Taylor Stoudnour admits that she had a considerably difficult time during her first year at Penn State Altoona deciding on a major. That made her no different than the hundreds of other uncertain first-year students starting their college careers. What did set her apart, then and now, is that she is a rental property owner—and has been since the age of 14.
“My father started his rental business when he graduated from college. When I turned 11, I started working with him on the properties. I learned how to do flooring, electrical, plumbing, all of it. I can do a lot to a house now.” Stoudnour says her father guided her and her brother on the ins and outs of property management and ownership and encouraged them to become owners themselves. “When I was 14, I got a loan through him and bought a duplex in Altoona. I managed the property, I did the work, I kept track of finances. It was a crazy experience, but I loved it.” She bought another property, this time a single-family home, in ninth grade and both were turned over into her name when she reached 18. She continues to help her father manage his 80 units and is in the process of purchasing another duplex in Altoona.
The Stoudnours, who live in Altoona, typically purchase foreclosed homes or homes that are in poor condition and, working with a network of contractors and business partners, restore them. “It's hard work, and it can be scary, especially when you’re just starting out because so many things can go wrong, but you just have to deal with it.” Stoudnour analyzes her finances monthly and is in contact with her tenants a few times a month routinely. She keeps up on maintenance and solves problems as soon as possible.
With her property responsibilities, a full credit load, and a job tutoring other students, Stoudnour is always on the go but loving every minute. “Sometimes it can be tough. I go through periods where I am handling a lot and have to schedule myself to the minute. But I love staying busy.”
A significant portion of Stoudnour’s packed schedule is devoted to Penn State Altoona’s Sheetz Fellows Program, which she credits with helping her find direction for her future.
“I love science and the health industry, but I’m also passionate about business. I didn’t know how to combine those interests when I first started at Penn State Altoona.” After floundering for several months, Stoudnour’s adviser suggested she check out the Fellows program. “I loved it right away. It was like a light bulb for me. It showed me what I was supposed to be doing with my life and how I could fit everything together.”
Stoudnour, now a junior, is majoring in biology, minoring in entrepreneurship, and in her second year of the Sheetz Fellows Program. “I could have gone to University Park, but I’m so glad I stayed here. You get a more intimate experience with your professors and have unique opportunities like Sheetz Fellows.”
Stoudnour poses in front of one her rental properties.
Stoudnour says she’s learned so much by managing her properties, but through her classes at Penn State Altoona and the Sheetz Fellows Program, she’s gaining even more valuable skills such as communication and networking, leadership and critical thinking.
“In my classes, I hear lectures, write papers, and take tests, and with the Sheetz Fellows specialized program, I’m actually getting into the business environment and interacting with people who work in the business world every day. I’m getting more real-life experience.”
Sheetz Fellows take part in seminars, workshops, and professional development and business activities. They receive multiple mentoring opportunities with local entrepreneurs and business leaders, including the founder of the program and Sheetz Family Council chairman, Steve Sheetz. They also receive a one-time stipend toward research, study abroad, and internships. “The program is not easy, but I love that it isn’t. I wanted to push myself and I wanted a challenge. Sheetz Fellows gives me that.”
Stoudnour is already considering her future after graduation and how she can combine her two areas of study into a sustainable career. “Biology and entrepreneurship complement each other for me. I want to stay in the health industry and eventually own my own health-related business. At the same time, I want to continue with my rental properties and expand them to create passive income to support other business ventures.”
Stoudnour says people often wonder why she bothers with property ownership as a college student with so much to juggle. “I say, why not? I enjoy it, and it’s a way to set myself up for success. I am trying to work hard now to set myself up for the future. That is a huge motivator. I'm always looking for ways to develop personally. I like working hard, and I'm not afraid of it.”
She encourages other students to consider starting their own business or getting involved with an established one, no matter what their major is. Entrepreneurship reaches across all disciplines. “I say go for it! If you have the passion and the drive, you will be able to make anything work. Real estate especially is a great opportunity. There are a lot of resources available and so many different types of real estate investing.”
Stoudnour is proud of herself for all she has learned and accomplished so far. She plans to keep learning and reaching for her full potential, all the while remaining grateful to the man who started her on this path.
“I could not have a better mentor than my dad. He is the reason I got into this business and continue with it now. The fact that he had this plan for me is amazing. I want to be able to do that for my kids someday, too. I really look up to him, and I think he’s very proud of me.”