Steve Boerner stands in front of the Hatch House, which is being renovated to house entrepreneurs and office space, on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. Boerner is the president co-founder of the project. (Gaby Morera/ B&W Staff)

Entrepreneur house created to aid students in business start-up


From its location and exterior, Hatch House appears like any other off-campus residence for Lehigh students. However, the house — located at 208 East Fourth St. — offers much more to entrepreneurial students than just a place to live.

Described as an entrepreneurial hub with a “West Coast” work mentality, the house is currently undergoing renovations as a part of a collaborative program that strives to create a resourceful environment for student entrepreneurs to establish and launch their businesses.

Stephen Boerner, founder of Hatch House Ventures LLC, is a former employee of a Fortune 500 company and places an emphasis on creating a friendly environment for its student entrepreneurs.

“Hatch House is designed to maximize the educational investment,” Boerner said. “First and foremost, we’re creating a home. Home has to feel like home and be as relaxing as much as it is productive. We’re not trying to overwhelm residents, but rather provide the ideal climate for growing their entrepreneurial ideas.”

JJ O’Brien, ’14, a potential resident of the program and finance major with minors in philosophy and entrepreneurship, credits the program’s uniqueness to the comfortable environment it would create.

“What I liked about with Steve, is it’s not something that should be stressful for the student,” O’Brien said. “The idea is to have fun.”

Hatch House teams its residents with a vast network of businesses that are investing their time and money in the program, such as Fifth Street Capital Partners, offering an ideal support system for student entrepreneurs.

“I built the support network for Hatch House based on my own ability to network in the region,” Boerner said. “I’m from Bethlehem, so I’ve had a good network in the Lehigh Valley for some time, but starting Hatch House has forced me to make contacts I wouldn’t have normally. That said, I’ve sat with dozens of CEOs and business leaders in the area and the support is incredible.

“Not one person I spoke to isn’t willing to donate their time and expertise to helping Hatch House members take their business to the next level.”

Hatch House, despite its rigor and versatility, is systematically set up like a typical off-campus house. However, it is physically equipped with perks for students including a maker’s space that provides technology such as a 3D printer under an open-office style environment.

“The terms are similar to any other lease a student would sign,” Boerner said. “They are agreeing to live in Hatch House for 12 months. Rent prices fall in line with average costs at similar houses around campus. However, the house is being completely renovated over winter 2015. There are serious renovations taking place that will provide an ideal layout. The house is specifically being renovated to meet the needs of Hatch House resident members.”

Michael Lehman, professor of practice, who is involved with Hatch House and the Master’s of Engineering in Technical Entrepreneurship program, said he believes the program not only provides students with networking connections, but also connections that can be formed with the housemates as well.

“Entrepreneurship is 24/7,” Lehman said. “It’s not something that is 9-5. I am looking for them to support each other through the highs and lows of venture.”

One aspect of the program that O’Brien thinks makes Hatch House unique is the fact that it is modeled after accelerator programs that challenge the residents to work at an optimal level.

“It’s kind of inspiring to have people around that are all excited about the same thing,” O’Brien said. “If I see a person staying up late working on a project, it inspires me.”

Boerner came up with the idea after seeing a lack of creativity in the way Fortune 500 companies ran their businesses.

“I spent a lot of time researching the co-share office business model,” Boerner said. “I heard a lot of students commenting about how they wish they lived in a better environment. They wanted to be inspired by the people they spend most of their time with and that wasn’t happening. I decided to do a lot of research around combining the co-share office model with traditional residential real estate. From that, Hatch House Ventures LLC was born.”

For Boerner, the goals of Hatch House are not stopping at just its Bethlehem location.

“Hatch House is currently seeking additional locations in the Lehigh Valley and we expect to expand to three properties by 2016,” Boerner said. “We’re even looking at locations closer to NYC to help create a network of houses where resources and expertise can be shared more broadly. Our vision entails numerous locations all collaborating in-person and on-line. The potential to help young entrepreneurs is amazing and we’re excited to play our part in local job creation and economic development.”

O’Brien thinks the program has benefits that go beyond just the residents in the house. He said he believes the house is a step in the right direction for Lehigh and the greater Bethlehem community.

To find more on Hatch House and information about its features and goals, visit The house is set to open on July 1, 2015.

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