Every year, Trinity University hosts the Stumberg Venture Competition, an event for student startups styled after “Shark Tank.” In the spring of 2017, students entered their new ideas and companies for a chance to win $5,000. This year, RADD Hammocks walked away with a $20,000 prize. Through the Judges’ Choice award, Coldeclara.com walked away with a $5,000 award. Meet the other finalists:
Relax and Do Designs, or RADD, is a high-quality outdoor gear brand bringing innovative designs craftsmanship back into the market. They primarily make a product that is both a hammock and a tent. Jamie Procter, junior business administration major, entrepreneurship minor and co-founder of RAD, saw a need for a more streamlined process for campers and hikers. When someone is backpacking, they need their products to be as light as possible. The hammock is extremely light and has a rain tarp that provides the hiker with an easy form of shelter. Procter works on RADD with Sarah Fordin, a junior studying biology and computer science.
The company formed in 2016 out of Proctor’s love of camping. He has been hiking and camping since he was a kid, while Fordin’s experience is in startups and computer science. They also ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for their product and raised over $10,000. For the Stumberg Competition, they have been working on perfecting their product.
Coldeclara is a company born from the problem of the confusing tax-filing system in Colombia. Emilio and Joaquin Vernaza, two brothers from Colombia, saw how difficult it is to file taxes there and created Coldeclara, a user-friendly online platform that helps young professionals file their taxes on their own. While these systems are pretty prevalent in America, it is a different story in Colombia.
“Filing taxes in my country is an extremely painful experience because the existing process is done in paper, making it confusing, expensive and taking forever,” said Emilio Vernaza, a senior majoring in accounting and finance. “When I first used TurboTax, I did everything online, it took me 30 minutes, and got my refund in two weeks. That’s when I realized this is exactly what Colombia needs.”
After winning the original $5,000 Stumberg prize, they used that investment to incorporate their business, validate their Minimum-Viable-Product and invest in a digital marketing campaign. Thus far, they have acquired more than 100 customers and are looking to scale their operations for the growth they have seen. Emilio feels so strongly about his company that he is graduating early in December and plans to work full-time to develop Coldeclara.
Modern Knights makes physical strategy games with collectible miniatures built around a fantasy world. Their focus is on miniature war games, similar to classics like Risk. In order to get started, they have been working with a large group of artists from around the world creating art and sculpting their miniatures to create the initial product line.
Within the company, work is divided up and carried out by teams that perform a variety of functions for the company; they even have a team solely dedicated to fantasy writing. Modern Knights is the largest team competing and is comprised of James Lovett, Yesenia Caballero, Nicholas Smetzer, Niall Kitching, Meredith Peckham, Marshall Tickner, Logan Loveday, Adam Syed and Brock Lovett.
Pok-It is a clothing company that makes self-adhesive pockets to put on to clothing. While the pocket is their first product, they hope to expand their line with products and services that provoke reactions of self-expression from the sender while evoking emotional engagement from the receiver. It is run by Diego Trevino, Evan Murphy and Sean Pan.
Dbuntu is an app that empowers farmers in Uganda with the right information to optimize their food production & performance. They also provide a platform for the distribution of food produce to markets with the greatest shortages and food insecurity. Through their app, they aim to harness the power of data and machine learning to help feed the world by improving the life and efficiency of farmers.
“I believed in harnessing the power of data and machine learning to make decisions,” said Alvin Mbabzi, a senior from Uganda majoring in finance and entrepreneurship, with a specialization in data science and quantitative analytics.
The name Dbuntu is derived from the African proverb ‘Ubuntu’ means the spirit of humanity. They aspire to create a culture of ‘ubuntu’ in business, and so part of their culture requirements when recruiting are being adventurous and making others successful. To prepare for the competition, they have been practicing their speeches with one another and building their collaboration and team spirit. Their team consists of Alvin Mbabazi, Tatenda Ndambakuwa and Brent Mandelkorn.
Baking Brittney makes customized cake pops and cake pop arrangements that are deliverable, in addition to providing cake pop arrangement classes that teach everyone how to make their own arrangements that they get to take home at the end. Brittney Bowman, a 2017 Trinity graduate with an Accounting and Entrepreneurship degree and founder of Baking Brittney, has been making cake pops since her junior year of high school. The company grew out of her passion for baking.
“To get the company where it is, I have created the website that not only shows some of the products and designs that I offer, but also allows customers to place their order online,” Bowman said.