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The Key to Our Success

Three entrepreneurial Syracuse University alumni reflect on lessons learned and businesses they have built since graduation.

No More Waiting

Andrew Farah portrait
Andrew Farah, founder of Density.

A simple desire for coffee started it all. Andrew Farah ’09, G’11 and friends wanted to go to Café Kubal for a coffee break but didn’t want to trek through the Syracuse snow only to find all the tables were occupied when they arrived.

“We thought that it would be nice to see how busy a space was before we left,” says Farah. “We didn’t want to wait in line.”

And just like that, the idea for Density, an anonymous people-counting system, was born.

Originally a writing student in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the College of Arts and Sciences, Farah thought he’d write as a profession. That all changed when he took a few web design classes through the School of Information Studies (iSchool).

As a graduate student of information management, he started a digital agency called Rounded with other students in the iSchool, College of Arts and Sciences and the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, including Robert Grazioli ’11, Ben Redfield ’12, Eric Candino ’12 and Brian Weinreich ’10. They built enterprise and mobile applications for a fee and then invested their proceeds in side projects. Density was the seventh side project.

Now, just a few years later, publicly traded companies in the Fortune 50 use the product.

Farah urges entrepreneurs to continue to be students—of how other companies work. “There are really amazing lessons to be learned from tech history,” he says.

“Uber” of Snowplowing and Landscaping

Andrew Englander and a man in a suit look over a computer screen in an open concept office space
Andrew Englander (left) and an employee go over some work at the Plowz and Mowz headquarters in Syracuse.

Andrew Englander ’05 was a political science major in the College of Arts and Sciences and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs before starting Plowz and Mowz, an app-based outdoor home services company operating in 40 markets nationally.

Englander cofounded the company with iSchool classmate Wills Mahoney in 2013 after Mahoney’s mother was stuck in her driveway during a snowstorm and saw numerous plow trucks on their way to other jobs.

Englander may not have gone into politics, but he credits Syracuse University—including internships in advertising sales—with preparing him for entrepreneurship.

“From an entrepreneurial perspective, you can go to Syracuse and have an enormous opportunity to figure out what you’re interested in and gain practical experience,” he says.

Englander wants to let other entrepreneurs know it’s OK to fail and learn from others who made mistakes before you. “Mentors are vitally important,” he says.

From Army Veteran to CEO

Kathleen and Alaina Ford stand in front of a black van smiling at the camera
Kathleen Ford (right) is chief executive officer of scDataCom, which was founded by her daughter, Alaina.

Kathleen Ford spent 26 years with the U.S. Army Nurse Corps before joining scDataCom, a physical security and communications solutions provider. Her daughter, Alaina, started the company, and Ford joined in 2014, eventually becoming majority owner and chief executive officer.

Ford is a graduate of Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), which offers educational programs and career planning specifically for service members, veterans and their families. Ford completed entrepreneurship training, including Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) and EBV Accelerate. Prior to V-WISE, she had no formal experience running a business. “I was blown away by the IVMF programs,” Ford says. “They helped me discover all the fundamentals of business.”

Ford says she continues to be one of IVMF’s biggest fans, even joining the V-WISE Ignite program as a panelist. She gives IVMF credit for her company’s success, including its certification by New York State as a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business.

Ford wants other veterans with an entrepreneurial mindset to take advantage of the rich portfolio of offerings IVMF has to offer. “The cost to participate is mostly in time and effort. You can’t go wrong,” she says.

Lisa Maresca

This story was published on .


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