Three Penn State student startups each won $10,000 for their startups in the annual “Shark Tank”-style Inc.U Competition hosted by the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP).
The three winning startups are:
- Girls Code the World, a nonprofit corporation that seeks to provide opportunities, resources, and role models for young girls in STEM-related fields through a series of engaging programs and extended mentorships. The startup founder is Sydney Gibbard, a sophomore at University Park studying biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering.
- Miss Monroe Collection, an organic and protective hair care company established to empower people of color to embrace their natural hair. The startup founder is Jaelyn Monroe, a sophomore at University Park studying political science in the College of the Liberal Arts and obtaining a business certificate from the Smeal College of Business.
- Table Rock Markets, an e-commerce platform for connecting consumers to local farmers. The startup founder is Jake Grim, a junior at Penn State Mont Alto studying business management and marketing.
As part of PennTAP’s Inc.U Competition, the three teams competed against three additional student companies from across the commonwealth for up to $30,000 in funding on WPSU-TV’s “The Investment,” which aired at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 13. It was also released as a web episode.
The other three student startups that competed in the 2021 Inc.U Competition were:
- JERPA Jeans, which makes sherpa-lined jeans for all your outdoor needs when you want to look fancy but feel comfortable.
- Sports Data Now, a data research platform designed to improve the decision making of a sports fan with a passion for fantasy leagues, analyzing player statistics, and refining sports models.
- Xora, which provides visual communication tools which allow 3D designers to communicate both internally and externally with higher clarity and speed.
"This year we truly had six really solid finalists with strong concepts and business plans,” said Jordan Rednor, Inc.U Competition judge and executive director and chief operating officer of Decoded Advertising. “The challenge was to separate the ones we thought not only had the strongest vision, but also the ability to differentiate themselves in their respective verticals. Table Rock Markets, Girls Code the World, and Miss Monroe Collection each made a strong case that they have a unique vision for their product or service and could successfully deliver on that vision in a competitive environment. For each of the winners, the award will be a great catalyst towards achieving success."
Jaelyn Monroe, founder of Miss Monroe Collection, said she enjoyed her experience pitching her business on “The Investment” and plans to use the funding for a marketing campaign and to travel to network with beauty supply shops.
“It also meant a lot to me being that I was the first African American woman to be on the show,” Monroe said. “I got to work with professionals to perfect my pitch, I earned a new mentor who is helping to provide me with a public relations team next semester, and I received great and valuable feedback from the judges.”
Table Rock Markets founder Jake Grim said he plans to use the $10,000 to provide two full-time internship opportunities for software and front-end developers, which will allow the startup to improve their platform as they onboard farms throughout the summer.
In addition to the pitch mentoring from PennTAP, the Nittany AI Alliance, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Grim said participating in several of the Penn State startup competitions and programming this past year really prepared him for “The Investment.” Table Rock Markets won first place in the Mont Alto LaunchBox pitch competition LION Tank, participated in Ag Springboard, the Happy Valley Capital pitch competition, the IdeaMakers Challenge, the Summer Founders program, the Ben Franklin TechCelerator, and is currently in the MVP Phase of the Nittany AI Challenge.
“The Penn State entrepreneurship ecosystem is incredible - I can't believe how many resources are available to students to utilize,” Grim said. “I'm grateful for all the opportunities we've had this semester.”
“The Investment” television show is the culmination of the Inc.U Competition managed by PennTAP in partnership with Invent Penn State, Penn State Outreach, and the Penn State Commonwealth Campuses. The initiative is funded by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
The taping of “The Investment” was made possible thanks to the following WPSU sponsors:
The sponsors for the competition prize money are Invent Penn State, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Penn State College of Engineering, the Robert & Tammy Morgan Entrepreneurship Fund, and the Penn State Schreyer Honors College.
Visit the WPSU Penn State website to watch the show online.
To view more Penn State affiliated startups, visit the Invent Penn State Startup Navigator.
To learn more about entrepreneurial resources available to Penn State students, visit the Invent Penn State Resource Navigator.