Entrepreneurs’ Avenue: The Career Fair with a Twist

Deloitte, Comcast, Tesla, Bloomberg, Berkshire Hathaway, Lockheed Martin – the list of banks, media and marketing giants, technology pioneers, real estate firms, and engineering companies present at Villanova University’s Fall Career Fair is consistently an extensive one. 188 employers were represented at this year’s event held on Thursday, September 8, 2016. Every year Villanova students and alumni, of all ages and majors, swarm the Pavilion seeking networking opportunities, summer internships, co-ops, and full time employment. The Fall Career Fair is by far Villanova University’s biggest recruiting event of the year.

The vast, varied, and highly esteemed companies represented on campus set this career fair apart from others hosted by universities around the nation; however, Villanova has added a twist. In 2013, Villanova’s Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (ICE) Institute collaborated with the university Career Center to organize Entrepreneurs’ Avenue – a means by which startups could connect with students right alongside big name employers. After two years, the Avenue has come to house a tremendously diverse group of entrepreneurs.

At the 2016 Fall Career Fair, Entrepreneurs’ Avenue showcased a mix of local businesses focused on everything from the sustainable production of leather goods to philanthropic sock donations. Participants included: Joy of Sox, Evil Genius Beer Company, Waltzing Matilda, SweatEquitE, and Henson Sales Group. These businesses set up presentation tables in the Pavilion to share their life’s work with students, collaborate with other entrepreneurs, and recruit potential business partners.

One such business was Waltzing Matilda USA, which was founded in Pennsylvania and sells its products locally in Wayne, PA as well as throughout the US and Japan. Waltzing Matilda USA specializes in handcrafting leather sandals, bags, and accessories from repurposed and recycled materials. In fact, the first item founder Mike Balitsarsis ever created was a sandal crafted from repurposed shoe leather in the back of a VW van. When speaking about starting his business and taking on risk, Balitsarsis has preached, “make it calculated, make it count.”

Entrepreneurs’ Avenue has been so successful in its mission that businesses like The Joy of Sox returned in 2016 after participating in 2015. “Sometimes socks can be more important than food…”, “…he had tshirts wrapped around his feet that were sticking out of his shoes”, “It’s something that effects people every day…” – these are just some of the words that led Tom Costello, Jr. to form The Joy of Sox in 2010. The Joy of Sox is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit with a mission of providing the homeless with new socks. To date the company has distributed over 186,300 pairs of new socks throughout the Philadelphia area, around the United States, as well as to 3 other countries. As Chief Sock Person Tom Costello, Jr. pointed out, “the weight of 186,300 socks is about that of 2 elephants!”

The ICE Institute is excited about the future of Entrepreneurs’ Avenue and other entrepreneurial-related events held on campus. Entrepreneurs’ Avenue truly exemplifies how Villanova institutes, organizations, and departments across campus can work together to provide rich opportunities for students, alumni, and the community.