You never know what a good beer can lead to.
For Ashley Kern, it led to the first customer for Goldstrike Data LLC, her startup company based in the Jutila Center, a SmartZone incubator facility in Hancock, across the Portage waterway from Houghton.
The SmartZone is one of a network of 15 SmartZones in the state of Michigan, incorporated in 2002 to boost entrepreneurship and high-tech business acceleration in the Keweenaw Peninsula, a collaboration between the cities of Houghton and Hancock, Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Finlandia University in Hancock, the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance and the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce.
The fortuitous beer happened a year and a half ago at the Keweenaw Brewing Co. in Houghton, where Kern ran into John Lehman, Michigan Tech University's associate vice president for enrollment and university relations.
Lehman first met Kern before she enrolled at Tech, when she visited campus from Minnesota as one of 1,000 applicants for six prestigious full-ride scholarships called The Leading Scholar Award. Three went to Michigan residents and three to nonresidents. And he got to know her better after she won one of the out-of-state scholarships.