Jonathan Dapra

Professor Jonathan Dapra is an informal business coach for students and alumni, and his uses his new book, From 50 to 500: Mastering the Unique Leadership Challenges of Growing Small Companies, with mentees. 

“My job is to mold them, help them discover the capabilities they already have, and refine them and gain confidence, so they can go out and be the next generation of good businesspeople and just good people,” says Dapra, a business executive, entrepreneur, trainer, and leader for over two decades. 

While his book was written for small business owners, it’s also a great teaching tool, paired with Dapra’s enthusiastic advising. Students gain strategic knowledge they use to help solve problems for local business leaders, and learn about the tenets of leadership, effectiveness, impact, and decision-making.  

The book will also inform its key audience: small business leaders across all industries, across the globe. Alums have already benefited. Dapra has offered its many insights and his knowledge to recent grads to help them evaluate whether they should make an entrepreneurial move, and it helped Ethan Landry ’19, an enterprise computing consultant, bring about significant growth for his firm.  

“My teaching is about building business acumen and developing a handful of capabilities I know will make them successful in the first two years of their careers,” Dapra says.  

The PSU Bookstore held a book launch event on Tuesday, January 31, and Dapra plans to donate $500 from sales of 50 author copies along with proceeds from PSU-related sales during the first release week. These gifts are earmarked for the University’s Support Our Students Fund to assist those who might not otherwise be able to complete their education. “I never want to see that happen,” Dapra says. “It’s important to me to give back.” 

Dapra penned From 50 to 500 with his late father, Richard Dapra, and a family friend and colleague, Jonas Akerman. The three business gurus identify key characteristics of successful small business leaders and present an actionable leadership model; readers follow the stories of two typical leaders and evaluate the decisions and outcomes of each.  

The book is a BookBub editor’s choice in the Business category, which gives it an audience of 10 million subscribers, and Dapra has also already been invited to speak nationally and internationally about it. 

Dapra holds a doctoral degree in business administration and an MBA in strategy. He began his career at Dun & Bradstreet as the youngest sales training manager in the company’s history and has launched firms in the gaming industry, served on the leadership team at Dynamic Graphics, and helped build Photoshop’s special effects company, Auto FX Software.  

At Dynamic Graphics, a firm with roughly 200 employees, Dapra wondered if leaders of small businesses had different skillsets than those running ones with over 500. “I set myself on a mission to understand,” he says.  

Dapra migrated into teaching while nurturing his passion for graphic design, leading trainings for both the Education Management Corporation and The Art Institute of Pittsburgh on how to teach design students online. “I learned how to teach in a very student-centered way,” he says. “Plymouth State allows me to be the two people I am. I had no intention of being an academic, but I’m still here.” 

Jovan Zimmerman ’23, a finance major, is glad. He says Dapra helped him develop a sense of strategic management and how to recognize key drivers in a business or industry. “Professor Dapra’s experience is an asset that has benefited all of his students,” Zimmerman says. “He uses an approach that emphasizes maximizing potential and efficiency, which speaks to his success as a small business leader and consultant.” 

In his free time, Dapra likes to read, go to live concerts, spend time with great nieces and nephews, volunteer, and play with his Chinese Shar-Pei, Gracie. He brings energy and zest to the work of teaching. “I adore students,” he says. “I love seeing their eyes light up when they realize they know something.”