A Penn State Student’s Journey From Uncertainty To Self-Started Business
Throughout life we are forced to make choices — whether we want to or not. The fear of regret that comes along with life-changing decisions can be crippling, but taking a chance is always an available option for the most optimistic of people. With the possibility to sink or swim, sometimes the reward outweighs the risk. Penn State student Mitch Robinson is no stranger to that.
Hailing from a small suburb outside of Chicago, Robinson was the typical stressed-out senior trying to find a college that fit best with his career aspirations. He knew energy and environmental engineering sat at the top of his list when it came to prospective majors and many Big Ten schools — especially Wisconsin — sat at the top of his prospective colleges. When some of these schools put a damper on his ambitions with a flurry of rejection letters, there was still one option to explore.
“I didn’t get in everywhere I wanted to go,” Robinson started, “but I felt like Penn State took a chance on me when they admitted me into the Earth and Mineral Sciences college given its reputation.”
While Robinson was ecstatic to travel hundreds of miles east and see where the opportunity could take him, many were pessimistic.
“I remember a lot of people telling me, ‘You’re making a mistake’ or, ‘It’s not going to be the same,'” he said. But as all true Penn Staters can attest, all Robinson needed was one visit and he was hooked. “I came and visited and knew this was where I needed to be.”
Now, as an Energy Business and Finance major enrolled in the college of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Robinson continues to make difficult decisions in a new capacity: as a co-founder of his new start-up, Nametag.
Recipients of the first annual Founder’s Scholarship, Robinson and Penn State alumni Spencer McCullough and Zach Zimbler were awarded $10,000 to create a start-up, social good, or non-profit over the summer.
Nametag began as ResumeRuby, a site where students could upload a resume and get advice on trying to land an internship or job. The idea to make students more marketable was promising, but like most project inceptions, it definitely had some kinks to be worked out.
“The initial version was really scrappy,” Robinson recalled, “I remember at one point we had an automatic upload feature that would upload your old resume perfectly, but really all it did was send us an email and we’d quickly type it into ResumeRuby for you and send back an email saying it’s finished.”
But after some research, development, and the name switch from “ResumeRuby” to “Nametag,” a new concept was born.
“Eventually we realized that resumes are only one part of the equation students and young people have to think about in terms of trying to get a job and build a professional reputation,” he said. “We switched out the name to Nametag and launched a tool to allow people create personal websites for free. We have other tools on the way too.”
While Nametag serves as a career toolkit that could be seen as a bare necessity to the quintessential college student today, it serves more than just as a basic platform. It’s an all-around personal brand that students will have the opportunity to create for themselves. The beauty is not behind the functionality, but the all-encompassing information that employers are looking for today.
“We have a drag-and-drop resume builder, personal portfolio creation tool, and curated career advice all baked into the site. It’s all the things you need to build your personal brand over the long-term,” Robinson said.
While he’s still striving to make the site as user-friendly as possible, he also understands the importance of getting every detail right. One missing element could mean the difference between getting an interview or not.
“We’re living in a world where it’s never been more important to be able to sell yourself. And the better you can sell yourself, the more interesting opportunities that get presented to you,” Robinson said.
He’s now enjoying time spent marketing his start-up to the greater student population. The excitement he feels as he caters his product to all students and potential employees is part of the process. He says the progress is encouraging and only hopes it becomes more popular with time. His favorite part about the site, though, isn’t necessarily about his ownership — it’s the outpouring of praise Nametag has received thus far.
“My favorite part is always when we get emails from users who tell us that we’re making their lives easier or about an opportunity we helped them get. One of the first ones we got was from a guy in France and we had to use Google translate to figure out what he said. I’ll never forget that,” he said.
The site is a great tool for students who wish for a competitive advantage over others. The functionality of it makes life easy and proves extremely user-friendly throughout. With different themes and options to add cover letters, social media handles, and personal websites, the opportunity to showcase yourself as you are simple as ever. And it’s all free.
Now a senior, Robinson looks forward to committing his full energy into the site and business after graduation and is grateful for how the journey has turned out. While he admits it hasn’t been the most straightforward path, he’s pleased with the experience and success he’s had nonetheless.
“I’m incredibly grateful for my time here. I’m grateful for the relationships I’ve made, the things I’ve learned, and the help I’ve gotten,” he said.
If wasn’t for two separate entities taking chances on one another, the outcome might have been bleak. The fear of choosing the lesser of the two evils will always be a difficult one, but Robinson seemed sure. When asked if he made the right choice by coming to Penn State, his answer was glaringly obvious from the smile on his face.
“I wouldn’t be the same person I am today and Nametag wouldn’t have been started without it. Penn State, what it felt like, took a chance on me, and I wanted to take a chance on it.”