Spring 2016 New Venture Seed Grant Winners Announced!



All individuals were required to go through an application process, as well as present their plans and proposals to a grant committee of faculty and administrators.  The committee selected eight proposals to receive funding to assist in marketing, and/or product development.  Congratulations to these seed grant recipients!

UpDog Kombucha

Lauren Miller ’17 (Economics)

Olivia Wolff ’16 (Health and Exercise Science)

UpDog Kombucha is a local, small batch Kombucha microbrewery located in Winston-Salem.

Kombucha is a fermented tea with naturally occurring probiotics, enzymes and acids. It is naturally carbonated and served cold.

Shift Creative Agency

Sarah Lupton (MBA)

Shift Creative Agency is a strategic storytelling agency. From around the world to around the corner, they partner with organizations with heart to develop and produce video content that makes a difference.


Kevin Farley ’16 (Finance)

Through a fantasy sports mobile app, Clutch aims to revolutionize the experience of attending a live sporting event by creating a unique platform where spectators can interact with the game, the community of fellow sports enthusiasts, and host vendors.


Jake Teitelbaum ’16 (Business & Enterprise Management and Spanish)

Sophia Faltin ’16 (Studio Art)

Resilience is a lifestyle brand that designs & sells cozy yet trendy socks using the “buy one, give one” model. With every purchase, customers have the option to send a pair of socks and personalized note to a family member, friend, or other patient suffering from a chronic illness.

Loopey Laces

Tom Worcester ’17 (Finance)

Tim Collis ’17 (Finance)

Loopey Laces allows consumers to recreate the look of their shoes and express themselves with uniquely colored, patterned, and lettered shoelaces. Their custom printed shoelaces, including the original sorority letter shoelaces, allow individuals to add personality to their footwear at a low cost.


Kurt Walker ‘16 (Computer Science)

Spool is a theme-based group video sharing iOS app that allows users to spark creative videos with the use of a single word or phrase and capture them with short looping videos, then watch the videos their friends create on the same topic.

EZ Open

Arthur Willson ‘19

EZ Open is an innovative easy open wine solution.

Wo Men Online Mentorship

Crystal Wang ‘19

Wenjin Wu ‘19

Meaning “us” in Chinese, Wo Men is an online study abroad mentorship platform that provides quality information on American colleges to Chinese student applicants. Wo Men seeks to ameliorate the information inconsistency issues students face during the application process as well as in college life.

Students Helping Students Expands Reach in 2016

By Allison Pennington, Communications Intern, Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship

“Our vision for SHS is to have a presence in all areas where there is an economic disparity. We will expand our efforts to identify sources of gently-used materials that are being discarded simply because there is not an efficient way to find a suitable home for the unwanted materials in an efficient and effective manner.” –Bill Zandi, Founder, Students Helping Students

Bill ZandiBill Zandi (’14) developed the idea for Students Helping Students in the winter of 2005, not long after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast area of the country. “During this time, my parents wanted my younger sisters and me to see the disparity in the quality of life that exists throughout our country. They explained that not only were we lucky to be in the position that we were in, but that because of this, it was our moral obligation to help those in need when we are able to do so,” Zandi explained. “When I learned that more than 150,000 school children were left without the most basic supplies, from papers to desks, I wanted to help.”

When his high school decided to renovate and began to discard a significant amount of usable school supplies and furnishings, Zandi approached his principal and asked if they could donate the supplies to schools in need in Louisiana. “It was at this moment that the idea of Students Helping Students was born,” explained Zandi. By 2009, with the support of businesses, individual donors, and even a partnership with Barnes and Noble, Students Helping Students was able to send thousands of dollars’ worth of supplies to a dozen more schools in Louisiana.

Students Helping StudentsAfter entering Wake Forest University in the fall of 2010, Zandi was able to continue building upon his idea and with the help of the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship, Students Helping Students officially became a 501(c)3 organization, expanding its reach into the Winston-Salem area. To date, Students Helping Students has redistributed roughly $300,000 worth of gently-used materials to seventy schools in four states.

Since Zandi’s graduation from Wake Forest in 2014, Students Helping Students has continued to grow, recently changing its focus to place a stronger emphasis on an online platform: “Until now, SHS has focused on the ‘user’ experience when redistributing gently-used and/or unwanted materials from one party to another,” Zandi explained. “We are now working on the development of an online platform to create a more efficient and user-friendly, ‘match.com,’ mechanism for materials distribution.” This development will enable Students Helping Students to redistribute greater quantities of unwanted/gently-used materials among a larger number of parties, at many locations simultaneously.

