Bison Hill Stonecrafts: Engineer Finds Creative Outlet in Giving New Life to Reclaimed Stone

Andrew Church is the founder and owner of Bison Hill Stonecrafts, a business dedicated to creating new housewares products from reclaimed slate and marble.

A 2013 Penn State graduate with a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Church is an employee at Erie’s GE Transportation plant. A longing for additional creative outlet led Church to explore the possibilities of carving and cutting in slate. A combination of his creativity and engineering background gave way to a new method for cutting intricate details into slate, allowing for long lasting and beautiful designs. Church was a participant in one of the 2015 cycles of the Technology Business Accelerator, a business training program and pitch contest sponsored by the SBDC, Erie Technology Incubator (ETI), and the College of Engineering and business at Gannon. After completing the incubator, Church decided to continue his relationship with the SBDC and met with a consultant to create a communications calendar for his social and website marketing, discuss new website platform options, and apply for a GEMS grant through ETI.

The communications calendar was created, looking out three months at a time to determine post topics and which platforms would be most appropriate for those posts. A monthly budget was also established for Facebook and Pinterest advertising. After much discussion and research, Church changed his website platform from an integration with his Etsy store to Shopify, an e-commerce and website building platform rolled into one solution. This allowed Church to more easily manage his inventory and improve his search engine optimization by creating more robust product descriptions.

The biggest portion of the engagement thus far was working on Church’s application for Gannon Entrepreneurship Microgrants for Startups (GEMS) program. The program, facilitated by ETI, offered grants between $3,000 and $9,000 to entrepreneurs for a variety of purposes including the purchase of equipment or software and working capital. Church requested assistance in writing his application to ensure all the questions were answered thoroughly and clearly. Church’s partnership with the Gannon University SBDC in writing his application earned him a grant of $3,500 that will be put toward advertising, a virtual tenant relationship with ETI, and his new website.

Church’s next step moving forward with the SBDC will be to continue creating content calendars and to expand the wholesale branch of his business to gift shops and other retailers in the area. The SBDC will assist him in identifying possible retailers to carry his products