Making Their Own Path: Kent State Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Announced

Student businesses showcased at Blackstone LaunchPad Recognition Breakfast and Student Expo

Kent State University stakeholders and area business leaders turned out in force to celebrate the accomplishments of Blackstone LaunchPad entrepreneurs at the first Kent State Blackstone LaunchPad Recognition Breakfast and Student Expo on April 1.

At the event, 12 awards were given to Blackstone LaunchPad entrepreneurs and partners who have exhibited extraordinary achievement in the building of their businesses and in promoting an entrepreneurial culture at Kent State. Those recognized included:

  • Blackstone LaunchPad Male Entrepreneur of the Year: Andrew Konya, Ph.D. student, Liquid Crystal Institute, ReMesh
  • Blackstone LaunchPad Female Entrepreneur of the Year: Krista Jordan, entrepreneurship major, Flight 4 the Cure
  • Blackstone LaunchPad Team Entrepreneur of the Year: Alex Kurr, visual communications major, and Brian Recktenwald, Kent State alum, for The New Fuel
  • Blackstone LaunchPad Staff Entrepreneur of the Year: Paul Miller, Legendary 44
  • Blackstone LaunchPad Alum Entrepreneur of the Year: Steven Howell, Ohio Music Awards
  • Blackstone LaunchPad Partner Entrepreneur of the Year: Dean Jim Bracken and staff of University Libraries
  • Blackstone LaunchPad Faculty Partner Entrepreneur of the Year: Professor Margarita Benitez, the Kent State Fashion School 
  • Blackstone LaunchPad Staff Partner Entrepreneur of the Year: Kevin Wolfgang, the Kent State Fashion School 
  • Blackstone LaunchPad Emerging Partner Entrepreneur of the Year: Keith Wisdom, Ph.D., executive director, AALANA Initiatives and director of the Student Multicultural Center
  • Blackstone LaunchPad Mentor Entrepreneur of the Year: Charles Stack, co-founder and CEO, FlashStarts
  • Blackstone LaunchPad Honorary Member: Bart Mandala

Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of Color Jar and founding team member of, gave the keynote address for the event, which punctuated the entrepreneurial mindset of those who make their own opportunities in life. 

“Don’t be afraid of failure; be afraid of apathy,” says Hoffman. “If you’re not failing, you aren’t trying hard enough.”

The event capped a year of activity for the Blackstone LaunchPad program at Kent State, which opened its doors less than two years ago and has served nearly 700 Kent State students, faculty, staff and alumni to date.

Acknowledging the growth of Blackstone LaunchPad, Deborah D. Hoover, president  and CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, and funder of the program said, “The Kent Campus has proved to be particularly fertile ground for student ideas and ventures, exceeding expectations on engagement levels, creative ventures and cultural transformation.

“The Blackstone LaunchPad chemistry seems to be working just as we hoped it would,” Hoover adds.  “Students on this campus are thinking, dreaming, planning, connecting and succeeding, creating and growing new ventures and most importantly, learning valuable skills and moving outside their comfort zones. From Blackstone LaunchPad Olympics to the Fashion/Tech Hackathon, Kent State is teeming with venture activity and operates as a key hub of the Blackstone LaunchPad network.”

Kent State’s Blackstone LaunchPad program promotes entrepreneurship as a viable career path. Through mentoring, workshops and events, and connecting entrepreneurs to resources, Blackstone LaunchPad helps Kent State students, faculty, staff and alumni to create new startups or grow existing businesses in Northeast Ohio. 

For more information about Blackstone LaunchPad at Kent State, visit

About The Burton D. Morgan Foundation

The mission of The Burton D. Morgan Foundation is to strengthen the free enterprise system by investing in organizations and institutions that foster the entrepreneurial spirit.  For more information about the foundation, visit

POSTED: Monday, April 14, 2014 12:00 AM
UPDATED: Saturday, May 18, 2024 08:45 AM
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