Risk and Uncertainty

You’re going to deal, in entrepreneurship, with a great deal of uncertainty. Your ability to manage that uncertainty is going to determine your level of success in entrepreneurship.”

During a lecture to Dickinson Law’s Company Creation class, Kevin made a surprising point about the relationship between entrepreneurs and risk. Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs are not, or at least should not be, chronic risk takers. Rather, successful entrepreneurs learn how to mitigate the risk involved by effectively dealing with uncertainty. To effectively manage the uncertainty, successful entrepreneurs learn to make good, informed judgment calls and not dwell on past mistakes.

For these and more entrepreneurial tips click here.

Startup Finance

“The first question I would ask myself is, do I need money?”

Kevin’s first bit of advice when it comes to raising capital is that an entrepreneur must ask whether they need money. There are a few things an entrepreneur needs to do before seeking money: clearly identify who your customer is, what they want, and what the value is that you can provide them. Then, if you are able to calculate how much money you need to create the business, you can look at raising it. According to Kevin, 79% of businesses fail because they haven’t properly identified their customer, and end up building or developing the wrong thing.

Customer discovery is key to avoiding this pitfall. During the early stages of a business, entrepreneurs should be spending as little as they can with the goal of testing a hypothesis. The hypothesis being that the entrepreneur has built a repeatable and profitable business loop. Once an entrepreneur has proven all of their hypotheses, they can begin to look for additional funding to grow their business.

Watch Kevin’s explanation here.

Advice for Law Students

“You are going to need to provide information in a way that entrepreneurs can make judgment calls that are very difficult and frequently wrong.”

The best startup lawyers become good partners with the entrepreneurs they represent. Entrepreneurs deal with a large amount of uncertainty and they often need the help of an attorney to make the best decisions they can. The best thing an attorney can do for entrepreneurs is give good advice, in context. They should learn to ask the question “why” and seek to understand their client’s motives as well as objectives.

Click here to hear Kevin elaborate.

Kevin’s Recommended Reading for Entrepreneurs

Talking to Humans

Business Model Generation

Value Proposition Design

The Startup Owner’s Manual


Videos containing Kevin Harter’s great advice and insights can be viewed through links in the above article.

Photo Source: Penn State Hershey College of Medicine

Arther Hart is a second-year law student at Penn State’s Dickinson Law. He is from Northern Utah and an interest in Health and Technology Law. He has a degree in biological engineering from Utah State University.  Currently, Arther is interning at the Center for Medical Innovation.

Trisha Cowart | Entrepreneur of the Month | February 2019

By: Sarah Phillips

I have the great honor to introduce to you Trisha Cowart, our February 2019 Entrepreneur of the Month. Trisha is a co-founder of the innovative law firm Cowart Dizzia LLP. This cloud-based, multi-jurisdictional, all female law firm focuses on providing dynamic solutions in the field of regulatory healthcare counseling for a wide variety of clients. The firm provides healthcare facilities with educational trainings, collaborates with agencies and caseworkers to resolve healthcare eligibility issues, and enforces facilities’ rights under Medicaid laws.

Trisha received her B.A. from the Pennsylvania State University, then graduated from Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law, and shortly after graduating, began working as a Clinical Professor at the law school’s Elder Law and Consumer Protection Clinic. Before starting Cowart Dizzia LLP, she was a partner at a national law firm, where she focused her practice on Medicaid eligibility, civil litigation, and Medicaid regulatory issues. Trisha was kind enough to sit down and share her business and entrepreneurship story with us.

Elements for Success

The first element of success is finding the right and trusted business partner.

What does Trisha credit for the success of her law firm? That’s easy. Trisha says that the key to the law firm’s success has been the strong and balanced relationship between herself and co-founder of Cowart Dizzia LLP, Gina Dizzia. For Trisha, operating a great business is all about finding the right people to go into business with. Trisha recommends that picking your business partner be a slow and deliberate process; it is important to find a partner with complementary skills, but also a partner who has different strengths and can excel in different areas.

 Creating the right company culture is also crucial to developing a business that people want to be part of. For Trisha and her business partner, this means fostering a work environment where the attorneys are enjoying their work and happy in their personal lives. Allowing the firm’s attorneys to telecommute is unique, but for Cowart Dizzia LLP, it’s what makes them successful.

As our conversation continued, it seemed clear that a big element of Trisha’s success as an innovative entrepreneur is that the law firm she and her business partner created has allowed Trisha to pursue a career she is passionate about. Trisha has devoted countless hours to developing meaningful client relationships and putting in the extra time and care to make sure the business flourished in its early stages-all because she was passionate about the work, her clients, the law firm and truly believed in the mission.

