A creative spark sometimes needs a little help to become a full-blown fire, and Blackstone LaunchPad at Temple University and Philadelphia University can tap into the many resources available on campus and across the region to support design-focused startups.
“At PhilaU, we tend to see a lot of really exciting concepts from our students that reflect the multidisciplinary focus of our curriculum,” said Zoe Selzer McKinley, the school’s Blackstone LaunchPad director. “A design student will have studied business models, and a business student will have some background in design thinking. This gives us a great platform to build from, and we love helping them round out their ideas and start to execute.”
These eight entrepreneurs want to change the way we look, feel and dress:
1. Olawunmi Thomas-Quarcoo
- Ka Bom Designs
Many people wonder, Olawunmi Thomas-Quarcoo said, if African fashion, with its vibrant colors and bold prints, can compete in the fashion industry. She and her business partner, Hannah Afua Obeng, wanted to change that mindset, so they created Ka Bom Designs, an online marketplace for African fashion. “Ka bom” means “join together” in Twi, a language spoken in Ghana.
“This definition symbolizes fusing our American upbringing and our African roots,” said Thomas-Quarcoo, an MBA student at Temple’s Fox School of Business. “It also represents joining together different African-inspired women designers to showcase their fashion on one platform. We’re not just selling clothing. We’re building a community of women all around the world.”
Blackstone LaunchPad at Temple helped Thomas-Quarcoo refine her business plan and gave her suggestions on strategic moves that would give Ka Bom an advantage over potential competitors. With Blackstone’s assistance and feedback, she also entered the Innovative Idea Competition at Temple, earning first-place awards in the categories of People’s Choice and Graduate, Faculty, Staff, or Alumni.
Currently building its website, Ka Bom Designs hopes to officially launch in spring 2016.
2. Kyle Garb
While attending Philadelphia University, industrial design senior Kyle Garb has strived to broaden his product design skill set as much as possible.
“The mentality was the more experience I could get under my belt, the more prepared I would be going forward,” Garb said. “I would also have more versatility to offer going into the workforce.”
He’s currently exploring new methods for burn care treatment.
“I believe there’s an opportunity to approach the process from a more therapeutic standpoint: an application method that can improve patient comfort and treatment efficiency during what can be a painful process,” he said.
His experience with LaunchPad allowed him to be one of 10 finalists to pitch his medical device to AOL cofounder Steve Case at the Rise of the Rest speed pitch competition in September.
“Condensing months of research into a single minute was a challenge since I was forced to narrow the concept down to the most necessary details,” he said. “However, this definitely has helped in expressing ideas going forward.”
3. Séverine M. Bandou
Most hair products designed for textured hair (waves, curls and coils) don’t have a luxury feel, Séverine M. Bandou said. “The scent is either outdated or with a single note or smells like a chocolate cupcake. That’s OK if you’re 12 years old, but when you are 20, 30 or 40, your hair is a seduction weapon. Women with textured hair deserved sophisticated products as well.”
While plentiful on the market, fragrances for straight hair can’t usually be used on textured hair because the formula will most likely dry it out, she said.
Myjé will enable women with textured hair to neutralize airborne odors without any drying effect, said Bandou, a student in Temple’s Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship master’s program. They will experience the sensation of freshly washed hair while saving time and avoiding hair damage due to frequent shampooing, treatments and styling.
Bandou frequently attends LaunchPad meetings, and the program connected her with an entrepreneur who launched her own haircare line 10 years ago. She also participated in the Innovative Idea Competition, and thanks to LaunchPad’s feedback on her pitch, she came in second place in the Graduate, Faculty, Staff or Alumni category.
She plans to have a prototype by July 2016 and launch after she graduates in May 2017.
4. Matthew Flail & Tim Ganter
Services exist that provide personalized footwear that allow people to select colors and materials. At the same time, pedorthic shoe production and orthotic development offer custom foot and joint support, but can be costly and time consuming, usually requiring multiple doctor visits. But what about offering both?
“There was nothing out there that combined those two main services for a truly customized and personal footwear experience,” said Matthew Flail, who cofounded Footprint along with Tim Ganter. The pair both graduated in May from PhilaU with degrees in industrial design. “We’re also the first company to our knowledge to provide 3D-printed footwear where the midsoles have a functional/performance benefit and are individually customized,” Flail said.
As part of an important business steppingstone, Blackstone LaunchPad introduced the pair to Temple’s School of Podiatric Medicine. “The networking opportunities that LaunchPad offers are excellent, and those connections can really push students with great ideas to new levels,” Flail said.
Born out of master’s thesis project, Footprint enters the beta phase now, and the company is taking requests to be a part of this initial test group.
5. Camille A. Bell
- Pound Cake
To increase the range of matte lipstick colors on the market, especially for a variety of skin tones, Camille A. Bell has created Pound Cake.
“My ultimate goal is to change the way people think of beauty,” said Bell, who graduated from Temple’s School of Media and Communication in May 2015. “I want every person who shops at Pound Cake represented on my website. I’m not even doing this for me; I’m doing this for people who truly enjoy makeup but feel underrepresented in the cosmetic industry. Pound Cake is not just for women of color. Pound Cake is for everyone to enjoy and everyone to feel included.”
Nine days after her first meeting with Blackstone LaunchPad, Bell attended the MakeUp in NewYork conference where she networked with over 60 cosmetic vendors and packaging companies. “And without Blackstone’s help, I would not have won the Global Initiative Prize at the Innovative Idea Competition,” Bell said.
She’s currently researching unique lipstick shades and speaking with cosmetic chemists. Once Bell decides on the right cosmetic laboratory, they will generate the matte lipsticks and handle the packaging. She plans to launch her website in early May.
6. Dyandra Raye & Brittany Arial
- Boutique Your Closet
A handful of companies have operated for decades on the luxury scale with custom closets. And while Boutique Your Closet does provide high-end closets and services, the company founded by Dyandra Raye and Brittany Arial takes that offering one step further with styling and organizational help as additional affordable services for emerging influencers and professionals.
“What makes us unique is not only do we install and design custom closets, we style and organize your wardrobe, interior design your space and provide visual clutter assistance,” said Raye, a global fashion enterprise major at PhilaU. “We’re your one-stop shop to creating the ultimate in home boutique.”
After launching the company in August 2014, Raye said she owes much to Blackstone LaunchPad’s guidance. “As small business owners and students, we need a support system to help answer those burning questions,” she noted. “I’m excited to continue attending meetings and events, and entering business competitions offered through Blackstone LaunchPad to help us grow from a local business into an international name.”
Blackstone LaunchPad Philadelphia supports student entrepreneurship in the Greater Philadelphia region through a partnership among Philadelphia University, Temple University and the University City Science Center.-30-