Tech SHSBy introducing a new online platform, Students Helping Students hopes to improve the ways that they exchange, analyze, and use information, enabling a significant improvement in their operational efficiency. “As we begin to construct and subsequently implement an online platform, we will be able to increase our scope significantly,” said Zandi. “Our hope is that this will propel SHS into a self-sustaining entity, thereby allowing us to distribute more supplies to more schools in need, with a much higher rate of success.”

Students Helping Students has grown exponentially over the last 10+ years, and Zandi is confident that 2016 will be no different. This year, Students Helping Students hopes to provide over $600,000 worth of school or classroom supplies and materials to low-income schools in the Philadelphia area. “Our vision for Students Helping Students is to have a presence in all areas where there is economic disparity,” said Zandi. “Through the development of proper distribution channels, partnerships, and the efficient dissemination of information, Students Helping Students can help reshape the way businesses and schools alike think about waste and educational needs.”

Ed McLaughlin, author of The Purpose is Profit, Answers Students’ Biggest Questions about Becoming an Entrepreneur

By Allison Pennington, Communications Intern, Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship

Ed McLaughlin

On February 2, 2016, Ed McLaughlin, a successful entrepreneur, executive, author, and investor visited Wake Forest to host an E-Lab entitled “Becoming an Entrepreneur.” During his presentation, McLaughlin answered many questions that young entrepreneurs face, including: Why do people become entrepreneurs? When is the right time to start a new business? How will you measure success?

McLaughlin, who is the founder and CEO Becoming an Entrepreneurof Blue Sunsets LLC, a real estate and angel investment firm based in Darien, CT, has held many other entrepreneurial roles throughout his career. McLaughlin also founded and served as Chairman and CEO of United Systems Integrators (USI). USI was named to the Inc. 500 List of America’s Fastest Growing Companies and McLaughlin was named an Entrepreneur of the Year in 2001 by Ernst & Young. McLaughlin is also the author of two books, The Startup Roadmap: 21 Steps to Profitability and The Purpose is Profit: The Truth about Starting and Building Your Own Business. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for The College of the Holy Cross and the Board of Governors for Tufts Medical Center.

In his presentation, McLaughlin encouraged students to consider the key ingredients that are necessary for new business success, including a working business model, a clear path to productivity, a significant market opportunity, and a superior value proposition. McLaughlin explained: “The best value proposition clearly defines and quantifies how your product will solve a problem or relieve a customer’s pain better than everything else.” He added that potential entrepreneurs should also consider the quantitative benefits of their product, such as profits, revenues, and expenses, as well as the qualitative benefits, such as convenience, safety, and self-esteem. Similarly, McLaughlin explained to students that one of the most important aspects of running a successful business is being ethical and honest with all customers and constituents. “Behave ethically and profits will follow,” he added, explaining that building employee trust, acknowledging mistakes and valuing honesty will benefit the business in the long run.

Ed McLaughlin CovenantMcLaughlin also introduced students to the idea of a personal covenant to beginning a startup. He encouraged students who are getting frustrated but really want to start a business to write a covenant with themselves and have someone else witness and sign it in order to hold themselves accountable. McLaughlin similarly encouraged students to understand the importance of a genuine commitment to sacrifice as one of the factors most important to deciding when is the right time to form a startup.

Profit bookFinally, McLaughlin concluded his presentation by offering advice on how students can work to scale their businesses in order to measure their success. One suggestion that McLaughlin presented is hiring people whom he calls “Lightening in a Bottle” – those who bring value and enthusiasm to your business. “Hire people who will challenge you to improve. These people will bring value and increase the size of your business,” he explained. McLaughlin encouraged students to keep an eye out for these people that are lightening in a bottle because they may be the support that is needed to jumpstart a business or ensure its growth and success.

For more information about Ed McLaughlin and his books, click here. To learn about other upcoming events and speakers hosted by the Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship, check out our Events Calendar here.

Photos credited to Ed McLaughlin

Women and Entrepreneurship: Economic Empowerment within the Latina Community of Winston-Salem

By Allison Pennington, Communications Intern, Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship

Thanks to the help of Dr. Angéla Kóczé and the students in her Women and Entrepreneurship: Innovation, Sustainability, and Social Responsibility class, El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services was recently awarded a grant for $24,500 from The Women’s Fund of Winston-Salem.

Kocze useDuring the 2015 fall semester, Kóczé, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and her students assisted El Buen Pastor in writing and developing a proposal entitled “Economic Empowerment of Women in Latino Community – Full Baskets.” With the money that they have been granted, El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services has launched an Economic Empowerment Program, which will offer entrepreneurship training, workshops, and networking to ten Latina women who want to start their own businesses. Through the program, these ten women will be able to start their own businesses by the end of 2016.

