Enterprising online MBA student helping bridge PPE gaps amid pandemic

April 10, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — "How can I help?"

It was the first thought that popped into Mohamed Mory Diané’s head when the COVID-19 pandemic swept into the United States. Entrepreneurial by nature, Mory had a few ideas.

Correction: Mory had a lot of ideas.

“At first I thought of different ways to raise money to help, then I thought about manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE), and then I began wondering if I could partner with someone to develop a home virus test kit,” says Mory, a 2007 Penn State civil engineering graduate who is currently enrolled in the Penn State Online MBA Program led by the Smeal College of Business and delivered by Penn State World Campus. “Unfortunately, I did not have the knowledge base or the capital to pursue those ideas.”

His thoughts returned to PPE, however – specifically, facemasks. As the founder of a start-up company in the 3D printer additive manufacturing space, Mory has many contacts with factories in China. When that country’s economy began reopening after its battle with coronavirus, he started to receive emails from his Chinese suppliers.      

“They told me they were making masks now and asked if I needed any,” Mory says. “I knew that medical workers in the U.S. were reusing masks or even using bandanas. I decided not to sit and watch but instead bridge this gap and connect medical facilities and individuals directly to the manufacturers.”

The ball in Mory’s head began rolling.

"I’m doing what I can. ... If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot.”

— Mohamed Mory Diané, Penn State graduate and Online MBA student

An Entrepreneurial Spirit

A native of the West African country of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Mory emigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was 15. At Penn State, he was a civil engineering major and a national champion boxer his senior year. The tenacity and drive required for such a feat has carried into his post-college life, as have two Penn State Values: responsibility and community.

After moving around the country due to his line of work, Mory landed in Arizona where he currently works for Arizona Public Service as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Consultant at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant. He founded his start-up company on the side, which gave him the connections in China to launch KORVEX, a new company that is serving as a bridge between Chinese factories making facemasks and U.S. medical personnel who need them.

“I wanted a company name that sounded medical, but I also grew up on Japanese anime and American comic books, so the name is based on Superman’s father’s birth name, which is Cor-Vex. I just respelled it,” he says with a laugh.     

Things moved quickly. Within a week of having the idea, Mory had a website up and running.

“I’ve been communicating with the suppliers in China and negotiating with them to get quality products for the best price,” he says. “I picked some N95 masks from select factories and carefully verified the U.S. FDA and NIOSH certification of the manufacturers, because only those masks are officially approved for use in hospitals. I’m also focusing on getting them shipped express for free.”

One of Mory’s sounding boards throughout the process was Smeal’s Shawn Clark, the Michael J. Farrell Endowed Professor for Entrepreneurship. Clark teaches the Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship course Mory is currently taking through the Online MBA Program. The course curriculum is like nectar to a bee for Mory, creating the ideal environment for him to strengthen his entrepreneurial skills and take on this ambitious venture.

“One of our early topics in class was how to identify niches, gaps or opportunities where a start-up can play a role,” Clark says. “In fact, one of the exercises was problem identification – look for a problem and then figure out a solution. Mory has done exactly that with KORVEX.”

 “Over the course of several weeks,” Clark continues, “Mory emailed me a series of business ideas, which was fascinating because usually someone will have a single passion and keep working on it but Mory’s ideas were serial and differentiated. The next thing I know he’s asking me to review his website and using his Chinese contacts to buy masks. In our current world situation, he recognized quickly that there was an opportunity for him to help.”   

“Dr. Clark was very supportive of what I was doing,” Mory says. “I consulted with him often as I was working through my ideas and eventually landed on KORVEX. He gave me great feedback throughout.”

Mory Diane with MBADM 810 project partners Patrick Joyce, Jerret Fischer, and Danilo Chavarria.

Mory Diane, second from right, took time out of his Penn State Online MBA residency requirements to pose with his MBADM 810 project partners, from left: Patrick Joyce, Jerret Fischer, Diane, and Danilo Chavarria. MBADM 810: Team Performance provides students with an understanding of team processes and performance as well as other current issues that affect interpersonal dynamics in the workplace.

IMAGE: Provided

An Idea Takes Flight

While most start-up businesses take months or even years to ramp up, Mory compressed his timeline into mere weeks with KORVEX.

“We’ve already taken several orders that are currently in transit or being processed for shipment,” he says. “The orders are mostly from individuals so far, but we were just invited to become part of [an] exclusive PPE distributor list. Hopefully this will allow us to reach larger organizations and hospitals. I’m also spreading the word about the website through Facebook, LinkedIn and Nextdoor.”

Mory doesn’t hesitate when asked why he took on this endeavor on top of a full-time job, another start-up company, and his Penn State Online MBA classes.

“This project meant taking on extra work, but it’s worth it because we are in a crisis. I know I’m not Bill Gates, who has put millions of dollars toward the effort, but I’m doing what I can. Doing nothing would be turning a blind eye to a serious situation. 

“We are living through a time that will be remembered for ages to come, but I’m confident that something good will come out of it,” he adds. “If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot.”

'We Are' stories

The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment — and we want to hear your “We Are” stories. 

Visit news.psu.edu/WeAre to share how you or other Penn Staters are supporting each other to overcome the collective challenges presented by the novel coronavirus. We are! 

 

  • A photo of Penn State online MBA student Mory Diane.

    Mory Diane

    IMAGE: Provided

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Last Updated April 28, 2020