Fourteen teams of Terriers with entrepreneurial spirits are preparing to pitch their ideas for businesses ranging from a digital payment and scheduling platform to connect the families of youth athletes with coaches for one-on-one training, to environmentally friendly interior design approaches, to a clothing resale app.
The fifth annual Terrier StartUp Challenge takes place Thursday, May 6 and will be held virtually. Each team will get three minutes to pitch their idea to three judges and compete for their share of $10,000 in start-up funding. Register for the event.
Fans can vote for their favorite concept through the Office of Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s Instagram account. The fan favorite will win a $500 award.
“Watching students put in work for the event and seeing them present their finished pitch is a fun process,” says Tyler Senecal, director of entrepreneurship and innovation in Wofford College’s Office of Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “For most of our students, this is their first time pitching an idea for a new venture. It takes bravery and commitment to pitch in the Terrier StartUp Challenge. In just a matter of weeks, students go from having an initial idea to being able to pitch a compelling business opportunity. It’s very cool to see them working through this process, I'm especially proud of everyone for how they've rallied during such a challenging time in our world.”
Leading up to the event, students have access to coaching from the Office of Entrepreneurship & Innovation and workshops focused on developing content and designing slides for their pitches.
Hannah Sterling ’22, a finance and Spanish major from Snellville, Georgia, is one of the students who’ve met with Senecal to perfect her pitch leading up to the challenge.
“I love talking about my boutique, but I have to make sure that I fit the key points that I want to convey in three short minutes,” says Sterling, whose concept Faith N Curls, provides trendy products and post-purchase support through how-to videos and follow-up conversations that can gain insight on customers’ opinions of the company’s products.
“I believe that it is important to make every potential customer feel heard and loved while purchasing our items,” says Sterling.
While the event centers around ideas and business strategies, students also are honing many beneficial soft skills.
“Through this experience students develop skills that are relevant in so many different areas of their lives going forward,” says Senecal. “They are better equipped to give presentations in their classes and professional settings—we know these skills are highly sought after by employers across all industries. They also develop the foundational skills they would need to pitch their ideas to investors in real life—this opens the door for them to pursue big ideas in the future. Everyone comes up with a big idea at some point in their lives, and by participating in experiences like the Terrier StartUp Challenge, Wofford students can develop the skillset to begin making their ideas a reality.”
After the teams make their pitches, the judges will select the top five teams to come before them for three-minute question–and-answer sessions.
This year’s judges are familiar faces to many in the Wofford community.
Lekesa Whitner is supportive services manager with the Northside Development Group and oversees Start:ME Spartanburg, a business training program for people living and working in Spartanburg’s Northside community. Joseph McMillin ’13 is the founder and CEO of Atlas Organics and Sami Bernstein’17 is the chief marketing officer for Kickback and was recently named to Forbes’ 30 under 30.
“We have an awesome panel of judges for this year's event, and I am thrilled for our students to be able to interact with them,” says Senecal. “Each judge brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique perspective—this is a huge advantage for our students as they shape their concepts. Lekesa is doing incredible work to support local entrepreneurs right across the street and truly exemplifies what it means to be a leader in our community. Joseph is local as well as being an alum and has been an active supporter of our program for many years. He is a tremendous resource for our students and his company, Atlas Organics, is a great case study for how business can be good for people, the planet and profit. Sami is awesome because she is a recent alum, so students can relate to her story while also drawing a great deal of inspiration from what she’s accomplished at a young age.”
Students competing in the 2021 Terrier StartUp Challenge
Drake Ives ’22 and Rivers Clark ’21 are pitching Big Leagues Ball Club, a digital payment and scheduling platform connecting the families of youth athletes to qualified coaches for training.
Julia Terrell ’21, a Spanish major from Brevard, North Carolina, is pitching Julia Ruth Interiors, a company providing environmentally-friendly interior design.
Will Owen ’21, a business economics major from Ocean Isle, North Carolina, is pitching Sea-Cure, technology that converts smartphones to action cameras.
Cameron Neel Caulder ’22, a business economics major from Travelers Rest, South Carolina, is pitching FightTrade, an e-commerce platform that specializes in the martial arts equipment market.
Spencer Blackwell ’21, an international affairs major from Fort Mill, South Carolina, is pitching To a T, an approach to supporting underfunded art programs through physical advertising and selling the artwork of elementary school children on T-shirts.
Samantha Dunne ’23, a Spanish major from Southold, New York, is pitching Her Sport, a virtual training platform that pairs young female athletes with collegiate female athletes for mentorship and coaching.
Thaddeus Dennis ’23, an undeclared major from Daniel Island, South Carolina, and Alexander Dennis ’23, a business economics major from Daniel Island, South Carolina, are pitching Daniel Island Mobile Car Wash, a business that goes where vehicles are for washes and customer convenience.
Emma King ’21, a finance major from Atlanta, Georgia, is pitching The Happy Trucker, a bright and positive brand of trucker hats.
Destiny Shippy ’21 and Darron Paschal ’21 are both sociology and anthropology majors from Spartanburg, South Carolina. They are pitching D Squared Athletics, an affordable, durable and comfortable athletic apparel brand that promotes health and wellness.
Isabella Smith ’24, an undeclared major from Washington, North Carolina, and Avery Dew ’24, an undeclared major from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are pitching Armoire, an invitation only clothing resale app.
Hannah Sterling ’22, a finance and Spanish major from Snellville, Georgia, is pitching Faith N Curls, a boutique providing trendy products and post-purchase support through how-to videos and follow-up conversations that can gain insight on customers’ opinions of the company’s products.
Cassie Figueroa ’23, an undeclared major from Charlotte, North Carolina, and Alec Schrader ’23, an undeclared major from Fredonia, New York, are pitching Dorm Designs, a company providing flags, banners and other decorations that are catered to the specific culture of individual colleges and universities.
Erin Dowdle ’21, a biology and Spanish major from Duncan, South Carolina, is pitching a product meeting the needs of professionals who are more productive and better focused when they can fidget.
Parke Faison ’21, a sociology and anthropology major from Atlanta, Georgia, is pitching Back to You, a bi-monthly holistic wellness subscription box with products from Black-owned businesses.