Developing strong relationships with clients is also fundamental to your business’ success. Click here for more on why forming long lasting relationships with your clients matters according to Trisha.

Entrepreneurial Risk

You have to think about taking a risk, but you also need it to be a well thought out and calculated risk.

Inherent to being an entrepreneur is taking risk, but Trisha explained that successful entrepreneurs will take calculated risks. For her, that meant taking a risk and leaving her old firm, but doing enough planning ahead of time to set herself up for success.

Part of that planning involved identifying her market, and also determining if there was room for her growing business in that market. Without growth potential, it can be hard to carve out and sustain a place in the marketplace.

Trisha also strongly believes that entrepreneurs can plan for success by finding ways to utilize each team members’ unique strengths. Hear more from Trisha about the value of risk taking and effective management.

Lessons Learned

Our clients’ needs have changed, and you have to adapt and grow with those needs.

If there was one theme that kept coming into our conversation, it was the importance of accepting that change is an inherent part of running a business. If you can be ready to adapt as your clients’ needs shift, you will be able to better meet those needs or fill that opening in the market. Part of this is also understanding that how your business starts may not be the way it ends, and that can be a good thing if it means that you are changing in a positive direction.

Trisha also learned quickly the value in seeking advice from others, especially in the early stages of starting her business. Trisha and her business partner consulted with an attorney and an accountant to make sure that they took all the necessary steps to establish their law firm correctly.  By consulting with experts, they felt more confident in the potential success of their entrepreneurial endeavor.

Learning to adapt best management practices can also play an integral role in the long-term success of your business. Hear Trisha explain why this is important.

Advice for Today’s Entrepreneurs

Keep your costs in-check.

Finding and using innovative methods to lower costs, especially in the early phases, can be extremely helpful when starting your business. Trisha’s law firm uses cloud-based platforms, shared works spaces and a website creation platform to limit costs where possible. This has allowed them to focus on growing in their market niche and establishing themselves as the leader in their field. Trisha explained that after you’ve solidified your identity and experienced financial success, then you can reinvest for expanding or adding on “extras” to your business.

For more creative ways about how to limit costs, click here.

Advice for Today’s Law Student

Your cover letter is your first chance to make a great impression.

Being open to learning about different areas of the law is important as a law student. Trisha found her passion by accepting an internship opportunity at the school’s Elder Law Clinic. Law school, and your early career, should be focused on finding what makes you happy and discovering which area of the law you can be passionate about. Taking advantage of every new experience that comes along is just one way Trisha hopes current law students will continue to challenge themselves as they work through law school.

Trisha also strongly encourages all law students to learn the value of a personal and well-planned cover letter. The cover letters should reflect interest in the position and should demonstrate that your experiences match well with the firm or business. A cover letter that simply copies and pastes pieces from older versions will not make you stand out, and chances are it will not reflect your best qualities.

Being open to learning about different areas of the law is also important as a law student. Trisha found her passion by accepting an internship opportunity at the school’s Elder Law Clinic.

Hear Trisha explain why taking advantage of new experiences is valuable.

Videos containing Trisha Cowart’s great insights can be viewed through links in the above article.

This post was authored on February 2, 2019.

Sarah Phillips, at the time of this blog post, is a second year law student at Penn State’s Dickinson Law. She is from West Amwell, New Jersey and has interests in agricultural, land use and business transactional law. She is currently serving as a Honor Code Representative and a Law Lion Ambassador.

Photo source:

Greg Sutliff | Entrepreneur of the Month | January 2019

By: Gregory Archibald

I have the great honor to introduce you to Greg Sutliff, our January, 2019 featured entrepreneur. “Sutliff” is a name familiar to most individuals living in Pennsylvania. Many drivers across the state have purchased their vehicles from one of the Sutliff car dealerships or at the very least heard their catchy jingles over their radios as they cruise down the highway. Greg Sutliff, is just as well-known in the entrepreneurial community. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview him and gain insight into his views on the entrepreneurial mind and how to raise a successful business.

Greg Sutliff began working for his family’s business, Sutliff Chevrolet, in 1947. However, he did not move straight into the working world after graduating from high school. Mr. Sutliff graduated from Brown University in 1953 with his BA in Economics, and soon after served in the U.S. Navy until 1956. After his departure from the Navy, Mr. Sutliff attended Dickinson Law and obtained his Juris Doctorate in 1959. By 1962, Greg Sutliff returned to Sutliff Chevrolet as the general manager of the company.

