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From Concept to Company: Collaboration spurs Centre County’s entrepreneurial ecosystem (Town&Gown)

As a senior in high school, shoe collector Nick Unis customized a pair of brand-name sneakers and sold them on eBay for a million dollars. Unfortunately, the manufacturer forced him to abandon the sale or face a lawsuit over copyright infringement.

“That’s when I decided to make my own shoes,” says Unis, now a student in Penn State’s integrated bachelor’s/master’s accounting program. He has a patent pending on a 3D printer capable of working with flexible material, operates his startup company, UnisBrands, from Happy Valley LaunchBox, and hopes to test sales with a popup store downtown this semester. His goal is to sell shoes that are custom printed to fit each client’s feet and sense of style.

“It would be ridiculously hard to do what I’m doing now without LaunchBox,” Unis says, emphasizing both the physical space and the advice he gets through the program.

LaunchBox is one of many new and ongoing local organizations that benefit entrepreneurs like Unis and helped rank State College as No. 10 on’s 2016 list of Best Cities for Entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, collaboration among university, government, and nonprofit officials is helping to boost the region’s climate for business startups.


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