When Tamela Serensits left her job in 2017 to start her own business, she took her friend’s advice: Have a Plan B in case the venture does not work out.
Serensits’ Plan B was a Master of Applied Statistics through Penn State World Campus, which she completed in fall 2020.
Now in 2022, her startup, Argolytics, is solving problems for manufacturing customers and was accepted into an entrepreneurial training program through the National Science Foundation.
Serensits got the idea for what became Argolytics in her customer-facing role at statistical software company Minitab. Serensits saw an opportunity to solve a problem she kept seeing her customers repeatedly encounter.
“Because Minitab has been around for 50 years, every year there’s a new version and it just gets bigger and bigger,” Serensits said. “I kept hearing customers saying they just wanted something really simple that they could use to make these simple quality-control analysis reports they needed.”
Serensits created the answer for her customers in 2018 when she launched Argolytics and flagship product Trendable, a software that enables manufacturers to easily collect, analyze, and report quality-control data.
“With Trendable, they can have the essential tools without all the bells and whistles,” Serensits said. “Manufacturers can collect data on a phone and type it right in, and they can actually see it being graphed out in real time, so if the build does start to get close to being out of tolerance, they know immediately and can take corrective action.”
Trendable software is currently meant for traditional manufacturing, but more manufacturers are starting to work with 3D printers. In addition to pursuing additive manufacturing software, Serensits said Argolytics will continue to develop products in response to customer needs as more people begin using Trendable.
Serensits and her team were accepted into the NSF I-Corps National Teams program, where they explored how to assure high quality in additive manufacturing. The program also provides up to $50,000 in funding for the teams.
“The National Teams program was super intense, but it was also a lot of fun,” the two-time Penn State grad said. “For us, we were able to come away with the impression that there is room in the 3D-printing world for more solutions for quality control, and now we’re going to pursue a prototype of a possible solution for quality control.”
Launching her business
In October 2019, Serensits launched her product Trendable, a web-based quality-control reporting software tool aimed at small manufacturers. She said its trend analysis alerts quality-control managers about improperly manufactured parts, saving them time and money.
She continued her education through Penn State World Campus, completing course work toward her Master of Applied Statistics.
“My degree is more my Plan B, but it’s so fantastic that I’m taking this because my software is a stat software program,” said Serensits, who worked in quality manufacturing for 10 years. “The course work lines up well with the development of my statistical software.”
Upon leaving her job, Serensits made two plans for her future. One was to see her idea through and become the owner of a startup software company. The other was a master’s degree with the hope of working as a statistician for a business or consulting firm if the business didn’t work.
Serensits, who served in the Navy from 2001 to 2005, said her military experience has proven valuable, too.
“My service in the Navy early in my career gave me the skills to be an effective leader,” she said. “I’m confident in my ability to bring people together to achieve a common goal. Where I was lacking was in my technical background in statistics.”
To start working on her product, Serensits sought to take advantage of the opportunities at Penn State for aspiring entrepreneurs.
She applied for and received startup investment funding from the State College location of Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a statewide technology-based business accelerator. She also received a $10,000 startup grant from the Happy Valley Launchbox’s Summer Founders Program, a business accelerator program sponsored by Invent Penn State, and $3,000 from a National Science Foundation grant that is administered by Penn State. She also worked with the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
But the course work has opened her eyes to her product’s potential as a statistical tool. The advanced analytics and predictive techniques can be directly applied to data in Trendable, which she said will make the product more valuable.
“Using statistics to find patterns that humans just don’t see is very powerful,” she said.
The degree program requires two semesters of consulting on statistical projects, and Serensits expects this to be a vital experience she can apply to her customers.
“The master’s in applied statistics through World Campus has given me the flexibility to start my business and increase my expertise to create real value for small manufacturers today,” Serensits said. “Even though continuing my education was a Plan B, it has turned out to be an integral part of my Plan A.”
Learn more about the Master of Applied Statistics offered online through Penn State World Campus.