Five students at Sullivan Foundation partner school Wofford College participated in the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s Summer Accelerator program this year and plan to be in business before fall starts.
For eight weeks, students in the program participated in weekly advising meetings, tracked progress and prioritized tasks using global startup accelerator tools, and honed entrepreneurial and critical business skills through workshops, while also gaining industry insight from weekly fireside chats with successful entrepreneurs.
“The program is a phenomenal alternative or even a supplement to a job or internship because it provides a different set of opportunities, experiences and skill development,” said Tyler Senecal, director of entrepreneurial programs at Wofford. “The Summer Accelerator is designed to aid students in expediting the process of launching their companies or business ventures by providing them with key resources, support and structure.”
This year’s program looked a bit different because of COVID-19, with the five participants taking part remotely. Initially viewed as a disadvantage, virtual engagement allowed students to connect with entrepreneurs across the country, including Joseph McMillin, a 2013 Wofford graduate and CEO of Atlas Organics; Bradley Smith, CEO of AVO Insights; and Meggie Williams, CEO of Skipper.
“The Summer Accelerator program brings together a community of like-minded, driven entrepreneurs on Wofford’s campus and beyond,” said Hannah Brown, an English and Spanish double major from Winston-Salem, N.C. Brown is filling a void in the yoga apparel industry with her start-up Form, a company that produces specialized shoes for going to and from the yoga studio.
Most recently, students logged on for a discussion with Matt Kilmartin, a 1997 Wofford graduate, CEO of Habu and founder of SummerHub, a program that connects college students to “flexternships” at companies. With 15 years in the technology and entrepreneurship space, Kilmartin shared lessons learned and imparted useful advice that student-entrepreneurs could apply to their own start-ups.
“Through our weekly meetings and fireside chats, I’ve learned that being an entrepreneur is more about pursuing a mindset than a strict set of skills,” says Campbell Harmening, a junior finance major from Orlando. “In order to have a meaningful company, you have to identify problems in your community and create solutions.” That’s exactly what Harmening is doing with his start-up, Graduates Garage, a platform for students to exchange goods and services securely on their respective campuses.
Harmening and Brown are working alongside three other student-entrepreneurs in the Summer Accelerator program.
Grace Gehlken is a junior Spanish and finance double major from Charleston, South Carolina. She is cofounder of a start-up called SEED., a social enterprise venture that sells local and global artisans’ work with a percentage of the profits distributed to nonprofit organizations and community leaders to fund key tools and resources. SEED. was featured in the Fall 2020 issue of the Sullivan Foundation’s Engage magazine, and cofounder Mackenzie Syiem was an attendee of the foundation’s 2019 Social Entrepreneurship Field Trip.
Grace Cromer, a senior business economics major from Anderson, S.C., is developing Grace upon Grace, an adaptive clothing line for special-needs newborns and infants. The line is intended to help parents navigate the complications of caring for children with special needs.
Finance major Zander Dale, a junior from Athens, Ga., is working toward the launch of TripShare. TripShare is a platform that connects like-minded travelers so they can build trips and experiences like never before.