Inspired after a visit to see relatives in Liberia, in West Africa, fifth-year LeBow student Niaka Porte developed Sasas Mix, a gluten-free, vegan baking mix based on a traditional Liberian banana bread recipe using rice flour. In growing this start-up business, she applied knowledge from her academic coursework and co-op positions before taking her business to the next level with an Entrepreneurship co-op through the Close School for Entrepreneurship. With her ongoing affiliation with the Close School’s Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship, she continues to build the Sasas brand and introduce her products to new stores and markets. She shared with us how LeBow laid the foundation for growing her business and milestones from her entrepreneurial journey.
Name: Niaka Porte
Hometown: Wayne, PA
Degree: BSBA, marketing and business analytics
Graduating Year: 2022
Organizations you are involved in: LeBow BRIDGE (Building Relationships in Diverse Group Experiences)
Drexel LeBow: What was the most impactful class you’ve taken at LeBow?
Niaka Porte: During my fourth year, I took Brand and Reputation Management (MKTG 362) with adjunct professor Malcolm Brown, MBA ’07, and we studied what makes a brand impactful. Professor Brown emphasized that branding is how a company is perceived by consumers while marketing is how the company communicates the product to its consumers. Throughout this class we learned the essential elements in creating a long-lasting brand and evaluated the brands of companies in all sizes and industries. This class heavily influenced how I wanted Sasas Mix to be perceived by people and to have elements that stand out from competitors, and since taking it, I have altered my company messaging and repeatedly asked if a given decision supports brand positioning.
DL: What set Drexel’s program apart from other schools you were considering?
NP: I think the diversity of majors at Drexel allows for a melting pot of various talents and skills and makes college a more fulfilling experience. The Baiada Institute really exemplifies this, with students representing all schools at Drexel trying to solve a pressing issue they have found. I have learned so much from people from different majors as they plan to solve a problem in their chosen field. Combined with these factors, co-op is just the cherry on top.
DL: Tell us about the co-op roles you’ve held and your experiences with them.
NP: In addition to my Entrepreneurship co-op, I worked in two roles at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK): first, as a Digital Marketer on the Pharmaceutical Tech Team, where I learned about how the pharmaceutical industry is regulated by the FDA, the various brands under GSK and innovative techniques to track consumers’ experience online to better market their products to consumers. Then, as a pre-junior, I led the transformation of GSK’s Digital Delivery website, which is used by over 80 markets worldwide. In this role, I learned to facilitate open communication across multiple teams including senior leaders and diverse stakeholders overseas. Along with leading the website overhaul, I also created data-driven reports against defined KPIs from brand teams and offered recommendations against results to present to the Digital Marketing Tech team.
DL: Why choose Drexel LeBow?
NP: I chose Drexel because of the co-op program, the city environment and the range of majors offered. I knew I wanted to do something business-related, so I chose LeBow to learn skills that are in demand among the companies in my desired field. Also, BRIDGE has been a pillar for my success at Drexel; building connections within LeBow, meeting upper-class students and receiving advice and mentorship has been imperative to my co-op and academic success.
DL: What words come to mind when you think of a Drexel student?
NP: Driven, ambitious and persistent: Drexel students have to be driven enough to handle the ten-week quarters, ambitious enough to apply to big-name companies as a college student and persistent enough to keep trying if they don’t get the job they want.