Mercyhurst Magazine Summer 2015

Wheaton ofers jump-start for new Erie businesses By Deborah W. Morton It started as wishful thinking: could Kris Wheaton achieve the same success for others that he had for himself in the world of crowdfunding and, more importantly, could he sustain it? In a word: Yes! Wheaton is an associate professor of intelligence studies at Mercyhurst who, although born in Dallas, Texas, and raised in the South, is one of Erie, Pennsylvania’s, biggest cheerleaders. Through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, he sees the potential to transform the Great Lakes city into an “idea hub” by taking local entrepreneurial projects to the next level and, in some cases, morphing them into full-fedged businesses. To date, he has managed successful Kickstarter campaigns for seven out of eight projects, and he has 13 more waiting in the wings. This, he says, is just the beginning. Wheaton is a key player in the new Ignite Erie: Industry-University Business Acceleration Collaborative, led by Mercyhurst University and Penn State Behrend with a $750,000 grant from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority. The collaborative is part of ECGRA’s three-part, $3.9 million initiative to catalyze small business development and strengthen the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.


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