Programming a Business

Computer science major Ben Mesnik ’20 says his parents were always being asked by their friends for home repair and improvement business recommendations. They had a hard time keeping track of skilled workers, he says, and would search through their drawers for business cards.

Mesnik saw an opportunity to better connect communities.

Combining his passion for computer science and entrepreneurship (his minor), Mesnik programmed a website called SkillLister that allows homeowners to keep a list of home improvement and repair companies who they believe did a good job. The goal is for people to easily recontact these companies when necessary.

The website led to Mesnik being named one of five 2018 Leonard P. Pool Memorial Prize winners. The prize is awarded to rising Lehigh juniors and seniors who demonstrate entrepreneurship skills while attending classes at Lehigh. The award, which is applied toward the winners’ Lehigh tuition, is based on the entrepreneurial spirit that typified the life and career of Air Products founder Leonard Pool, who died in 1975.

Mesnik says his website has the potential to build a network as the list can be shared with others. Users can refer companies to other people in their community, which Mesnik believes can foster communication within communities.

“It’s your home so you want to trust the person to do a good job,” Mesnik says. “If you can talk to a nearby friend or neighbor, it’s much stronger than any random person’s opinion online.”

After coming up with the idea with his dad, Mesnik decided to implement the project himself during the summer of 2017. He continued working on the project this past summer.

Mesnik says he taught himself web design and various programming languages to create the site. This is the first web application he has created. However, he says, he has previously created a few mobile apps and Arduino controlled devices.

The web application is in the testing phase, but Mesnik says it will be ready in less than a year. He hopes to give login privileges to small communities and groups such as churches and temples before he makes it available to the public.

“It’s exciting to bring your ideas to life through code, especially when they provide value,” Mesnik says. “I look forward to releasing it in the near future.”

Mesnik says finishing the website was a challenge—there were always new ideas and new questions to answer after he thought he was done. “That last 10 percent is the longest time,” Mesnik says. “I keep seeing features that need to be revamped.”

During the 2017-2018 school year, Mesnik was researching scholarship and award opportunities. When he read the description of the Leonard P. Pool Memorial Prize, he thought his work fit the requirements. He says he is thankful for the award, and his parents are proud to see his hard work and dedication recognized.

Mesnik says he hopes through his classes that he can learn more about how to combine his passion for coding with business. 

“Depending on how well [the release] goes, I would love to make more [apps],” Mesnik says.

Story by Madison Hoff ’19
Photos by Christa Neu