After growing PS Solutions in Pennsylvania, founder Wayne Hippo came to Wilmington with the goal of replicating the company’s growth in the Cape Fear region and its focus on keeping software development local.
When the software development company opened in Wilmington in 2018, it had one worker and was housed at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Now, it occupies office space at 2109 Capital Drive with five employees.
PS Solutions was founded by managing partners Hippo and Joe Merilli in 2009 in Altoona, Pennsylvania, a city about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh. At first, the company focused on staffing software developers but then expanded to provide outsourced software development for companies.
“We wanted to be in the Carolinas somewhere,” Hippo said. “We considered three or four other cities, but we were just really impressed by the growth in Wilmington and the opportunities that we saw here.”
PS Solution works with all sorts of companies, not just tech-related ones.
“We’re under a lot of NDAs about who we work with, but I can say that our industries are so varied,” he said. “We have companies that do oil cleanups. When people think of technology, you think of the obvious tech companies, but the need in our client base extends well beyond that.”
Through a partnership with Cucalorus Festival, PS Solutions hosted a children’s coding workshop at Snipes Academy of Arts and Design, Wrightsboro Elementary and GLOW Academy in November.
With the firm’s recent expansion to Wilmington, officials plan to grow its footprint in the Cape Fear region by hiring additional sales personnel, expanding to larger office space and eventually establishing a development center.
“We’ve never been afraid to take on a new challenge,” Hippo said. “Next stop will probably be a much larger development center in Wilmington and with that success, probably a sister center somewhere nearby, and then it’s onto the next opportunity.”
Special thanks to the Wilmington Greater Business Journal for featuring PS Solutions
It’s free. One of the biggest and ostensibly most creative music and arts fests in the country, and still… it’s free. From day one – that’s June 7th this year – and for ten straight days, the Three Rivers Arts Festival will entertain hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the globe. And in case you missed it, it’s free!
This year, stars like India.Arie will be added to the long list of those who performed or presented at Three Rivers. Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Wilco and the Black Keys are in the books alongside Allen Ginsberg, Spalding Gray, Keith Haring and Nam June Paik as those who helped make it the festival it is today. As a matter of fact, #TRAF has been delivering world-class visual and performing art since 1960.
How can Pittsburgh do that? They have a lot of help. Sponsors, such as title sponsor Dollar Bank. Add donations and the government money that goes to Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. But the biggest reason they can keep it free and do such a great job?
Volunteers are at the heart and soul of almost every great festival. There are parking lots to manage, guest questions to answer, artists to assist and children to entertain. But those are only some of the jobs done – during the event itself. Many, many volunteers are added to the staff throughout the planning year, helping recruit vendors and determine which food truck goes where on the site. With three locations across downtown Pittsburgh, it’s a big task.
People volunteer for a number of reasons – giving back, getting free tickets, camaraderie, experience – you name it. When organizers are looking for volunteers, there’s one kind of person that sticks out: the ones that want to do this year after year. That’s because volunteers are entrusted with a lot of information and having to retrain a new team can be costly.
Worse yet: when data leaves with the person who donated their time. It can take days or weeks to try and recreate the knowledge that departs when the person does. That’s why PS Solutions created an inexpensive system to manage the entirety of what’s happening on the back-end of a festival.
It’s called Chute Festival. And if you are a volunteer, ask the team if they use our system. It can save a lot of headaches and help them operate more efficiently. Because if you care enough to donate your time, you care enough to ensure that the festival survives and remains healthy.
We love festivals. We love them so much we wrote a software system for managing them. More on that later, but as we enter June, the number and variety of festivals that happen across the US sky rockets.
We’ll be talking about festivals often over the summer, but we recently ran across a great list that identified the largest festival in each state. So, while we gather great stories about smaller local festivals we’ll highlight, we decided to get to know more about the big guys and share a couple that are near and dear to us.
Our home state of Pennsylvania hosts Musikfest in Bethlehem from August 1 – 11. Voted Best Music Festival in the USA Today Reader’s Choice Awards in 2019, more than 1.1 million people crowd into this historic city near Allentown to hear music – free and paid – over the course of ten days. It claims to be the largest free music festival, but it also features comedy and dance performances and a series of art installations. Some say it might be the best bargain of all summer events.