In her Women and Entrepreneurship class, Kóczé focuses on women’s entrepreneurial role and attitude in a larger global context. Students frequently read texts and watch videos that show how women are becoming entrepreneurial leaders, community change makers, and public visionaries in response to social, economic and environmental problems. “My course takes a critical sociological stance on entrepreneurship,” explained Kóczé. “We learn about the leadership of various women including, Sherry Sandberg (Facebook) and Wangari Maathai (Greenbelt movement). Moreover, we learn that these social entrepreneurs’ objectives reach beyond individual profit motives and seek to improve the quality of working and living conditions in various communities.”

Kocze 1It was through this sociological stance that Kóczé chose to focus her class on a specific population of women entrepreneurs in Winston-Salem. Since the fall of 2013, Wake Forest University’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies has partnered with the women and staff of El Buen Pastor to understand the unique situations that Latina women face in the Winston-Salem area. “Today, 14.8% of the population of Winston-Salem identifies as Hispanic, of which approximately 73.8% are foreign-born,” explained Dr. Kóczé. “New immigrants often face challenges with social, economic, and political integration. The structure of poverty is entrenched within the Latina community, but through this project, we are able to empower women in the El Buen Pastor community to start their own businesses.”’

Kocze 2Though the grant provides entrepreneurial training for an initial cohort of ten women, Kóczé believes that the project will foster a new group of women to join the program in the future and will indirectly impact approximately 250 additional Latina women and girls within the community. In the spirit of women entrepreneurs such as Sandberg, Maathai, and others they have studied in class, Kóczé and her students are truly making a difference in their local communities.

TEDxWakeForestU 2016 – Haven: Fearlessness Reimagined

By Allison Pennington, Communications Intern, Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship

In 2012, Wake Forest senior Lucy Lan organized the first TEDxWakeForestU conference in an effort to promote technology entrepreneurship here at Wake Forest. In the last five years, the annual conference has brought dozens of renowned speakers to campus to share their knowledge and stories with students, faculty, and community members.

“Haven: Fearlessness Reimagined,” the theme for this year’s Wake Forest TEDx conference, features eight inspiring speakers who will give presentations on security as it relates to each of their unique fields of expertise. This year’s impressive speaker lineup includes Mark Hurd, chief executive officer of Oracle Corporation and Nicole Hockley, founder and managing director of the Sandy Hook Promise.

Mark HurdMark Hurd - Mark Hurd is the chief executive officer of Oracle Corporation. With over 30 years of technology industry leadership, Hurd directs corporate strategy for the IT giant and is a member of the company's board of directors. Hurd works to enable clients to simplify their business using Oracle's suite of integrated cloud applications and platform services. Hurd's work in the IT space has gained him recognition from prominent business publications including Forbes, Fortune, Business 2.0, Barron's and The San Francisco Chronicle. His tireless commitment to client service and technological innovation has helped illuminate the future of business IT and client data.

HockleyNicole Hockley - Nicole Hockley is the founder and managing director of the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit working to end gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide, and accidental discharge. The nonprofit is working to build a national movement of parents, schools, and volunteers committed to gun violence prevention in their local areas and on a national stage by influencing state and national policy regarding the issue. The Sandy Hook Promise advocates for mental health and wellness early-intervention programs, and sensible gun safety and storage practices to build more secure campuses and community nationwide.

In addition to Hurd and Hockley, this year’s remarkable speakers also include:

  • Katrena Perou, Chief Program Officer at Urban Arts Partnership, a nonprofit that works to advance the intellectual, social, and artistic development of underprivileged public school students
  • Bradley Myles, Executive Director and CEO of the Polaris Project, the global leader in the fight to eradicate modern-day slavery and human trafficking
  • Errin Fulp, Wake Forest University Professor of Computer Science, specializing in computer network security research and nature-based designs that deliver more efficient methods to cyber security and more innovative solutions to computer science problems
  • Ignacio Packer, Security General of the Terre des Hommes International Federation, a network of 10 organizations working to promote the rights of children and their equitable development
  • Carl Krebs, Partner at Davis Brody Bond and architect-in-charge of designing the September 11 memorial and museum at the site of the World Trade Center, as well as many other influential civic, cultural, and academic projects at Davis Brody Bond
  • Maureen Berner, UNC Chapel Hill Professor of Public Administration and Government, she also provides advisory services to state and local governments, her work centered on improving food assistance programs and finding solutions to food scarcity

“Our team is excited to share with our audience what we think is an increasingly pertinent theme in our society. As parts of the world are facing migrant crises, data is being stolen left and right, and gun violence seems to have become the norm, security and safety need to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds,” explained Austin Evers, executive director of TEDxWakeForestU 2016. “The team and I encourage you to engage with our talented list of speakers at this year’s event to learn what it means to be safe and secure. We look forward to seeing you in the audience.”

TEDxWakeForestU 2016 will take place on Saturday, February 20, 2015 in Wait Chapel. To register for this year’s event, click here. You can find more information about TEDxWakeForestU and this year’s speakers here.

