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Spreading Happiness

Student-led MASH Co. Connects Students with the Community

Members of the MASH team do some community outreach, delivery goods to Albany's Capital City Rescue Mission. 

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 6, 2017) — Student success is sometimes thought of as just on-campus activities and events. Some, however, elevate students’ ideas and take advantage of the resources here on campus to make a startup dream into a business reality.

One of these is The MASH Co.

MASH stands for “Make All Students Happy” and its aim is just that simple. Launched in January of 2016, the company sponsors events, provides students with discount codes to various restaurants and stores, helps with job searches and more — all in an effort to increase smiles at UAlbany.

“If I’m able to finish the day and go to sleep with having made one person’s day better, I did my job,” said Tiran Koren, co-founder and CEO of MASH.

Koren, a senior business major originally from Israel, transferred to UAlbany in January of 2015. Looking to quickly get involved, he joined six clubs in his first semester, but found he wanted even more engagement.

“After a month or so of socializing with students, especially freshman, I realized that there was some sort of a gap,” he explained, “because when you wanted to go outside and do things off campus, no one told me directly what there was to do.”

It was then that the idea for MASH began to spark in his head. Surveying fellow students at the end of that same semester, he found that many felt the same way he did. Working with a view other students, MASH was formed.

In January of 2016, Blackstone LaunchPad arrived at UAlbany, an entrepreneurship program designed to support and mentor students. Each year, Blackstone holds a Start-Up Competition where students pitch their business plan in hopes of winning a cash prize to use for developing their ideas into going businesses. In its first competition, MASH was entered, but did not win.

“When we first pitched it, they said we had the energy and vision but were lacking the numbers, which we understood,” Koren said.

Over the next few months, Koren and the team worked to gather data, get testimonials and talk to vendors. They switched the company’s focus from a discount card to a digital app. By the time Blackstone LaunchPad’s next competition came around, they were fully prepared.

“By the next competition a year after, we had already formed this community, which we always wanted,” Koren said.

MASH took home the title in April of 2017, as well as $6,000. Now, Blackstone LaunchPad is there to help them with their goal of becoming a national organization.

“They’re like our big brother,” Koren said. “If we need something or they need something, we help each other.”

Among MASH’s team is Giselle Gutierrez, a transfer Public Administration and Policy major that Koren met on his first day at UAlbany. Gutierrez now serves as the director of human resources for MASH. Also on the team as director of operations is Vincent Fiorenza, a Marketing and Management graduate this past May. The most recent addition to the team is Gabe Flaten, a sophomore marketing major who has taken on the role of director of public relations.

“How can you argue with something that is just so positive and has no drawbacks?” Flaten said regarding the positive student response to MASH. Whether by passing out popsicles before summer vacation or holding events, students seem to love the company’s mission. Yet, it goes much further than just fun.

MASH has a strong community service aspect, donating to nonprofits and holding clothing and food drives all across Albany for the Capital City Rescue Mission and food pantries.

“It’s fun and it’s a family,” said Koren, “but we’re also all learning from the startup and getting real-life experience. We each learn from one another and learn from the experience. Over the past year and a half, I can say that this is something I don’t believe we could have gotten from a class or even a group project.”

MASH offers internships to students, through the Community and Public Service Program.

Gutierrez explained, “We’re working with Blackstone to give students up to three credits to work with us. There’s just so much out there that these students will have the opportunity to gain while being a part of making students happy.”

Almost two years since its conception, MASH has come a long way in impacting the lives of students, whether that be a free slice of pizza or information on a job opening via their app.

“It’s very easy to give up because there’s a lot of distractions — school, social life, family, work, student debts,” said Koren. “It’s OK to try and fail, but go for it with your full heart.”

Fiorenza added, “Your professional career should start in college, not after.”

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