Innovation & Entrepreneurship


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Profile: Elisha Buhler, Clark Student, '09
COMFORT GREEN


Elisha BuhlerElisha Buhler Is Honing Entrepreneurial Side at Clark
Many people don't associate a biology major with business or entrepreneurship - but it makes perfect sense to Elisha Buhler. She is using different aspects of her education to become a more well-rounded professional who can draw from experiences to adapt to all situations. We sat down with Elisha to talk about how the non-traditional elements of I&E helped her get through the rigid coursework of a biology major.

I&E: I understand that Clark wasn't your first choice. How did you end up here?
EB: I read Loren Pope's book "Colleges that Change Lives," and picked several choices from there - that's where I found Clark. My first choice was Allegheny College, which accepted me, but when I went out to visit the campus, I noticed that everyone there looked like clones... all from the same area and the same social class. That was so far from the college experience that I was looking for, so I chose Clark instead. The difference is day and night - going to Clark is almost like studying abroad; I get to meet and interact with different people from a variety of places and cultures.

I&E: What is your major and how does that fit in with the I&E minor?
EB: I'm majoring in biology, because I always thought of life in an abstract way, and I wanted to learn how to think scientifically and do research. I always considered myself a person that had a brain meant more for business, literature and history, so I chose biology to help strengthen and expand my skills. I've always felt that college wasn't just for learning what we want to learn but for making up for inadequacies in all parts of our life. I found the Innovation & Entrepreneurship program while I was looking for classes to round out my schedule - I've always liked business and grew up starting my own projects, so I thought it sounded really interesting. It turned out well because the unstructured I&E classes kept me going when biology got difficult and stifling... it's like an escape.

I&E: You've grown up starting businesses? So this is nothing new to you.
EB: Well, no, I guess it's not! When I was younger I would start a gardening or snow shoveling business to make money. Later, in high school, I started a jewelry business on eBay called Lilly Lei, which I use to buy and sell estate and costume jewelry. I still have this business and work on it when I have the time - it's my passion and a great way to learn how to appreciate historic things.

I&E: So is Lilly Lei your capstone project?
EB: No, it's not. I'll always have Lilly Lei, but I realized that I'll never really be able to make enough money with it to live off of. I wanted to get into something different that I could depend on down the road after graduation, so I came up with the idea for Comfort Green, LLC, with my uncle. Comfort Green is my capstone.

I&E: Tell us about it.
EB: My uncle and I have a shared interest in green energy and construction techniques, so we combined our talents: mine in business and his in construction, to form Comfort Green, LLC. We deal with any form of green home improvement, from green carpentry and drywall to our main product we sell, which is Air Krete, a green insulation made from seaweed. It was amazing how it came about - we just spent a summer discussing plans and trying to raise capital, which was difficult. We were turned down from banks, and support we had lined up from other sources fell though, so we were saved by help from family members. It's scary to take on that sort of debt, but when you think of long-term possibilities, you know that you'll be a success. Your passion overrides your fear of failure.

I&E: What is your favorite thing about the I&E program?
EB: The professors! They are all so approachable - they are like going to friends for advice - with a certain amount of respect of course. Their passion is inspiring, they're so helpful and get right back to you when you have questions or need help. The inspirational part of I&E is not the courses but the people teaching the courses. Teachers at Clark know how to deliver - they connect you to a great network and provide resources to support you.

I&E: What do you feel you have learned the most while in I&E?
EB: I think the biggest thing I've learned is creative thinking. Discussion-based courses and group work like you have in I&E challenge you and teach you how to think outside your comfort zone. In George Gendron's class I discovered ways to organize and formulate specific, feasible ideas. He helps you see that you don't need a business plan to form a startup. You need to plan, of course, but he is adamant about the necessity of having a creative, natural aspect of the business process. It's more than traditional, rigid education.

I&E: What's next for you?
EB: I can't wait to graduate so I can focus on Comfort Green and the other projects I have in mind. I want to take that inspiration and put it to work!

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