As we expanded into North Carolina, we began looking for the biggest event in our new state. We assumed it was the Azalea Festival in Wilmington. But no … it’s not flowers but food that draws southerners. The North Carolina Barbecue Festival is in Lexington, which falls between the Triangle and the Triad. Lexington has a population of about 20,000 – which blossoms 10-fold when chefs from across NC converge to demonstrate their BBQ acumen. It all happens in just one day – the last Saturday in October – but is a culmination of an entire month of BBQ festivities. A series of competitions, from the Tour de Pig cycling race to golf, fishing tournaments and a 5K run keep people flowing into town.
What these two festivals have in common is their reliance on volunteers. From planners to ushers, parking to ticket sales and set up/clean up, volunteers are what makes festivals work. That’s why so many organizers are turning to our newest software product, Chute Festival. It not only manages the schedules for volunteers, but it manages the information they come in contact with.
Who are your vendors? What’s the map of the site look like? Where are the closest parking options? And how do you manage your performers, livestock, and food?
Often, it’s in the heads of those who volunteer. But with Chute Festival, organizers keep the data that remains in the minds of volunteers. Volunteers come and go – they are committed, until they’re not. In order to keep the information about every last detail, it needs to reside – accessibly – in the Cloud so that future events run as smoothly as the last.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Chute Festival can help, email us at email@example.com
When startups reach the key milestone of securing Angel or Venture Capital, their new partners are looking both for a series of deliverables but also a great return on their investment. One of the many questions they ask during the pitch process is generally ‘how long before you’ll need another infusion of capital?’ They love it when the response is … “a long time.”
Once that infusion is safely secured, how do smart entrepreneurs make the most of it? STRETCH. Find the best value for the money on every project. And that includes custom developed software.
In the early 2000s, the key to this savings was to off-shore development. Fast and inexpensive services sprung up across Asia and Eastern Europe, putting hundreds of thousands of software engineers to work… outside of the US.
“Americans are just too expensive,” was the cry.
What we learned, however, was that it’s not really American developers that are so untouchably expensive, but the US major cities that pushed up the prices. The developers in rural areas and small cities are actually quite affordable. Plus – they speak your language, understand your culture, and live somewhat near your time zone (if not in your time zone).
Entrepreneurs often judge the viability of outsourcing based on hourly rates they are paying. This can be misleading. When you pay for the least expensive person to do the job, you seldom get the best. Then you wind up paying more for senior team members to work through the problems created by the less-experienced.
Here are three other ways that the whole can end up bigger than the sum of its parts (ie: it’s more expensive to offshore than it looks):
Where you are does make a difference. If your developers are in major cities with high cost of living, you’ll simply spend more than you will when the teams live in places where the cost of living is lower. It’s just logical. And it’s been proven out time and time again on projects we’ve delivered.
But it’s not just the cost of the developer. It’s the cost of your time. That’s why we encourage you to take advantage of our US-based developers, and keep from going:
Just because you need to stretch your investment dollars, don’t cheap out on software development. Be responsible. Keep development in the US by working with rural and small city teams. Consider the whole of your investment, and give us a call.
Strummer Bob Fields Heads Up Sales in Pittsburgh
When you’ve been serving the IT industry since 1981, have deep roots in your region and throughout the Midwest, and, to quote Chuck Berry, can play guitar like ringin’ a bell, well, you’re bound to be a rockin’ success.
PS Solutions’ Robert (Bob) Fields may have taken a brief hiatus from IT during the Y2K hangover, but we’ll forgive him for that and chalk up 35 years to his investment in the tech industry. He actually started in IT recruiting for an IT consulting firm, but they soon uncovered his true talent.
“I still remember the day, sitting in Pittsburgh, when I sold the highest billing rate for a consultant in the history of the company to a client in Washington, DC,” reminisces Fields. “I found that I really enjoyed the sales side of the house and spent the next ten years with that company advancing in that role.”
