Adding to His Entrepreneurship Toolbox

Adding to His Entrepreneurship Toolbox

When Alex Zorniger was a child, he ignored the instructions that came with his LEGOS. Instead, he used the pieces to construct something entirely new.

It was a glimmer of the man he would become: a serial entrepreneur influenced by family and a natural curiosity bubbling within him.

“My parents were kind of my foundation,” he said. “I was raised in a family with an environment of building their business. I always had this passion for having an impact and building things.”

Zorniger, a second-year Full-Time MBA student at Fisher, first arrived on campus having had a taste of entrepreneurial success. After earning an undergraduate degree at Tufts University in Massachusetts, he joined a fledgling business out of Cincinnati — Scene75 Entertainment Center, a competitor to Dave & Busters.

Beginning as a social media coordinator in 2012, Zorniger rose to become the company’s vice president of marketing in 2019, all while Scene75 expanded from 70 employees to 700. But as the organization’s growth plateaued, Zorniger sought out other opportunities, ultimately landing at Fisher to earn his MBA.

“I wanted to develop more formalized business knowledge and then to try and take those learnings and pivot them into the sustainability and technology space that I've been interested in for so long,” he said.

Zorniger, who hails from Dayton, Ohio, was drawn to Fisher by its strong reputation and the cost of living in central Ohio.

“I thought about the long-term potential,” he said. “I really wanted to go to a city that had a combination of career opportunities, but not extremely expensive like a Boston, New York or San Francisco.”

It didn’t take him long to resume his passion for creating and making an impact.

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, Zorniger built an in-home childcare website to connect parents, who were working from home and had children also at home learning remotely, with college students who had gained newfound flexibility with their time because of distance learning.  

While the project never took off because of uncertainties related to COVID-19, Zorniger remained upbeat.

“It was still worth the time I spent on it, just in case the project was actually able to help working parents manage the situation,” he said.

Zorniger credits Roger Bailey, clinical assistant professor of marketing and director of Fisher’s Full-Time MBA (FTMBA) program, with having a significant impact on his growth. Bailey has been equally impressed.

“Alex is an asset to the FTMBA program,” Bailey said. “Resourceful, talented and relentlessly hard-working, his creativity in solving problems extends far beyond the classroom. He has reached out on multiple occasions to offer ideas to help fellow students and the Columbus community.” 

“Alex is not only willing to invest his time and energy to implement his ideas, he is a habitual volunteer when help is needed around him.”

Undeterred by the ideas that didn’t pan out, Zorniger turned his attention to another opportunity at Ohio State: the 2020 Best of Student Startups (BOSS) competition.

The annual event, hosted by the Tim and Kathleen Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship, is a semester-long contest at Ohio State that puts more than 40 student startup teams through workshops and pitch presentations. Top teams at the end of each semester are awarded funding to launch their ventures.

Zorniger took first place at BOSS with his idea for Transfer Base, a company that provides tools to help technology-based organizations discover and efficiently access valuable university research and researchers in order to increase their revenue through new products, services and business lines. His work impressed those around him.

“Alex excelled as a participant in the BOSS competition,” said Jake Cohen, a program director at the Keenan Center. “He was able to display a high level of knowledge and confidence with his startup idea, while also truly being open to feedback from the BOSS workshops. I’m confident that Alex will find continued success as an entrepreneur.”

Zorniger said his business skills and thinking have certainly evolved since arriving at Fisher.

“Any business knowledge I had before the MBA was developed from Googling different problems and making up solutions along the way. It was a great way to learn, but it also left something to be desired,” he said.

“One of the startups that I worked for was a big success; the other was a total failure and lost investors hundreds of thousands of dollars," he added. "If I had some of the skills I now possess after finishing an MBA, maybe we could have done something different at the failed startup to make it a success.”

While not a driving force in his career pursuits, Zorniger is pragmatic about other benefits of pursuing and earning an MBA.

“Personally, I have experienced that the MBA is a significant driver in employers’ willingness to pay,” he said. “Employers are consistently willing to pay more for MBAs than non-MBAs, especially early on in your career.”

Zorniger has plans to continue to grow Transfer Base through additional fundraising, but as any true entrepreneur knows, the next big idea could be around the corner.

This time, he’s prepared with the skills, experiences and perspectives to sustain his next passion project.

“If it's not Transfer Base that I'm going to do full-time, then I’ll be looking for a new opportunity,” he said. “It could be a combination of strategy and innovation, ideally, in the energy or sustainability field, so I’m trying to figure exactly what that next step looks like.”

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