Dr. Hill and students
Student-led companies compete for cash, services at Wofford

By Jason Spencer
jason.spencer@shj.com
Spartanburg Herald-Journal
Published: Thursday, February 5, 2015

 
Impact and Launch competition (Herald-Journal photo)Wofford College's entrepreneurship programs fall under the umbrella of “The Space” – a term that describes the time between life in college and life after college.

The idea is that supporting real-world business and nonprofit ventures helps students of all stripes develop skills they'll need to be successful, blending classroom learning and other elements of an education into a usable experience.

Eight student-led companies on Thursday were announced as finalists in the Space's third-annual Impact & Launch Competition on Jamarcus Gaston's “Studio 62.” Two more will be selected via online voting at the competition's website through Feb. 12.

The 10 finalists – five nonprofits on the “impact” side, five businesses on the “launch” side – will compete in a pitch event on March 28 similar to television's “Shark Tank.” Contestants on each side are squaring off for their share of $10,000 in cash for their startups and $10,000 worth of in-kind services, such as legal and marketing assistance or office space.
 
“I love it,” said Scott Cochran, dean of the Space. “This captures so much excitement about all these student's projects.”
 
The contest started out as an idea to celebrate what students were doing in the Space, a cool area on campus designed to support entrepreneurial ventures. Programs there are open to all students and all majors; students can apply while in high school. The program offers no class credit.
 
“All of these students who are here are here because they want to invest in themselves,” Cochran said.
 
All of the ventures will be featured in an expo on competition day.
 
The Launch and Impact companies in the Space cover a broad range of interests and issues, from laundry service to bread baking to bamboo sunglasses.
 
The Glass Slipper Initiative, for instance, wants to provide confidence classes for middle school girls. The idea belongs to freshmen Ari de Lucy of Columbia and Molly Leonard of Charlotte. “It's good being surrounded by such motivated and successful people,” Leonard said.
Alexandra Christopoulos, a Wofford freshman from Knoxville, Tenn., has been developing Project BeanSprout since she was a sophomore in high school. Project BeanSprout is designed to promote awareness and provide assistance to babies suffering from withdrawal after being born to drug-dependent mothers. Christopoulos is working on distributing information cards in a local hospital and is looking to contract with area churches to provide blankets to the babies.
 
“Especially being in your first year in college, you can get very overwhelmed,” she said. “And having a dedicated space and a dedicated time … it helps me build my project as well as everyone else.”
 
Freshmen Richard Harrison and Adrian Thompson, both of Columbia, came up with an idea six weeks ago and, after talking with Cochran, decided to get involved in the Space. Their company would sell cases for the iPhone 5 that can use interchangeable back plates, making it easy for someone to change their phone case's color or features – adding credit card holders or a money clip, for instance.
 
And so, plate.O is also hoping to get a fan-favorite nod as one of the remaining two competition finalists.
 
“It's one of the biggest opportunities Wofford College offers,” Thompson said. “I don't think any other college has a center like this that's just for launching projects and services.”
Students will spend the next several weeks refining their ideas and preparing for competition day.
Of the 10 Launch contenders to participate in 2013 and 2014, three are operating as businesses in brick-and-mortar stores in Spartanburg – Beach Cakes, a vegan bakery; Junk Matters, a recycling company; and WritefullyHis, an ecumenical stationery company.
 
“That kind of penetration … shows that something is going on,” Cochran said.
 
For more information or to vote on the final two finalists in the 2015 competition, visit http://www.wofford.edu/impactLaunchComp.
 
Finalists announced so far:

Impact:
Let's Band Together
Farah Kindergarten
Get Moving
Wofford Artisan Market

Launch:
Wee Celebrations
Brand Hype
Sea Island Seasonings
Swell
 
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