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Six entrepreneurs participate in first content creator accelerator

Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank, in partnership with The Penn State Brand Academy, offered an all-new content creator-focused Digital TestLab accelerator program this spring.

The Digital TestLab: Content Creators Cohort delivered social media and personal branding education specifically designed for content creators in the Happy Valley region. Justin Leusner, founder of TDAY Sports, and Omar X. Easy, assistant athletics director for The Brand Academy, co-coached the inaugural cohort.

“In the past, we focused our Digital TestLab programming on website conversion and digital ads,” said Elizabeth Hay, Jack White Family Director of Happy Valley LaunchBox. “But with content creation becoming a cornerstone in digital strategy, we’ve pivoted to embrace this evolving trend.”

The program consisted of five weekly sessions focused on topics such as knowing and defining a target audience, mastering content strategy, digital metrics and analytics, creating revenue streams, developing brand connections and building a network.

Participants included:

  • Camden “CJ” Kirker: A Penn State track and field decathlon athlete, Kirker shares content that gives a glimpse into the daily life of a Division I athlete, offering tips on balancing fun, academics and sports. He is a second-year student studying communication arts and sciences in the College of Liberal Arts.
  • Nhi Thai: A psychology professor in the College of Liberal Arts and mother of two who turned her photography hobby into a six-figure business. She now teaches online courses aimed at helping other moms achieve similar financial success.
  • Riley Auer: Owner of Bootleg Boomerangs, Auer is a recent graduate from the College of Engineering and discovered his passion for boomerangs in high school as a physics project. He now aims to popularize boomeranging through viral videos and handmade boomerangs.
  • Kelly Berthold: A licensed therapist, behavioral health clinician and senior staff member at the Penn State Psychological Clinic within the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts, Berthold creates content to educate women on the fundamentals of mental wellness. She breaks down complex topics on social media, hosts a podcast and conducts courses and workshops.
  • Hannah Morris: Known as “Happy Valley Hannah,” Morris, a State College community member, uses social media to tell the story of Happy Valley. Her content is fun and engaging as it highlights local businesses, events, and must-visit places.
  • Eric Feng: A freshman studying computer science in the College of Engineering, Feng teaches fellow college students how to earn extra money through day trading. His practical advice has quickly built a significant following on Instagram.

Digital TestLab wrapped up with a final pitch event on May 1, where the six creators showcased their brands for a chance at up to $3,000. Auer received $2,000 for his startup and Morris received $1,000.

“I feel strongly that the program has accelerated my business by pointing out my weak spots, helping me understand why certain posts are succeeding, and increasing my network,” Morris said. “I’ve learned about myself, my industry and my personal business, but most importantly, LaunchBox has helped me create a sustainable business plan. I would highly recommend the program to anyone who is serious about their side hustle.”

Learn more about Digital TestLab and other Happy Valley LaunchBox programming by clicking here.

About Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank 

Happy Valley LaunchBox, located on the second floor of the Eric J. Barron Innovation Hub in downtown State College, provides early-stage startups with support and resources they need to build a sustainable and scalable business and a viable plan for growth. No-cost programs and services can include coworking space, accelerator programs, legal and intellectual property resources, and expert mentorships from Penn State’s extensive network. LaunchBox is open to everyone — community members and those affiliated with Penn State. Happy Valley LaunchBox is a signature program of the Invent Penn State initiative and one of 21 innovation spaces located in Penn State campus communities across Pennsylvania. Learn more.

This project was financed in part by a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community & Economic Development.

About The Penn State Brand Academy 

The Penn State Brand Academy, a joint initiative of Invent Penn State and Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics, empowers student-athletes with the tools, resources and knowledge to elevate their personal brands and leverage their monetary potential through “Name, Image, and Likeness” opportunities. By providing innovative educational programming, exclusive access to successful alums, and direct connections to partnership opportunities, The Brand Academy helps equip student-athletes with the skills they need to thrive both on and off the field.

The Brand Academy is funded through the Wally Triplett Brand Academy Endowment.