Students create football magnets to show Penn State pride

University Park, Pa. — Greg Kester, Nichole Lopes and Carlos De La Rosa needed to form a working company for their final project of an engineering entrepreneurship course. Although their first inclination was to use their engineering backgrounds to create something elaborate, simplicity won out in the end.

"We were coming up with all these grand ideas," said Lopes. "But one of the things we learned from all of our previous projects was that simple sells."

The group formed PawZmatic, creating magnets centered on the football schedule and timeless images of Penn State life. Magnets for 2008 bear the schedule alongside a picture of the Nittany Lion crowd surfing, while another magnet features a photograph of the Lion Shrine. In addition, the group has future plans to make the products more enduring by cutting the football schedule and featuring only the photograph.

"We looked downtown and there wasn't anything really photo-based; everything was logo or animation. So we decided to take pictures from inside the stadium to fill that market niche," explained Kester.

However, taking the pictures proved to be more involved than just a simple point-and-shoot. The group had to get approval from the Collegiate Licensing Corporation (CLC) before they could feature any images associated with Penn State. The process involved pitching the idea to the licensing company and proving there was a market for the product in downtown stores. Yet none of the stores would talk to the group before they had the licensing. Overall, the process took more than a year.

"It was the No. 1 roadblock," said Kester. But, according to the group, the process was well worth the trouble. "It legitimizes the product to have the CLC logo behind it. It makes it seem more real."

In addition to the costs associated with licensing, finding the funding for the rest of the expenses proved a formidable challenge. "The entrepreneurship program helped us with some things, but we paid for the majority out of our own pockets," said Lopes. Although both Lopes's and Kester's parents offered to help, the students refused — but for different reasons. Kester didn't want to lose other people's money if the venture failed, while Lopes wanted to keep any of the profits that would be made.

Lopes is optimistic that her confidence will soon be rewarded. "PawZmatic is close to breaking even," she smiled.

In addition to seeing their hard work pay off in the financial sense, the PawZmatic members are excited to move on to the next phase of their business. They are hoping that their timeless photographs will become a series of collectible items for students and alumni, with one photograph that will represent a given year. They also are looking to develop beyond football to include academic calendars and THON.

But with one member already graduated and the other two close to graduating, the future is wide open. The group is considering donating the company to the engineering entrepreneurship program to allow other students to participate in running and growing a business. The profits would go toward scholarships.

"If we're able to have current students benefit from running the business, like a student club, that would be awesome. It has the real-world feel. There are a lot of things that aren't classroom-based that you have to get through," Kester said.

Life lessons come often in college, and the process of building PawZmatic was no exception. One lesson learned? "There is no reason for self-doubt," Kester said.

"Being able to have confidence in something you came up with and being able to communicate that with other people is a core value that I learned from this process," he said.

This confidence in the product was justified, as the group can now see tangible results of its hard work when they go in to stores downtown and see their magnets. And even with some snags along the way, the benefits far outweigh the hassles for these students.

"If you don't believe in what you are doing, how are you going to get someone else to? This has been a nice, constant reminder of that," Kester said.

PawZmatic magnets can be found in downtown State College at the Student Book Store, the Clothesline, Lion and Cub, Lions Pride, McLanahan's, Old State Clothing Co. and Rapid Transit Sports.


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Last Updated March 19, 2009