March 18th, 2018, 1:00 PM

Eric Shannon wasn't sure what to expect in his first year as a Company Advisor. After all, it had been twenty-four years since he set foot on Lycoming College in Williamsport. Certainly things had changed, and yet, they looked eerily familiar. You see, Eric was a PFEW student at Lycoming in 1993, and unbeknownst to him that week, a seed was planted, a seed that would bear great fruit.

Admittedly a poor student (but a good test taker), Eric graduated college and began his career in banking. He hated it. He said in 2004 he "stumbled upon" search engine marketing (S.E.M.), and abruptly left his job in banking, taking a 50% pay cut to work with a local catalog retailer. He embraced S.E.M., and quickly was named Director of E-Commerce. Shortly thereafter the entrepreneurial seed sprouted, and he started an online retail pet supply company from his home called, "Oh My Dog." Using his talents for S.E.M., he quickly took Oh My Dog to the top of the Google search engines. The very next year he quit the catalog company, and for the next five years successfully ran Oh My Dog. But something was missing. Eric still wasn't fulfilled. That missing piece was volunteering, giving back. So seeking opportunities that fueled his passions, he volunteered at numerous animal and educational non-profits. In 2012 the sprout bloomed, and Eric sold his half of Oh My Dog to his former business partner, and founded Big Barker, a Philadelphia-based manufacturer of therapeutic dog bedding whose 2016 sales topped $5 million. He'd say the roots of that sprout were growing deeper.

Never one to let grass grow under his feet, in 2016 year he began looking for his next volunteer opportunity, and PFEW popped into his head. He says, "PFEW meant a lot to me back in 1993. Not just because of the business exposure, but it was a wonderful social experience also... being on my own for the week, meeting new peers, getting an opportunity to be a respected voice... it was a good confidence builder. So I thought, 'I wonder if they're still around?' I did a quick Google search, saw that PFEW was still going strong, sent an email, and got a reply from Karen (Musante) shortly thereafter. Next thing you know, I was in King of Prussia for the (Company Advisor Volunteer) Training Session."

His first year as a Company Advisor was an eye-opening experience. He loved his team. In fact, he was so impressed by them that he actually hired three of his students after the program as social media interns! Says Eric, "They've been great. We meet once per week via webcam meetings and they work independently for five to ten hours per week. They do most of the work on our Twitter and Instagram accounts, and they're adding more responsibilities every week. When we have in-person donation events, they sometimes come out to those and take pictures/video & publish to social media. I also put them through different professional training programs and certifications in marketing and social media. My whole team really enjoys working with them, and they're getting some great hands-on experience." What Eric doesn't say is that he pays them significantly more than minimum wage because he says, "They're worth it."

Eric has definitely come full circle, from PFEW student, to entrepreneur, to PFEW volunteer, to now PFEW donor. The seed planted those many years ago at PFEW has grown into a beautiful tree, deeply rooted in hard work, abundant in entrepreneurial spirit, and bearing the fruit of giving back. Thank you, Eric!!

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