WNY Prosperity Fellows boost regional resurgence
By Kevin Manne
As founder and CEO of Rycar Media, Ryan Carr, BS ’12, MBA ’14, has spearheaded digital marketing campaigns that have brought his Western New York clients nearly $3.5 million in revenue.
Rycar is Carr’s second startup venture since graduating. His first, Body Shop Nutrition, manufactures and sells nutritional supplements online, and was the inspiration to ultimately build a business that helps other firms enhance their digital presence.
“After starting Body Shop, I quickly realized I had a lot to learn about e-commerce,” he says. “When I dove into online advertising I fell in love with it, and two years later I’ve made it my full-time business.”
Carr credits his experience in the Western New York Prosperity Scholarship program for giving him the confidence and skills to take the leap into entrepreneurship.
“Being a Prosperity Scholar plants a seed in your mind that you’re going to help the community,” he says. “The incredible support of this scholarship inspired me to give back to the community exponentially.”
For 10 years, the Western New York Prosperity Scholarship program has been helping the region rise by assisting UB students who are actively preparing for careers that further local economic development and growth.
Generously supported by the Prentice Family Foundation, the program provides professional development opportunities, as well as resources and access to local business leaders and the community. In total, the program has supported 165 UB students, and of those, 72 are from the School of Management.
While originally a scholarship, the program has recently evolved into the WNY Prosperity Fellowship program—a change that is key to building the WNY Prosperity community, according to Hadar Borden, who directs the program at UB.
“A scholarship just supports your education; a fellowship is a community,” she says. “Fellows can pick up the phone and call someone for advice, and there’s always someone who says, ‘I’m in, how can I help you?’”
WNY Prosperity Fellows are awarded a paid summer internship, scholarship support up to $25,000 based on their unmet financial need, and an enrichment fund of $1,000 to participate in experiential learning opportunities related to their academic interests.
In exchange, Prosperity Fellows commit to working in Western New York for at least two of the 10 years following their graduation, thereby giving back economically to the region they have pledged to support.
Bryant H. Prentice III, president of the Prentice Family Foundation and chairman of the board of Bryant & Stratton College, says the foundation was inspired by Buffalo’s renaissance to create the program and focus on job creation with a multiplier effect.
“This is about long-term impact,” he says. “We’re betting on these fellows becoming influential in their companies and having an influence on location of plants and facilities, resulting in thousands of WNY jobs in a decade or two from now.”
Brian Bowman, PharmD/MBA ’16, pharmacist at Gerould’s Professional Pharmacy Inc. and vice president at Serving In God's Name (SIGN) Inc., is one of those influential WNY Prosperity alumni. In his role at SIGN, Bowman leads medical missions to Haiti and brings team members from WNY, ultimately benefiting both regions.
“Everyone who goes has a broader perspective on seeing people’s needs and having a heart to serve others,” he says. “Many members return to WNY to volunteer locally and get others involved in using medicine to serve beyond their normal careers.”
Jill Clark, MBA ’10, was in the first cohort of students to receive the scholarship. She says the program lightened her financial burden, allowing her and her husband to buy their first home and set roots down in WNY.
“Receiving the scholarship took a huge financial weight off my shoulders, which allowed me to focus on my studies and hit the ground running when starting my career,” she says.
That career has led her to her current role as marketing project manager at the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., which oversees development, programming and operations at Buffalo’s waterfront.
“For the past six years I’ve had the honor of working at a corporation that has had a direct impact on the rebirth of Buffalo and Western New York,” Clark says. “As a native Buffalonian, I am bursting with pride at the growth this area has seen and what is to come in the future.”
Thanks to the Western New York Prosperity Fellowship program, UB’s best and brightest are equipped to make that future a prosperous one.