He joined PS Solutions in November of 2015. It was a great fit from the get-go, with IT services and the oft-desired tech recruitment. Earlier positions with big companies kept pigeon-holing him into doing things he was good at but didn’t love. He loved account management and the people/problem solving balance it offered. And that’s the role he was looking for.
“Moving to PS Solutions gave me that opportunity,” he said. “It also provided a bit of a homecoming back to a more agile, entrepreneurial, smaller, quality-oriented, regional IT consulting firm. The strong values make such a difference, in my happiness and in the satisfaction of our clients.”
What is it, really, about being an account manager that Bob loves? It’s solving problems for the people within the companies he serves. When we asked him why he thought he excelled, he told us it came down to one thing:
“I listen,” he said. “Many people are too quick to talk, to sell what they want to sell. But if you develop the skill of listening, you’re more certain to understand what is needed. If you have listened, your questions are much more on point, and the client knows that you get it.”
Of course, you have to get to that meeting, right? The one where you get to listen? Opening that door can be a tough nut to crack.
“I have been told by clients that they have given us a chance because of my persistence. In some cases, it was persistence over the space of years,” he says with a smile.
He may have spent his first three years in Erie, but Bob’s a Pittsburgher through and through. In high school he fell in love with writing, and only became a guitar player at 17, once he realized he would like to be able to play the music he wrote. Like every good teenage guitar player, he formed a band, and like every good sales person, he stays in touch. After all these years, and across a myriad of time zones, Bob stays in touch with different members of the band.
Even with more than 30 years of teaching, recording and live performances under his belt, Bob still finds the magic of playing for a crowd. At one particular performance at PPG Paints Arena, PPG Place, he performed for about 500 people during a summer arts festival. “It’s like a glass castle, and when you catch it at sunset, with fountains reflecting the colors, it’s just magical.”
Sometimes it seems that magic is his middle name. It’s actually Boyle, however, which leads him to play a lot of Irish tunes. This means that St. Patrick’s week can be especially busy, as he tries to give back to people of all ages. He developed a way to use new music technology, using a loop pedal to record and play rhythm parts and guitar synthesizer to represent the bass, fiddle, bagpipes, pennywhistle and other instruments. He involves his audience, looping in the seniors at retirement homes and the partakers at the bars. And getting them to sing along is half the fun!
He especially enjoys serving the underserved. “It brings validity to what you’re doing. When you’re playing music it’s not about you – it’s what can you do for others.”
You’ll often find him playing in contemporary music services at church, but he can play classical, rock and folk. He finds what his audience is hungry to hear, and that’s what he delivers.
You could say that Bob is a listener and a problem solver, whether he’s at work or performing. It’s what makes him great at what he does, at home with this family, in the clients’ offices, or on the stage. To Bob, what you can do to make others’ lives more rich is the thing to do.
Trevor Hughes Joins the PS Solutions Wilmington Team
PS Solutions has increased their Wilmington headcount… and it’s about to get much bigger if Trevor Hughes has anything to say about it.
After five years in sales and business development for technology companies and recruiters, Trevor is putting his love of helping individuals and businesses achieve success to work for PS Solutions. Most recently with Proficient Learning, one of Inc. 5000’s fastest growing companies in 2018, he’s anxious to put the Wilmington office of PS Solutions on the tip of every North Carolina company’s tongue. After all, PS Solutions was also on the Inc. list before they opened the Wilmington office two years ago. He’d like to seem them regain that listing in the next year or two.
“It’s exciting to be in a position to help young companies grow, especially focusing on the Cape Fear region,” said Hughes. “I’m researching all the companies from startups to those over $2 million in annual revenue, because that is where I think the software development services offered by PS Solutions can have the greatest impact.”
Hughes will be focusing on three areas: recruiting technology talent; connecting PS Solutions’ developers with companies that need custom software; and promoting a new software product that the company is launching this spring, called Chute Festival.
“I was drawn to the position because I love recruiting and selling technology solutions; both are needed in our region,” he said. “It’s rare to have a chance to also help launch a new product, so I’m really excited to reach out to the festivals across the southeast, too.”
