Alumni with start-ups express value of accelerator program.
gBETA St. Thomas is a free, seven-week accelerator that mentors start-ups with at least one founder who is either a University of St. Thomas alumnus or a current student. Run in collaboration with the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship and the nationally ranked gener8tor accelerator program, each gBETA cohort is capped at five companies.
“The intensive mentoring, training and resources are vitally important for our entrepreneurs,” said Dr. Laura Dunham, associate dean of the Schulze School. “Students and alumni don‘t have to go it alone.”
The following four entrepreneurs were in the summer 2021 cohort with Jules Porter, founder of Seraph 7 Studios.
Love You Cookie
As a 100% minority-owned business, Love You Cookie makes cookies inspired by classic recipes and sells them through e-commerce and retail. Co-founder and CEO Sahr Brima, who started this business during the pandemic out of a food truck with his wife, Sarah, said “gBETA gave us dedicated business advisers that helped provide the clarity and insight we needed to create a strategy for stabilizing and scaling our gourmet cookie company.”
Brima, an attorney who graduated from St. Thomas with a bachelor‘s degree in international political economy, added, “We also received invaluable training on creating executive summaries, pitch decks, and pitching to real investors.”
SimBull Sports Exchange helps sports fans use their sports knowledge to virtually buy and sell shares in professional and collegiate teams like stocks, with cash payouts.
“St. Thomas has a huge entrepreneurial network and the gBETA program helps us tap into that network by introductions to mentors and investors,“ said co-founder and CEO Kenneth Giles, who obtained a bachelor‘s degree in actuarial science in 2020. “We pitched SimBull to over 20 investors at the end of the program.”
Co-founder and COO Patton Fitzpatrick, who graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in business administration, said, “The gBETA program helped us grow as entrepreneurs and a company … developing our pitch deck, the connections with mentors, and the introductions to investors helped take SimBull to the next level in our company journey.”
Willa’s creates shelf-stable oat milk using organic ingredients for the dairy-free foodie. The company fully launched in January 2021 and has four products in hundreds of stores nationwide, as well as on Amazon.
“The gBETA team can help you identify helpful resources for just about any challenge, and they are tapped into loads of tools to help you maximize your time,” said Co-founder and CEO Christina Dorr Drake, who graduated in May 2005 with a double major in marketing and Spanish. “They were sort of like a multifaceted Swiss Army knife that plugged into our business, helping us solve challenges big and small – from identifying time-saving digital sales outreach tools, or connecting us with other founders, as well as potential customers.” The Schulze Innovation Fund is an investor in Willa’s.
ZeSa manufactures patented instability training devices that combine instability and rotation with five progressive levels of difficulty to help trainees achieve optimal strength, balance and flexibility. It seeks to expand its fitness studio to other Twin Cities locations and nationally.
Creator and Co-founder Shanti Rainey, a former footballer and All-American track athlete at St. Thomas who obtained his bachelor’s degree in science in 1998, said, “The gBETA program really helped us to prioritize our business goals and gave us valuable insight. The one-on-one meetings with multiple experienced mentors helped us to realize that ZeSa is not just a fitness/rehab equipment company, but a broader lifestyle company.”
For more information on the gBETA St. Thomas program, visit gbetastartups.com/st-thomas.