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06-28-2016

Stephen Matthew Designs: Spotlight on Startups at Clarkson University Shipley Center for Innovation

After 17 years in the U.S. Army, Stephen Matthew Wisniew tackles challenges like a military mission -- with a strategy and an end goal. His design and consulting company, Stephen Matthew Designs, brings together his drive to make businesses succeed and his engineer's problem-solving approach.

The San Diego native, who served in the 10th Mountain Division's Strategic and Operations Planning office for three years and one at the Public Affairs Office at Fort Drum, has chosen the North Country as his home and is launching “Task Force Vetrepreneur” to deploy veterans into the workforce as CEOs and entrepreneurs. He's working with Clarkson University's Shipley Center for Innovation, Capital Region Campus and its North Country Innovation Hot Spot business incubator.

“I worked on a business plan in the Boots to Business program through the Institute for Veterans and Families in Syracuse, offered by the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University,” he says. “The Army had trained me in design and planning, so I wanted to take that skill into the civilian world. I began to shop around my plan and see where in New York state I could do this.”

Wisniew, who works under his first name, Stephen Matthew, first considered establishing his company in Syracuse or Rochester. When he came across information on Clarkson and the Reh Center for Entrepreneurship, he drove up to look at the area and the Peyton Hall business incubator. He met with Matt Draper, executive director of Clarkson University's Shipley Center for Innovation, which guides innovators through the process of commercialization. While Draper told him his plan is a great fit for the Hot Spot program, he also gave the former soldier a peek at life in the area.

“I'm settling down for first time in my life,” says Wisniew, who lives in Madrid. “I'm looking for a community that fits my life and business. Matt Draper told me, 'We have the resources to help you out.' And they do. It's amazing what's available. I can't say enough about how grateful I am for the program and for finding it.”

He adds, “Being part of the community is important to me, as is the idea of running my own business. I fell in love with this area. I visited Rochester, Buffalo, Albany, and Syracuse and went down to Florida as well. Those places just didn't feel right. My son and daughter are nine and seven now. Last year, I told them I don't think people in those places care about what I'm doing, but they do in northern New York. So my kids said we have to come to northern New York. That sold it for me.”

Getting to this point hasn't been easy in a lot of ways, though. He first tried to build a team by going to city planners, county planners, and economic developers. They weren't interested in his ideas because he couldn't explain it well, until he used the North Country Economic Development Council's Vision and turned it into a mission and an operational plan, like he was used to doing in the Army. Then he refocused his strategy.

In addition to his exemplary military experience, he has a bachelor's degree in civil and environmental engineering from Villanova University, a master's degree in civil engineering from the University of Missouri Science and Technology, a master's degree in strategic communications from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism, and a master's degree in military art and science from the Command and General Staff College, School of Advanced Military Science. He marshaled his education, training and grit toward answering challenges put forth in the North Country's Regional Economic Development Plan.

“I plugged in projects to all of the areas the plan addressed,” he notes. “Then I went to the Shipley Center and told them 'This is what I'm doing.' Retired veterans can apply for this veteran entrepreneur program, get a Master of Business Administration degree through Clarkson, and go through a shadow CEO program that will certify them as business leaders and entrepreneurs around the North Country. This aligns the mission and vision of the North Country's economic development plan with Clarkson University's practical sustainable solutions, and it will help create wealth in this area.”

“Imagine senior officers and non-commissioned officers working with fresh students on projects. What great give and take this can provide. Then when businesses are looking for leaders and they could use a mature professional to get it off the ground, the veterans will be right here to help,” he adds.

His goal is to start with 10 vets by August 2016. Then he'll add more each year. They all will create new lives, community and commerce along this northern edge of New York state.

Draper is happy to spread the word about the resources and triumphs of the North Country. The Innovation Hot Spot is in its second year and has already worked with more than 100 projects, notching success after success.

“The resulting companies have created 62 new jobs and retained 14 jobs as well as increased revenues or received funding totaling $5.3 million. These are all regional innovators and they exhibit the tremendous talent and human capital we have in our region," Draper comments.

Wisniew agrees. “We have the abilities here. People don't truly understand how much capability there is here with the university. They've gone through all my different projects and they're as excited as I am. They're teaching me how to push it further, how to get it off the shelf. They're innovative people. I'm really, really happy with the choice to be here.”

“When I left the military, I knew I could do something for veterans. I can innovate for them. Clarkson University has been instrumental in making this happen. They've given me the contacts, put me in touch, and now I have space at Peyton Hall.”

He welcomes visitors at his 65 Main St. site in Potsdam. People may contact Wisniew through his website (http://www.stephenmatthewdesign.com/services.html) or by email at contact@stephenmatthewdesign.com. Phone him at 561-866-9468.

Learn more about the Shipley Center for Innovation at Clarkson University at www.clarkson.edu/shipley.

Photo caption: With the help of Clarkson University's Shipley Center for Innovation, U.S. Army veteran Stephen Matthew Wisniew has established his design and consulting company, Stephen Matthew Designs, in Potsdam.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/swisniew.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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