Chute Festival is a Cloud-based service that makes it easier for people who run fairs and festivals to be more efficient, managing their vendors, customers, team and invoicing. PS Solutions is officially introducing it this spring, with Hughes being at the center of the sales activities. He pointed to the incredible number of festivals in the Carolinas as a huge opportunity.
When not networking, you’ll likely find Hughes where you find so many of Wilmington’s transplants: on the beach. Along with surfing, Hughes is a competitive open water swimmer. He regularly competes in the Pier to Pier swim on Wrightsville Beach, and takes part in the Swim the Loop event, which is 3 ½ miles of open water.
“Like most people who choose to make Wilmington their home, I’m really excited to help keep it a great place to live,” said Hughes. He has two sons with his wife, who is a special education teacher in a Topsail Elementary School.
“Wilmington is a great place to raise a family. We see more and more people choosing to want to live where they vacation, and the quality of life here is outstanding. I’m looking forward to helping PS Solutions offer more people a high standard of living through technology.”
PS Solutions takes a creative approach to solving companies’ technology problems, employing a diverse group of software and project management professionals to keep software development in the USA. They focus on growing cities as a way to keep costs down without having to off-shore.
For more information, contact info@PSSolutions.net
Trade shows, County fairs. Film festivals. Street fairs. Flea Markets. Job fairs.
Events like these are a compendium of thousands of details. Vendors, payments, marketing, invoicing… keeping it all organized and easily accessible can be exhausting.
PS Solutions to the rescue! We’ve recently released our own vendor management system, and we call it Chute – as in, parachute – because it eases your entry into the event. We were working with a Pennsylvania County Fair which faced problems when volunteers left the organization. The result was increased difficulty tracking and managing billings. The team at PS Solutions saw an opportunity to help event managers across the country easily organize, communicate about and manage their interaction with vendors.
Here are just a few things we took into consideration when creating our event management system for festivals:
Chute Festival provides you with a computerized interactive version of your festival or fairground layout. It’s easier than ever to determine which spaces are still are rented and quickly pinpoint where each vendor will reside. Of course, it’s also easier to show which spaces are open and left to be sold, allowing you to quickly close the deal. Vendor reservations are laid out in color, making it a snap to identify who’s where.
Keep up communications with potential, current and even former vendors through our simple email management system that ties directly to the data in your system.
Let Chute Festival take the stress out of billing. Generate customized Invoices on the fly to track and manage payments and accounts. With a few clicks, you can generate all invoices for a given event. And all the information is tied back to each vendor, giving you greater insight into where you stand financially.
And if you use a different accounting – or event database — package, that’s no problem either. Chute provides easy export into PDF, .xls and CSV. With only a few clicks you can export an entire section of data in a pain-free process.
There are so many advantages to having a cloud-hosted software solution. For example:
We don’t believe in capping your creativity or your success. So, go ahead. Host two events this year. Or three. Even if you want to expand your mapping footprint or layout, the costs for new maps are available at extremely low rates, allowing you to expand or reorganize without worrying about excessive costs. Whether you host one event or a dozen there are no caps when you use Chute Festival to manage your projects.
Feel confident. As you grow, Chute Festival will grow with you.
Want to learn more about how Chute can help you? Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wilmington, NC – April 9, 2019 — PS Solutions, a software development firm with offices in Wilmington, NC, as well as Pittsburgh and Altoona, PA, last month released a new app designed to help identify those at risk for committing suicide which utilizes the renowned Columbia Protocol. This free smartphone app provides instant access to simple questions which have been successful in helping identify suicide risk. Blair County, PA was the first to develop an app using the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) and provide local contact information to nearby crisis centers. The app is now offered in North Carolina and can be customized to connect directly to local crisis centers.
“North Carolina’s suicide rate is higher than the national average,” said Wayne Hippo, co-founder of PS Solutions. “That’s one of the reasons we wanted to bring this free app to the attention of our citizens and those who serve this community. It’s a way to help members of our community who need it most.”
The free iOS and Android app provides access to the C-SSRS, which prompts a few simple questions that gauge when an individual is at risk for suicide then recommends an appropriate level of mental health support. The list of questions can be answered within a few minutes. App users are also offered contact information for crisis centers, which can be customized to include local contacts.
