Lehigh’s professional master’s program in Technical Entrepreneurship helped student-athlete Hannah Leskow ’18 ’19 M.Eng. turn a personal hurdle into a business venture in less than a year

During her junior and senior years at Lehigh University, Hannah Leskow suffered injuries that would ultimately force her to sit out her final season as a Division 1 cross-country and track runner.

Although she didn’t know it at the time, the premature end of her athletic career would be a driving force behind her next act post-graduation: earning a professional master’s degree through Lehigh’s Technical Entrepreneurship (TE) program.  

As Leskow struggled to find resources to help her emotionally and physically cope, she wished there were an easy-to-use tool, catered to athletes, that would jump-start her recovery.

Less than a year after launching her master’s studies, that idea became a reality through Brimby, a personal-development platform she developed during the TE program.

“It’s a software tool designed specifically for student-athletes,” she explains. The software, which is currently being tested by the university’s athletic program, “assesses how student-athletes are doing on a weekly basis, then recommends resources for them to use.”

Leskow made the leap from a real-life problem to a developed product and associated venture with limited business experience prior to the TE program.

“I always thought about getting an MBA down the road,” says Leskow, who earned her bachelor’s degree through Lehigh’s IDEAS (Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences) program. But after researching potential options, she realized she wanted to focus on one specific goal—learning the skills to start her own business.

Lehigh's 11-month, 30-credit professional master’s program in Technical Entrepreneurship is creating the next generation of innovative problem solvers. Students in the program learn by experiencing the idea-to-venture process in an educational environment that's hard-wired to support the development of novel, innovative, and commercially viable technologies.

Before applying, Leskow sought advice from a student enrolled in TE. “He told me, ‘It is what you make of it,” she says. The phrase resonated with Leskow’s competitive-runner mindset and clinched her decision. She knew she had the drive to pursue a goal and make it successful, she just needed the tools to make it happen.

“The TE program is representative of the real world,” she says. “If you want something, you have to be the one to go get it. The master’s degree sets you up really well to do that.”

As she started the program, Leskow quickly realized the next year was going to be completely different than any other educational experience she’d ever had. Entrepreneurship wasn’t about textbooks, or lectures, or cramming for a test. Instead, the coursework emphasizes and refines ways to develop new ideas, be creative, and most importantly, figure out how to execute.

“Going in, I kind of knew I wanted to build something that had to do with health and wellness, but it was still very broad,” Leskow says. The professors and mentors in the TE program helped her refine that idea into a fully-fledged business.

First, that meant talking to hundreds of people.

Leskow performed a stakeholder analysis, speaking with students on Lehigh’s campus and connecting with fellow athletes. She talked to sports psychologists and her yoga instructor. “I would ask them, ‘What does health and wellness mean to you?’” she says. Most people responded by saying physical and mental well-being. “But my acupuncturist gave me, like, seven different answers: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social—things like that.”

Those conversations helped Leskow refine her idea. She started sketching thoughts into her Inventor’s Notebook—a tool every Technical Entrepreneurship student receives to encourage creativity.

Leskow eventually formed the business model straight from her own personal experience, when she was injured and withdrawn and had no easy way to find resources that could help her recover mentally or physically. There was a need in the marketplace, which is why she launched Brimby.

It’s the product that she wishes she had when she felt lost in her athletic career and wasn’t sure where her actual career would take her next. And that’s exactly what the TE program does, Leskow says. It helps students find problems, then build ways to solve them.

After earning her master’s degree, Leskow is now a full-time consultant for EY [Ernst & Young] as she plans her next steps with Brimby.

“TE was a great bridge between being an undergraduate and going into an industry,” Leskow says. “You aren’t just reading a book and writing a report on it. You are learning about real-world business and how to build something.”

As a runner, Leskow understands that half the battle is just getting to the start line. She feels like her master’s degree did more than just that. TE gave her the tools and skills to reach the finish.

—Kit Fox is a freelance contributor for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science 

Department/Program: 
Hannah Leskow

Following her graduation from Lehigh's TE program, Hannah Leskow visited national parks in Arizona and Utah, including Zion National Park.