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Skidmore students' start-up links campus with small business owners

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Albany/HV: Skidmore students' start-up links campus with small business owners
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Two Skidmore College students put their entrepreneurial spirit to good use to link local business owners with their fellow students. Our Matt Hunter tells us they've already found success.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- It was last August when Ezra Levy approached fellow Skidmore College junior Marcella Jewell with a thought.

"I knew that Skidmore is a place of creativity,” said Levy, a Southern California native majoring in management and business. “Obviously, it's our mantra."

"I was really intrigued by the idea," said Jewell, who met Levy through the college’s academic council.

Knowing that, like himself, many of his fellow students seek to balance their studies with freelance work as a way to build their portfolios and earn extra cash, the two sought a way bring the campus and local small business and non-profit communities together.

"Most of them [business owners] needed different kinds of small, creative projects done for them but they didn't quite have the money to pay for a large marketing firm," Levy said.

"There's really no mainstream way to find a college student right down the road," said Jewell, who grew up near Binghamton and majors in political and computer science.

The result of their brainstorming is Project Open Canvas, an online portal allowing students to sign up and post their skill set - whether it be photography, website or graphic design - in hopes of linking up with a local business in need of creative work.

"We call it an untapped pool of passionate, creative students who are ready and eager to work for you," said Jewell, whose done graphic design work for several professors on campus.

Lou Casale, whose family opened Greenhouse Salads on Railroad Place six months ago, was one of the first business owners to sign up.

"In a small business like this we don't get to put too much of our budget toward marketing, we don't get to put it toward advertising," Casale said.

Through Open Canvas, Casale was put in touch with two students who took new photos for their website and redesigned their logo and menu, at a discount he says equals at least half of a professional firm.

"I wasn't aware of the work they were capable of doing for a portion of what all of these other companies are doing,” Casale said. “It's really something special."

Nearly 40 Skidmore students have already created profiles. While it's currently limited to Saratoga, Levy and Jewell see their start-up expanding rapidly.

"Any kind of work a business needs done, there's no reason to say a student can't do it," Levy said.

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