“We need to get everyone in our communities asking these questions,” said Dr. Kelly Posner, Director of the Columbia Lighthouse Project, “Just think of how many lives we can save if every parent, police officer, teacher and neighbor downloaded and used this app.”
More than 20 years of research validates relevance and effectiveness of the C-SSRS. Seen as the gold standard in assessing suicide risk, it is globally. For people who have thought about suicide, simply being asked these questions can come as a relief. One study found that asking the questions reduced distress in depressed respondents.
According to a March 2019 study conducted for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the increase in the national suicide rate from 2016 to 2017 was the largest annual increase in nearly 20 years. Suicides rose by 4% from 2016 to 2017 and 22% from 2008 to 2017. Worldwide, almost 1 million people die by suicide each year; one life lost every 40 seconds.
The idea for the app came from Blair County Pennsylvania, and it is the first county to offer customized local information. Other regions are encouraged to provide local crisis centers contact information, which is based on a user’s phone location. Information on app customization is available through email: info@PSSolutions.net.
PS Solutions is a software development firm headquartered in Altoona, Pennsylvania, with offices in Pittsburgh and Wilmington, North Carolina. PS Solutions takes a creative approach to solving companies’ technology problems, employing a diverse group of software and project management professionals to develop software in the U.S.
Seems baseball can really influence a lot. It’s been known to develop more than one leader – and more
than one leading developer. It requires a clear understanding of math, statistics, teamwork and a keen
eye for those who can be coached.
PS Solutions’ co-founder Joe Merilli has had baseball in his blood since he was in Little League. He
wanted to pass along his love of the game once he had kids, but with three daughters he switched to
softball. One of his daughters (Miranda) started playing t-ball when she was four years old and later
started pitching with Dad in the back yard. Dad coached the t-ball team and went to coach’s clinics to
make sure he was teaching the correct softball mechanics to his teams as instructed by the best college
coaches in the game.
Eventually, Joe started one of the first local travel teams (Altoona Express) for 10u, 12u and 14u players.
The Altoona Express allowed the players to see a higher level of competition and travel all over the east
coast. Altoona Express teams traveled as far as Disney World in Florida to compete. Miranda
eventually out grew the local scene and the decision was made she would try out for a larger travel
organization in Pittsburgh and she made it. Dad eventually was asked to coach one of those teams and
they traveled from Michigan to Florida to tournaments.
By the time high school came around, Merilli was hired to coach that team and took a perennial losing
team to winning 59 out of 71 games and a date in the Western State Finals and were among the best
teams in the State in their Division. Miranda finished her high school career as one of the most
decorated pitchers in Blair County History.
When Joe’s daughter went off to pitch for NYU Polytechnic’s softball team, he stayed home coaching his
winning Bishop Guilfoyle team. But that wouldn’t be for long. The head coach at NYU Polytechnic had
lost one of his coaches and asked if Joe would be interested?
“You’re asking the wrong guy,” Joe replied. “You really should ask your star pitcher.” When she said yes,
he became NYU Polytechnic’s pitching coach. After a couple of years there, and while being courted by
Hunter College to be their pitching coach, Guilfoyle called to request he return. Apparently, they hadn’t
won since he left, so Joe stepped in for a season and lead the team back to playoffs, losing only by one
run in the District playoffs.
During that year, the Head Coaching Position had opened at Joe’s alma mater – Penn State Altoona —
and it didn’t take long for the two to get together and announce that Joe would be the next head coach
of Women’s Softball at the school. In his first year at PSU Altoona, the team surprised everyone by
finishing tied for first place in the conference with a 15-3 record. Over the past 4 years the team has
been regularly at the top end of the conference and this year looks very promising also, even with four
first year pitchers.
When asked why he’s such a good softball coach, Joe always starts with the love of the game. But in
college coaching, he swears that success is about recruiting the right players. It’s about getting the right
talent, those that understand team play. Interestingly enough – that’s what he does at PS Solutions, too.
Joe says that team sports are different today than they’ve ever been, that technology and social media
play a huge role now. It’s not all the bad stuff – like having the discipline to put down that phone when
you’re in team-time. Merilli has a strict rule: no cell phones at practice, when eating together, nor at
games. He swears that no team can win if they don’t talk to each other, creating relationships and
bonding as a team.
