For seven years, Siena has honored alumni with the annual Civitella Entrepreneur of the Year award. This year, the Stack Center added an honor for a current student.
At a virtual ceremony on May 13, Bud Heck ‘63, founder and CEO of Alpin Haus, was named the 2021 Civitella Entrepreneur of the Year, while Jared MacFarland ’21, received the inaugural Student Entrepreneur Leader honor.
“I was really surprised and extremely honored by the award,” said MacFarland. “I will continue to help student entrepreneurs see the potential in their business ideas. I hope to inspire them to become the best version of themselves.”
MacFarland said that he joined the Stack Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Siena’s entrepreneurship club as a freshman, not really knowing what to expect. The first event he attended was the induction ceremony for the Maddalone Wall of Success, and while there he started talking with one of the inductees who had founded a blockchain business.
“We talked a lot about cryptos and he actually offered me an internship,” he said. “That conversation kick-started my career and I owe that to the Stack Center and that great event.”
Michael Hickey ’83, executive director of the Stack Center, said, "I can't think of a better student example as our inaugural Entrepreneur Student Leader Award than Jared MacFarland. He has not only committed himself to entrepreneurship here at Siena, but did so while balancing numerous other school responsibilities and jobs. More important was his role in mentoring and helping other fellow students on their own personal entrepreneurial journeys. He has set a high bar for those who will follow him."
MacFarland calls the Stack Center “a hub of ideas and innovations” and has enjoyed meeting new students with business ideas and talking about how to get them off the ground. He participated in Spark Tank competitions, and then used his experience to help other students with their pitches.
His advice to budding Siena entrepreneurs?
“Get involved as much as possible in the Stack Center, your classes, and any other student organizations that fit your passions,” he said. “Utilize all the resources available to you at Siena and help other students learn how to use those resources. It’s also really important to live outside your comfort zone. Doing things that make you stressed or nervous will help you grow as a person and as a professional.”
The ceremony’s other winner, Bud Heck, was once in the same shoes as MacFarland. He and his childhood friend John Daly ran a Christmas tree business and a sno-cone truck, and used the proceeds to found Alpin Haus in 1964. The outdoor recreation chain began as a small A-frame ski shop in Amsterdam, NY and now has five area locations with more than 200 employees who sell recreational vehicles, boats, pools, patio furniture and a wide range of sporting equipment and apparel.
“My employees are my friends,” Heck said. “We love to be together. When I came home from work, I was always happy. If you come home and complain about work, your family won’t want to be a part of the business.”
Good thing Heck stayed smiling – after nearly six decades Alpin Haus is still family-owned and operated.
He said he and his Alpin Haus co-founder hoped their business would be successful and eventually expand, but are still a little surprised at their success.
He told the Siena students to work hard, because “the harder you work the luckier you get.”
The annual award is endowed by Antonio Civitella ’91, president and CEO of Transfinder. Civitella was Siena’s first Entrepreneur of the Year honoree in 2014.
“I decided to sponsor this award because I believe it is important to recognize the contributions Siena alumni are making in our community,” said Civitella. “Bud Heck illustrates what this award is all about, starting Alpin Haus soon after graduation. Now it’s one of the leading outdoor recreational retailers in the Northeast.”
Hickey said, "One of the pleasures of having this job is getting the opportunity to meet different generations of Siena entrepreneurs and I am never disappointed. Bud Heck is a perfect example of a Siena entrepreneur, focused on the positive social impacts of his enterprise, engaged with his community and building a family business that will enjoy multi-generational benefits.”