Small Business, Big Change
As a freshman at Quinnipiac University, Prato was running a residential painting company through College Pro, an innovative company that helps college students pay for school and gain critical business skills. He already had the hands on experience, but he knew he could do more. “I came to Pace primarily for the entrepreneurship program,” Prato says. “I looked around at other schools and found that Pace was very unique in offering a program like this.”
When he arrived at Pace, Prato threw himself into another start up, as co-founder and president of the student organization, SIFE: Students in Free Enterprise. The chapter, which has a strong focus on social responsibility and entrepreneurship, led Prato to reach out to Pace’s Wilson Center for Social Entrepreneurship.
The center told Prato about its Social Enterprise in Residence program and introduced him to Stoked, a youth mentoring program that engages young people through sports. Stoked was looking to open a surf shop in order to raise money and provide youth in the program with job opportunities and training. Prato met with Stoked President Steve Larosiliere and the wheels were set in motion. With guidance from the Wilson Center and Lubin’s Entrepreneurship Program and faculty advisor Bruce Bachenheimer, Prato and the students from SIFE produced a well researched 55-page business plan in just two months that was later awarded the winner of the 2012 Pace Business Plan Competition. “The whole experience was a great opportunity,” says Prato. “I knew I was interested in entrepreneurship, but meeting with the founders, doing all the research, getting help from so many sources, and writing the business plan in full helped cement that.”
The opportunity also helped Prato secure his next position: working on student outreach and program development for the Wilson Center. In that position, Prato helped establish a student-based committee that reviewed the enterprises applying to the Wilson Center for their paid internship program. One of the internships that crossed their desk? A paid position with the NYC Department of Small Business Services.
While Prato went through the same application process as all other Pace students, it’s not surprising he earned the coveted slot. In addition to his experience with the Wilson Center, Prato has held numerous internships during his time at Pace, working for real-estate firm Level Group, direct marketing company Direct Agents, and the private wealth management group at UBS. “The internship opportunities and work experience I’ve gained in my time at Pace have been critical,” says Prato. “Through Career Services, I’ve held consistent jobs and internships from the second I walked in the door here. That was another one of my drivers in coming to Pace—the opportunities that the location in New York City and Career Services provided.”