When the opportunity to get involved with the Baker Institute presented itself, Kiara Damon ’21 thought, “Why not?” — proving that she always had the entrepreneurial spirit. Her experiences at Lehigh ignited that spark and showed her how far that spirit could take her.
From day one, she felt welcomed and inspired at the Baker Institute, Lehigh’s entrepreneurial hub. Innovative programs like the Hatchery — the institute’s summer start-up program — and EUREKA! pitch competitions opened her eyes to what was achievable. “It made starting a business more feasible for someone like me: low income, from Brooklyn, even just being a psychology major, starting a business — all of that seems impossible. But I think the Hatchery solidified that it is possible for anybody. You just need to take the right steps and put the work in.”
Lehigh provides the space and the support for that kind of student passion and motivation to thrive. “Everyone I’ve met,” says Kiara, “has played a role in my drive to pursue entrepreneurship,” from innovation programs manager Renée Baran to innovator-in-residence Chris Kauzmann and executive director Lisa Getzler. In professor Pat Costa’s entrepreneurship course, Kiara first had the idea to develop a special glove for her fellow cheerleaders — “our hands get brutally cold,” stunting and tumbling outside — an innovation she continued to pursue as an independent study.
And coming to Lehigh wasn’t even on her radar. It wasn’t until she saw her financial aid package — the most generous she received: “I kind of froze,” she says, laughing — that her future at Lehigh was assured. Now she has a relationship with donor Bob Fioretti ’84, who reaches out to her with encouragement and support. “[Mr. Fioretti] being available, on top of donating money, shows me there are people who care about me who don’t even know me,” she says. She’s committed to passing that gift along. “I would like to be a success story,” she says, “for people like me who feel it’s impossible.”