Student Spotlight: Sierra Peña

Sierra-Pena-StoryThe saying goes "entrepreneurs are born, not made." Senior Sierra Pena may not have been born an entrepreneur, but at a young age she certainly possessed the drive and determination that often defines one.

Inspired by her grandfather, a business owner in Puerto Rico, and parents who own and operate a salon in York, Pa., Pena pursued her first idea for a business in middle school.

“I’ve always wanted to work for myself, so I started a babysitting business when I was 14. I advertised by making flyers and phone calls to family friends,” she said.

Four years later, as a first generation college student, Pena made the decision to come to Ship.

“When I was looking at schools, no one offered a program that really fit with my goal of becoming a business owner," Pena said. "When I realized Ship did, I knew this was the place for me.”

The only one of its kind in the state system, Ship’s nationally accredited entrepreneurship program teaches students to recognize opportunities and convert them into business plans. The program also equips graduates with a broad skill-set that includes marketing, management and contemporary economic theory.

Students in the program are tasked with conducting market research, business plan development and identifying opportunity and needs in a market. Pena has enjoyed the hands-on learning approach the program offers, but also credits the impact of the program's faculty.

“They are always pushing and challenging us. But starting a new business is challenging, so I believe they are teaching us exactly what we need. They’re giving us the tools to succeed.”

These tools recently led Pena to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s annual Business Plan Competition. She submitted a plan for a subscription box service for parents, an idea she developed while working at a local day care.

Out of over 200 plan submissions, Pena was one of 24 semifinalists given the opportunity to pitch their plan to a review panel. She was then invited to Harrisburg as one of six finalists in the competition. While she did not win, she was excited to be a finalist and credits the competition for helping her gain confidence.

“I’ve had the chance to do multiple business plans. This plan involved a lot of work in terms of the research, but because I understand the process so well, it was something I felt very comfortable putting together.”

After graduating in May, Pena’s first goal is to apply what she has learned to the family salon. She’s already given her parents several ideas and hopes to help implement them soon. She will also consider launching her subscription box service. Eventually she hopes to pursue an idea that would actually result in the budding entrepreneur working for others.

“My biggest dream is to open an empowerment center for women. I want to inspire and teach young girls they can do whatever they want, despite what society tells them,” she said. “I’d like to inspire and encourage more females to become entrepreneurs too!”