Starting up the start-ups

DECA chapter at UB formed to help entrepreneurial students


Benjamin Corbett started out his collegiate career at the University of Pittsburgh in 2015. He planned on joining the university’s ROTC program to give back to the community, but officials discovered a scar on his back. The scar, they said, would prevent him from carrying the heavy ROTC backpack.

He was discouraged from joining and transferred to UB in the spring of 2016.

Now, Corbett, a senior accounting major from Rochester, finds a different way to give back to those around him.

Corbett is the founder and president of UB’s collegiate DECA chapter. DECA is a student-led, entrepreneurial organization that aims to help develop emerging leaders and entrepreneurs, according to the club’s website.

“There were a few things factoring into my [transfer] decision, but one was that UB didn’t have collegiate DECA,” Corbett said.

“I had joined [DECA] at Pitt and absolutely loved it. UB has the biggest business school in the SUNY system, but didn’t have DECA. That was a good opportunity for myself, but other students as well. I decided to transfer to UB mainly because I saw a lot of potential there.”

As president of the club, Corbett wants to help members develop professional skills and train to be future business leaders and creators.

“I would have to say that creating UB’s DECA chapter is now my way of giving back. It’s all about the members - it’s not about what [the club] does for me,” Corbett said.

“If people enjoy coming to meetings and events and feel that they are getting opportunities and experiences they wouldn’t get elsewhere, then I have been successful.”

Nathaniel Feldman, a senior business administration major, is Corbett’s friend and said he is an “insightful and productive leader.”

“[He] has the ability to bring out the best in those he comes into contact with. A man like Ben Corbett is hard to match,” Feldman said. “I know he will go very far in life and will guide many people along the way.”

DECA has weekly club meetings, speaker events with local business leaders, case competitions, community service outings and social events with club members.

Corbett said he believes that DECA’s largest role is showing club members that entrepreneurship and leadership is possible. He often invites local entrepreneurs to speak to the club’s members.

“We see guys like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk who are huge, huge successes and everyone tries to compare themselves to them,” Corbett said.

“You can do that, and I encourage that, but it’s pretty encouraging to see guys who are Buffalo natives or from the local area starting their own local businesses. UB DECA brings in that local leader, that local entrepreneur, and says, ‘Look, this guy was in your shoes 10 years ago and look at where he is now.’”

Justin Ninivaggi, an alum and former UB DECA vice president, helped Corbett found the club’s chapter.

“Ben [Corbett] has worked hard to foster an environment for students to be able to come learn and network outside of the classroom,” Ninivaggi said. “We started DECA as a place where students can gain experience in an enjoyable atmosphere and make new friends, and be able to connect with new people.”

Corbett, on top of his 20-plus credit hours and his role as DECA’s president, is also a member of UB’s Accounting Association, the Beta Alpha Psi chapter, a head official for intramural football, a community service volunteer and an avid reader.

He said he doesn’t get a lot of sleep often, but wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I am never sitting still and always, constantly have something to do,” Corbett said.

“DECA is a leadership and entrepreneurship club and I’m a big encourager of entrepreneurs - doing [their] own thing. Growing up, I have always done my own thing and I think a lot of successful entrepreneurs relate to that,” Corbett said.

As UB DECA gears up for the fall, Corbett said he hopes to see even more club growth and that some great entrepreneurs are made through club membership.

“We as a club want to create success stories. I want to get you that right connection, put you in that right situation, and boom. Hopefully, you realize that this is what you want to do,” Corbett said.

Kirsten Dean is the assistant features editor and can be reached at