But technology also helps them win. It’s about the strategies developed – and about the data generated,
tabulated, and analyzed.
“I always have used spreadsheets and charts to know my team and my competition,” said Merilli. “I
chart every pitch we throw. We know how every batter we face hits. We take that data and determine
what pitch to call against every batter. It’s a combination of teamwork, talent and data that lets us have
fun while attempting to outmaneuver the other team.”
In A League of their Own, Jimmy Dugan (played by Tom Hanks) ‘coaches’ the girls to tears. Joe used to
coach a lot like Dugan…especially with his daughter and the talented high school teams he had. But
times are changing and Joe will regularly tell you that he has mellowed a bit on the field. He still expects
a lot from his players, especially from the most talented ones. He will tell you that he loves a well
pitched, well fielded game. But this year, the team is scoring more runs and winning some games with
“We have a really good team this year, with four really good first year pitchers. But this may be the best
hitting team we have had a long time. We won six games in a row in Florida, because we hit well all
For Merilli, the game looks at all sides of the players, and lets everyone develop strong skills in new
ways. Just like the developers he works with all day, who might be great at Java but surprising him
when they take on other object-oriented systems.
From all of us at PS Solutions, we wish the Penn State Altoona Lions 2019 roster a world full of luck.
When you own a software development company and you lead a foundation that encourages young
girls to learn to code, you’re often asked about how we can get enough coders among our population. In
fact, it seems that at most dinner parties we attend there’s at least one parent in the room that asks
about how to help teach their children to develop technology skills. One team at Carnegie Mellon
University (CMU) must have been asked the same thing, as they’ve come up with one option. They call it
According to their website, Alice is designed to teach logical and computational thinking skills,
fundamental principles of programming and to be a first exposure to object-oriented programming. It’s
used by teachers but can easily be led by parents-as-teachers as well. Most start at middle school level,
although it has regularly been used with younger children – and even those at university level.
Designed to provide the basics coding and software design, it includes game development but is also
used to expand understanding of both logical and creative thinking. Studies done at CMU found proven
benefits in engaging and retaining diverse and under-served groups in computer science education.
In and of itself, Alice is a fabulous teaching environment. The Alice Project as a whole, however, also
provides supplemental tools and materials for teaching using Alice across a spectrum of ages and
subject matter. They have established an active community, wherein teachers of all sorts interact to
provide ideas and applications and talk through concerns or questions.
Alice starts with a simple drag-and-drop approach, to make the concept of programming less daunting.
Students (and teachers!) progress quickly to develop stories through animation and sound, and
ultimately even build games.
If you’ve ever had to name a product or a company in the past 20 years, you know how difficult it is to
settle on something that’s not already taken. While many girls could be Alice Smith, there’s only one
alicesmith.com, and acquiring the registered trademark is a complex process.
As the creative folk at CMU tried to express this program, they thought, of course, of storytelling. Who
better to embody the idea of Alice in Lewis Carroll’s The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. Carroll, a
mathematician, novelist, and photographer, could do intellectually difficult things but also realized the
most powerful thing was to be able to communicate clearly and in an entertaining way. This inspired
CMU’s efforts to make something complex (programming) easy and fun.
As they describe on their site, the name is also a very practical choice. The artwork associated with the
Alice books is now in the public domain, its copyright having lapsed. Also, the name “Alice” has several
other advantages: easy to spell and pronounce, it shows up at the top of alphabetized lists. Great
It’s so important to offer programming as a key still today that CMU has found a way to make this
project a gift. In other words, it may cost you in time and energy, but there is no financial outlay. It’s
So, no matter the age of your children, go take a look at Alice. There may be a great storyteller inside
your child’s mind, once they have the tools. You’ll find a link to it on our Foundation website, under
Altoona Development Center
1601 Eleventh Avenue
Altoona, PA, 16601
Pittsburgh Development Center
1500 Ardmore Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15221
Wilmington Development Center
2109 Capital Drive
Wilmington, NC, 28405