Bridging the Gap

Students were becoming frustrated. Their needs were not being met. There had to be a better solution when it came to computer servicing. This was the vision that the founders of Juniata Computer saw when they started their business almost four years ago.

The demands were high at Juniata College for a good supplement to something that was already doing its best through various staffing and budgeting. Teaching Learning Technology was implemented as a way to aid students in any sort of technology related issues on campus. It seemed as though everything was going well in the way of giving the campus what they needed; however there are certain issues that cannot be touched by a student-run body on campus.

A couple of those issues would include any type of hardware or software concerns that a student staff member cannot be allowed to touch. These types of computer problems, despite being fixable, can potentially harm the computer even more if they were to be repaired by individuals without extended training. Former Juniata College students Matt Naylor and Rich Patterson saw this as not only an issue but also a great opportunity to expand upon the weaknesses of Juniata College’s technology help center.

In 2007, those two entrepreneurial individuals started their business that they appropriately named Juniata Computer.

“Juniata Computer LLC is a business created by two Juniata Alumni; they saw the need for this business by working for the TLT and Juniata CNS. Students who come in to the TLT and need their computer fixed because of viruses or hardware issues couldn’t receive  the help they needed due to the policies in place. They were then told to either call the company they bought the computer from, or call a computer service company. The owners saw this as an opportunity. They started out doing computer repairs for the students at the college, and eventually expanded to the Huntingdon area. Selling computer also became a part of their business,” explained employee and Juniata alumni Arianne Waddington.

Patterson left in the summer of 2008 and newcomer (and Juniata alumni) Jigar Patel bought into the business, partnering with Naylor. When Patel took over as co-owner of this business, he saw the vision that the previous owners built their foundations with. He then used this idea to expand with his knowledge as a former manager of the TLT at Juniata College to know how to build on the campus’ weaknesses. He saw it as a way put aside some of his free time to better a campus community, as well as other communities in central Pennsylvania.

“When you run a small business, it’s no longer a job; it’s essentially a part of you. Matt and I both run Juniata Computer along with our full-time jobs at different organizations,” said co-owner Patel. “Juniata Computer LLC is a partnership between Matt and me. We operate out of State College. We provide technology consulting, hardware, software, web development to local business in the Huntingdon and State College area. We are also [an] authorized Dell reseller.”

Patel did a favor to the community; a task to works outside of his professional life for the benefits of the students and community that he can closely relate to.

“Our primary customers are Juniata College community and Huntingdon. We built the business on taking the burden off college students and their parents,” Patel continued. “We both saw how much the parents worried when their child’s computer broke or wasn’t working. Our goal was to take the burden of technology mishaps off of the parents mind and help the students.”

However this task was not going to be easy unless they found some way to create a relationship with the campus and the community by selling their business idea to the individuals who can relate to their passion for ease and progress.

“Our most interesting and challenging experience has been trying to get Juniata College administration to help us in helping students with technology issues. We decided not to use JCEL as students to start our business, mostly because we were planning our business long term where JCEL isn’t really a good model for any business that wants to sustain itself in the long run. Because of that we faced an interesting challenge in that we weren’t [allowed] to run the business as students from our dorm rooms or use any of the college’s resources. That has followed us as we are [alumni] now. We still face a challenge in getting our print materials out to students,” Patel explained.

Thankfully, due to his experience as a student employee, Patel was able to create the bonds necessary to drive the idea behind the business.

“We have a good working relationship with Juniata College’s Campus Technology Services – because as students we had a good relationship with the leadership of CTS we have been able to help students and the faculty with their personal computer issues. Again, we are Juniata [alumni] trying to help out the Juniata Community. We try to make students technology issues their last concern to worry about,” Patel reassured.

The opportunities for student aid do not only lie on the customer side of the business. Due to this working relationship with the Juniata campus, Patel’s business is able to reach out to students who are interested in Information Technology career path or who are just looking to make some money on the side.

“We provide some great opportunities to current students. We actually have two current students that work for us on contractual basis. They get real world experience and extra money, its one way we support the lifelong learning for the students. We also have two Juniata alumni who work for us on [a] part-time basis,” Patel said.

Continuous relationships with the students on campus have provided many opportunities for onsite education and resume builders.

“Working for Juniata Computer during my education definitely gave me the extra hands on experience that would be helpful to anyone preparing for the “real world” after college. It gives you something to talk about during interviews, helps you with your knowledge of troubleshooting, etc,” said Waddington.

Real world situations are something that Juniata Computer helps its employees prepare best for.

“It has helped me become acquainted with some of the demands of having a professional job,” said Juniata College senior Alex Cooper.

“It has given me a chance to work with a larger range of computer related issues. I don’t run into the same old boring problems I would working in the TLT and it allows me to learn more about IT work and computer repair. I can learn more about the hardware side of computers than I would normally,” explained Juniata College junior David Thorpe.

Besides aiding in the college and surrounding communities, Patel and his crew wish to expand into new territories in the near future.

Waddington explains, “If all goes according to plan [with] the business of Juniata Computer LLC, I see expanding and growing. Dipping into the State College area is a huge step towards that growth. The population being so large, the Penn State students being included in that, even if we would get a small percentage of that population as new customers, it would be grounds for adding new employees or having someone be a full time person.”

“We are planning [to] continue to hire current Juniata students to work for us in the future,” said Patel.

With the future in their sites and their plan to aid a community of students clearly in sight, the staff of Juniata Computer is a driving force for bridging the much needed gap between technology and Juniata College.

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