Empowering student entrepreneurs: The Entrepreneurship Alliance Accelerator

Image: Jameson Fitzgerald

Jameson Fitzgerald pitching his product FLOZ to potential investors at the April 2023 pitch event.

The Entrepreneurship Alliance Accelerator (EAA) is the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s flagship business accelerator that provides aspiring student entrepreneurs with the tools, mentorship, and knowledge needed to turn their business ideas into reality.

In the spring of 2023, the EAA was rebooted post-covid in a new 8-week format featuring weekly evening work sessions, guidance from experienced mentors, and the opportunity to pitch for seed funding. The work sessions fostered collaboration allowing student founders to share insights, gain feedback, and network with each other. In addition, each student venture was paired with experienced mentors who offered guidance, industry expertise, and personalized support throughout the program. These mentors, successful entrepreneurs or business professionals, brought real-world insights to the student’s challenges and helped students on their entrepreneurial journey.

In this year’s cohort, fourteen student founders completed the program and pitched their business ideas to a panel of investors, industry experts, and potential partners on April 14th. The pitch program allowed students to showcase their entrepreneurial vision and secure seed funding for their ventures. Seed funding can be a critical catalyst for turning ideas into tangible products. Through generous gifts from the Steen family, the Eisenhart family, David Spence, and Greg and Elizabeth Maday, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation was able to award over $30,000 to these student ventures.

FLOZ was founded by senior Jameson Fitzgerald (finance and banking, minor in economics; ‘23) and his brother John Fitzgerald (Trulaske Graduate, BSBA, Finance and Banking,2020)) and was awarded $6500 to develop their first product, scale operations, and attract further investment.

“We are creating a hardware device called ‘FLOZ’ that press fits into the bottom of a straw water bottle lid so you can effortlessly track how  much water you drink throughout the day,” explained Jameson. “It allows users to track their data via a turbine in the casing, which spins every time they take a sip. That data is then stored and sent via Bluetooth to our mobile application, where users can monitor their data and water consumption.”

First-year business student Melanie Garcia founded Churros to bring new flavors to Columbia’s dessert scene! “My venture is to sell churros, coffee, and churros sundaes. I want to start this business because there aren’t many dessert options besides ice cream or cookies in Columbia. I want to bring something from a different culture and unique.”Churros was awarded $1750 to purchase a Churro maker, supplies, and market their delicious product.

IndependUS Cooperative was founded by Blaise Ebisch, a junior in Economics, and three other students (Josh Robinson, Compsci May 2024; Sean Newell, Compsci Fall 2023; Chloe Jones, Compsci MA Spring 2023).

“IndependUS is a worker co-op with the mission of building transparent and informative software,” explained Blaise. “The app we’re building now is a platform to verify community-based data and deliberation. We hope to make a place where users can understand their communities and others more effectively.”

“While my core goal is finding ways to facilitate online democracy, this venture has also allowed us to gain hands-on experience with software development, project management, and organization development.” Blaise and his co-founders were awarded $4500 to get their minimum viable product (MVP) released. “The first implementation of our platform is launching free-of charge in Boone County later this year, so I’m super excited to finally share it with the local community.”

“These students are brilliant with great ideas and great people to work with. I am so proud of all the students who participated this year and can’t wait to see what they will do next,” said CEI Director J Scott Christianson, who organized and managed the accelerator.