Entrepreneurs and law students who would like to represent entrepreneurs can learn from Mr. Sutliff.  “…the law student needs to be able to fill in the blanks for the entrepreneur.”  Click here to hear Mr. Sutliff elaborate.

A Valuable Lesson

 “The first thing you need to know about is who you are.”

Throughout our interview, it became clear that Greg Sutliff was truly a man of “firsts,” and was not one to shy away from new ideas or advancements in the industry. In fact, he credits most of his success to being open-minded and adaptive. In the 1960s, Sutliff Chevrolet became one of the first car dealerships to have a computer for keeping track of payroll and inventory. As it was one of the earliest IBM models, no one had developed a program to complete such tasks. To solve this problem, Mr. Sutliff self-learned computer programming and programmed Sutliff Chevrolet’s computer.

In the 1970s, Mr. Sutliff brought an idea he had learned in law school to the automotive business. The “Last in First Out” (LIFO) accounting method, at that time, was not commonly used to organize automotive inventory. However, Mr. Sutliff felt that switching to the LIFO accounting method, though novel, may help his business. When he saw its success, he was quick to bring the new method to accounting firms and other dealerships in the area to allow them to share in the usefulness of his idea.

Hear it (and more) from Mr. Sutliff here.

The Entrepreneurial Mind

“The entrepreneurial mind is a sailing mind. You don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know what the wind is going to be, but you figure it out as you go. You have a destination in mind, but the way you go today is not the way you go tomorrow.”

           One key element to success that Mr. Sutliff shared was the importance of knowing not only your own skill sets, but also the skill sets of those around you. He was quick to admit that although he knew he was a strong manager, he was aware that he did not have the skills to work effectively in sales. As such, he knew from an early stage that it was important for him to find employees who possessed this skill set to not only sell cars, but to also teach other employees how to properly sell a car.

Early in his role as general manager of Sutliff Chevrolet, Mr. Sutliff came into contact with an organization that administered a type of workplace personality test that would indicate an individual’s work ethic, as well as the area of the company in which they would be most effective. Mr. Sutliff credits this test with a large portion of the company’s success. When he placed an employee in a position with the test results to back it up, he was confident that the employee would be a productive member of the company.

Watch Mr. Sutliff’s explanation here.

The Element for Success

 What is most important?  Honesty.  “An honest man will not work for a dishonest man.”

When I asked Mr. Sutliff what separated successful entrepreneurs from the rest of the pack, his answer was simple: successful people make themselves different. New ideas happen every day in the business world, but it is the ideas that make a company truly stand out from their competition that provide the foundation for success. For example, Mr. Sutliff and Sutliff Chevrolet offered extended warranties on their vehicles, despite the fact that these same warranties were completely unprofitable for their competition. The idea was a simple one, but Sutliff Chevrolet stood out from the crowd because they made it work. Mr. Sutliff developed a system that allowed customers to prove that they had given their cars the proper routine maintenance. If the cars were properly taken care of, the warranty would be honored, and an inconvenienced customer would be transformed into a loyal client.

Watch the interview here.


 “You need to have dedication. You need to have vision. You need to have a persona that will attract quality people to work for you.”

In addition to the original Sutliff Chevrolet location, Greg Sutliff has operated a Volkswagen store, a Buick GMC Cadillac store, a Cadillac Hummer Saab store, a Ford Store, a national car rental franchise, and helped to develop the Saturn brand. At its peak, Mr. Sutliff had five Saturn stores throughout central Pennsylvania, and sold more Saturn vehicles than all other franchises put together: approximately 48,000 total.

Mr. Sutliff has received the GM Dealer of the Year Award twice, and has presided as president of the National Chevrolet Dealer Council. Mr. Sutliff is a community philanthropist, and has consistently provided generous donations to United Way. Throughout his life, he learned how to sail and became an experienced pilot, all while raising a family.

Hear Mr. Sutliff’s advice for today’s entrepreneurs and lawyers.

Videos containing Mr. Sutliff’s great insights can be viewed through links in the above article.

This post was authored on January 5, 2019.

Greg Archibald, at the time of this post, is a second-year law student at Penn State Dickinson Law. He is from Central Pennsylvania and is interested in civil litigation. Greg is a founding member of the Business Law Society and is currently an Associate Editor of the Dickinson Law Review