JMU student and alumni entrepreneurs get boost from program
Startups Gewd Botanicals, Handicans and Tow Ninja will receive $5k each
The James Madison University Bluestone Seed Fund announced Monday that it would provide three startup companies with $5,000 each in its inaugural investment cycle.
The Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship manages the donor-backed fund. The three chosen startups are Gewd Botanicals, Handicans and Tow Ninja.
Malique Middleton, a 2021 graduate, founded Gewd Botanicals, a shop that offers cruelty-free, eco-friendly products like Oily Wash oil-based cleanser, All-Over-Ya-Body Butter moisturizer and Scrubba-Scrub exfoliator.
Handicans produces ergonomic trashcans designed for accessibility. The cans have wheelchair-friendly doors and allow horizontal trash removal. Chris Dorr, a 2021 alumnus, created the patent-pending design. Cans will come in varying models, including 60-gallon cans.
Tow Ninja uses an integrated web and mobile app to simplify communication and bookkeeping between tow companies — particularly “mom and pop shops” — and clients. The companies can track and view tows, statuses and revenue, and vehicle owners can locate, manage and retrieve towed vehicles. Current JMU student Jack Oppenheim founded Tow Ninja.
In addition to equity investments, the fund provides hands-on venture investing experience for JMU students through the Student Venture Associates program. Cohorts of students recruit and screen applicants, conduct due diligence, observe investor pitches and manage the portfolio companies.
“Our Student Venture Associates and student founders all got a very real-world venture investing experience,” Suzanne Bergmeister, executive director of the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship, said in a statement. “The startups that receive the funding will now be mentored and monitored as they continue to grow. We are thrilled to have three portfolio companies this cycle and are looking forward to adding even more to our portfolio in the spring.”
The first investment cycle was open to current undergraduate or graduate students and 2021 alumni. The spring 2022 investment cycle will open to any JMU alumni who graduated within the past five years.