The Berks LaunchBox recently awarded five startup companies with newly funded, “Grow Your Startup Grants,” which provide entrepreneurs participating in Berks LaunchBox programs with $500 towards a need they have identified, specifically relating to talent or education. Startup needs may include talent to help with prototyping, marketing, and design, or registration for an educational conference or training session. These grants are funded by The Marlin and Ginger Miller Educational Endowment for Education Innovation and Design Thinking made to the Berks LaunchBox.
The grant helps entrepreneurs to connect with “talent partners” who provide expertise to help them take the next step forward. The funds can also help pay for an educational conference or training program in their industry that helps them gain key knowledge needed to grow their startup. Each winning startup plans to pay additional funds out-of-pocket to supplement the grant to accomplish their goals.
Grant winners include:
Cory Dahlia Varona-Corniel and Nicol Varona Cancelmo from DN Organics, Penn State Berks alumni
DN Organics is a clean and affordable hair care brand, whose mission is to empower women to take control of their health by using a more natural alternative for all their hair care needs. They encourage women to spend less time perfecting their hair and more time enjoying life fearlessly natural. The sisters will use their grant money to add an online shopping module to their website so they can launch their products in the first quarter of 2021. They will use the remainder of the funds for assistance with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for their website.
Eric Schraud from Decimal Energy, Penn State Berks student
Decimal Energy, a renewable green energy company, has developed a decentralized hydrogen unit capable of powering automobiles, homes, commercial spaces, and military applications. They will use this grant to pay a contractor to assist their engineers with development of their first prototype.
Mark Viglione from Enigma Networkz, LLC, Penn State alumni
Enigma Networkz, LLC is a SaaS cybersecurity company that provides data analytics, threat detection, and remediation solutions for organizations. They will use the grant to aid their “go-to-market” initiatives for 2021. The funds will be used to help hire three Penn State interns who are assisting with content creation for blog posts, white papers, and social media posts, all to drive customers to their website.
Mandy Heard from Verde Mantis, community member
Verde Mantis, manufacturer of the easy-to-use Mantis 3D printer founded by Joe Sinclair ’15, will use the grant to collaborate with WeDiscoverGeeks, a company that provides information to parents, educators, and the community on the positive effects of video games, social media, and STEAM education. The collaboration will include developing a marketing campaign comprised of blog posts, social media posts, and a sales funnel targeting the Cosplay and STEAM niche – WeDiscoverGeeks’ areas of expertise.
Petros Pappalas from World Brand, community member
World Brand, LLC is a seed stage startup that researches, develops, tests, manufactures, and distributes sustainable, on-the-go essentials. They are designing the tooling for a new product to add to their already successful, incredibly strong, paper straw line. They will use their grant to pay an industrial designer, with an artistic eye, to help with the design and engineering of this new product.
The “Grow your Startup Grant” is available due to the generosity of Marlin and Ginger Miller. The Marlin and Ginger Miller Endowment for Education Innovation and Design Thinking was created to enrich the Penn State Berks community by providing funds for education and innovation programs focused on entrepreneurship. The startup grants are just one use of these funds, and the Berks LaunchBox staff is excited to consider new ideas to promote creativity and innovation through the use of this endowment.
“We are grateful for the support of Marlin and Ginger Miller and their interest in supporting the Berks community, specifically in the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation. This focus aligns perfectly with the mission of the Berks LaunchBox and increases our reach and impact dramatically,” stated Erica Kunkel, Interim Director of the Berks LaunchBox.