Patrick Hocking is Program Manager for Greenhorn, a startup-type program that connects small businesses with students.

University of Connecticut student Patrick Hocking delved into entrepreneurship early on. In 2017, he worked with Dyadic Innovations, LLC, a startup formed at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing that is developing an innovative breastfeeding diagnostic device. There he stepped into a Director of Entrepreneurial Activities role and represented the startup in two accelerator programs.

Patrick has participated in the Accelerate UConn program, the Summer Fellowship Program at the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI), and the UConn Technology Incubation Program, where he connected with Shoreline Biome for a market research internship opportunity.

Patrick is also Program Manager for Greenhorn, a startup-type program he developed with fellow UConn student Andrew Burns, who is interning at a Y Combinator company this summer.

Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price spoke with Patrick about his entrepreneurial trajectory.

NAN PRICE: How have your experiences helped shape your journey as an entrepreneur?

PATRICK HOCKING: Dyadic Innovations was my first jump into entrepreneurship. It helped me recognize: Okay, this is where science and business meet. This is where innovation happens. This is how biotech is developing now.

Right now, I’m doing market research for Shoreline Biome. Their technology is transferable to many fields, so I’m looking at different markets they could potentially consider. It’s been interesting being involved with a company like Shoreline, which has received equity funding, compared to Dyadic, where we were building the company from the ground up and focused on those investment pitches.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from these experiences is looking at how your role changes throughout your journey as an entrepreneur in a small business. I’ve also learned to question everything by asking: How is this interacting with the market and the much larger field of the economy?

NAN: Let’s talk about Greenhorn. When and why did you develop the concept?

PATRICK: My co-founder Andrew and I started in January. The concept is to connect local small business owners with college students who can help them with things from website development and social media to market research and hypothesis to bookkeeping and accounting. The program started because Andrew wanted to help his dad’s small business and enable him to focus on what he did best.

We started by interviewing small businesses to learn about their needs—we didn’t have the idea and then go out and talk to small businesses. We just said: How do we help small businesses? We saw their problems and then, hopefully, we are meeting some of those needs by providing business owners with access to an inexpensive source of various skills.

NAN: How are you finding the expertise? And how are you finding the businesses?

PATRICK: Right now, it’s: Go fast and break things. We’re doing a lot of guerilla marketing and reaching out to every UConn student we can find on LinkedIn to see if they’re interested in participating. At first, we were trying to find students with specific skills, but now we’re developing a pool. So, when we approach businesses, we can tell them we have people right here who are available.

With the businesses, we’ve been reaching out to incubator program managers and asking to speak to their companies to learn about their challenges. And then we find students who match those challenges and can work together to help those companies.

We’ve also reached out to some local small businesses. One thing we noticed about them is they have a lot less resources than those involved in incubators. They can tap into organizations like the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CT SBDC), but they don’t have those common resources we were seeing in incubators, where people can connect you to other people.

NAN: What do you need to grow Greenhorn?

PATRICK: We’re early on. We’re still validating the value added by Greenhorn and understanding our customer base, so we have been focusing on optimization. When we were starting out, partially due to our past experience with pitching, we were obsessing too much about revenue models and not enough on effective implementation. Obviously, we see a large amount of potential for Greenhorn and, as we begin to scale up, we’ll start experimenting more with how we can provide the best experience for our stakeholders while generating revenue.

Right now, we’re working on gaining businesses and students. We’re lucky to have a network of people who have assisted us in building the company and connecting us with people. The more businesses and students we have, the more we can start developing data.

NAN: What’s next for Greenhorn and what do you plan to do after graduation?

PATRICK: I’m studying biomedical engineering and I do market research. I’m very interested in marketing and business development. Right out of college, I’d like to do sales and marketing for a biotech company or pharmaceutical company. Long-term, I am interested in taking on a CEO role and helping develop smaller companies. That’s the bigger goal.

As far as the long-term vision for Greenhorn: We hope to develop it into a unique and scalable platform that automates the process of creating these connections. One day we hope Greenhorn is the first place a small business owner goes for projects and the first step into every student’s professional career. We hope it’s something that helps grow our local economy.

Learn more about Greenhorn

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