Synergies and Entrepreneurship

By Valentina Caval


Some college students could never work for someone else’s dreams. They grow up to be their own bosses instead.

On Thursday, ESU students learned how to become their own boss at a Synergies and Entrepreneurship Executive Leadership Series panel.

Daniel DiZio, co-founder and CEO of Philly Pretzel Factory, loved pretzels so much he skipped a year of high school to sell them on street corners.

When he was in college, he decided he wanted to expand his professional relationship with pretzels.

He opened up 10 credit cards and cash advanced them to start up his business: something he advises young entrepreneurs not to do.

He teamed up with his ESU college roommate, Len Lehman, and they opened the first Philly Pretzel Factory on Frankford Avenue in 1998.

The first business was a success, but the duo did not roll in the dough when they opened their second shop and their second store closed a year later.

“My roommate got so freaked out by the situation he ended up not doing it anymore,” DiZio said.

He was on his own for the first 10 stores he opened, but later brought Lehman back to do franchise work.

DiZio said it was his passion then, is his passion now and that is the best parts of his business.

“When I am on vacation, I can’t wait to get back to the office — I don’t do it for the money.”

DiZio admits that it helps that he chose a product that most people like or love.

Sunoco General Manager Robert Marro is not that lucky.

“We’re not a pretzel. Nobody wakes up in the morning and wants to buy gasoline,” he said.

As the general manager, Marro is responsible for directing the worldwide marketing of the company’s petroleum performance products, manufacturing and transportation.

For him, the most important part of rising up the ladder is “surrounding yourself with good people.”

He spoke specifically of the importance of finding more than just one mentor and learning from a number of professionals.

That’s one thing that James Evans, strategist of the Wealth and Legacy Group, wishes he did more of in his time at ESU.

“I wish I went out for more cups of coffee in college with professors, administration and my classmates,” he said.

In his time at ESU, he used the resources on campus, including faculty and administration.

He knew in college that if he wanted to be successful, that was the opportunity to make it happen.

Evans wanted ESU students to first understand what they believe, and then find other people who believe the same.

But finding those people who share beliefs does not diminish the obstacles in the business world.

“You will constantly face obstacles, but you will overcome them — and then more will come,” he said.

Despite obstacles, Nicholas Igdalsky, chief operating officer and senior vice president of Pocono Raceway, wants students to be persistent.

It was his time in college that taught Igdalsky the importance of commitment in a field he loved, even if it meant it would take a while to get there.

At first he was pumping sewage and doing all the dirty work, unsure of what his role would be at Pocono Raceway.

“Just because you figure out what you want to do does not mean you will be in the same position in 10 years,” he said.

Unlike Igdalsky, William White, owner of WRW Associates, knew where he wanted to be when he was a teenager.

White started his first business when he was 18, and now he is a social entrepreneur that operates a variety of business interests under WRW Associates.

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