The Grass Roots of Success

Hard work in college can prepare you for a successful career. For some students, that career begins while they’re still attending classes.

Two enterprising students, Damon Pennington ’97 (Finance) and Nordine Harris ’95, M’97 (Marketing), started their first business while earning their degrees at IUP. Once in the working world, the pair founded the Clenek Company in September, 1998.

Their flagship product is called Clenek, a hypoallergenic, ultra-thin, cotton-like strip that adheres to the inside of dress shirt collars. A seemingly simple preventative to “ring around the collar,” Clenek serves as a buffer between the neck and shirt, capturing dirt that could otherwise stain the collar.

Word of mouth and hard work resulted in the company’s achieving profitability in its first sixteen months of sales. The majority of its customer base is composed of traditional white-collar professionals. The largest vendor to date has been the Army Air Force Exchange Services, the nineteenth largest retailer in the U.S.

“Without some of the valuable lessons we gained while pursuing our degrees at IUP, I am certain that we would not be where we are today,” said Pennington. “I hope we inspire other students to realize that they need not wait until graduation to start their career or to take positive, concrete steps to fulfilling their dreams. There are so many great free resources right at the university, like the Small Business Development Center and, undoubtedly, the professors.”

The company is projecting triple-digit growth over the next three years. Its website is www.clenek.com.