Religion, Poverty, and Social Entrepreneurship – An Interdisciplinary Approach to Prisoner Re-Entry

By Allison Pennington, Communications Intern, Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship

“I believe that everyone is an entrepreneur – it’s just not often made conscious or encouraged in the classroom. My goal is to release the inner entrepreneur within each of my students through this class.” –Dr. Ulrike Wiethaus, Professor, Department for the Study of Religions and American Ethnic Studies Program

Wiethaus picFive years ago, Professor Ulrike Wiethaus, a professor of Religion and American Ethnic Studies and co-founder of the Religion and Public Engagement concentration in the Department for the Study of Religions, approached the Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship with an idea for a new interdisciplinary class that would explore the intersections between Religion, Poverty, and Social Entrepreneurship. Inspired by her work with the Chaplaincy and diverse faith groups at Alexander Correctional Facility in Taylorsville, Professor Wiethaus has designed this semester’s class to focus specifically on an analysis of prisoner re-entry through leveraging the social and spiritual capital of religious communities.

“This semester, my students are doing a number of innovative new things,” explained Wiethaus. As part of the seminar, student teams are linking with religious communities in Winston-Salem to create a community project, aligning themselves with Provost Rogan Kersh and his efforts with the Taskforce against Poverty, as well as working with Alexander Correctional Facility and Forsyth County Jail ministries to educate clients on economic issues in poverty. These projects, which allow students to engage in service learning and community engagement, also give them the opportunity to explore the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship in a real-world setting.

Kathryn Covino (’18), whose team is partnering with St. Leo the Great Catholic Church here in Winston-Salem, explained that she is excited to learn more about the intersection of these three topics through her work with the Catholic community: “I’m interested in getting to know more about St. Leo’s, specifically their prison ministry and the work they do with inmates in Winston-Salem,” she said.

Wiethaus and her students approach the intersection between religion, poverty, and social entrepreneurship through a lens of multiple methodologies, including a business plan model that addresses the importance of social capital and entrepreneurship. Wiethaus explained that prisoners at Alexander Correctional collaborated with her and students to identify re-entry needs and explore solutions.  Through this class, she hopes to not only educate students on issues relating to incarceration, prison re-entry, and poverty, but also help students realize how they can link religion and social entrepreneurship to solve social problems.

Through this interdisciplinary class, Wiethaus is confident that her students will be empowered with the knowledge that they can use the models created through their community projects to tackle any other projects that they might encounter. “Higher education is deeply meaningful as a tool for non-violent, mindful, and well-informed communication across race, class, gender, and religious identities, and I hope that this class will fine tune and deepen what my students already know,” she explained.

Though the semester has just begun, Wiethaus’ students are already looking forward to the experience and insight they will gain through this seminar. “I am hoping that I’ll be able to put what I’m learning in class into use while engaging with the community,” explained Carolina Saca (’16). Other students, including Khaki Wade (’17), echoed her thoughts: “I am an Economics and Religion major, so I’m interested in the intersection between poverty and entrepreneurship,” Wade explained. “It is what I want to pursue as a career and I’m hoping that this class will help me better understand this connection.”

Students may receive credit for the Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise minor by taking this course, ESE322/REL344/REL690: Religion, Poverty, and Social Entrepreneurship.

Harnessing the Power of Liberal Arts to Create Catalysts for Change

By Allison Pennington, Communications Intern, Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship 

“At Wake Forest, we champion the liberal arts background as the foundation to being a catalyst for change.” –Evelyn Williams, Associate Vice President of Leadership Development

Each year, highly competitive freshmen students are invited to apply to Wake Forest’s Innovation Leadership through Communication or the “Catalyst Scholars” course. The trans-disciplinary course begins with a pre-term design thinking immersion week prior to the beginning of the year, and continues to meet weekly throughout the remainder of the fall semester.

The Catalyst Scholars course, which is taught through both the Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise and Communication departments, focuses on building design thinking, influential communication and leadership skills within the twenty-eight scholars who are chosen each year. Evelyn Williams, the Associate Vice President of Leadership Development at Wake Forest and the lead professor for this course, explains that the Catalyst Scholars course encompasses a holistic way of working with students to help them answer an important question: “What kind of leader do you want to become?”

The Catalyst Scholars course is built on the belief that in order to be a real catalyst for change, students need to understand the richness of a liberal arts background, as well as other teambuilding and communication skills. There are three parts to leadership development, explains Professor Williams: “Know. Do. Be.  Students need to have the conceptual knowledge to discover problems, have the skills to grapple productively with problems and the character to push to solve problems that really matter.”  Through the CAT immersion course, students become design-thinkers and problem-solvers who are able to develop solutions and motivate others in order to influence outcomes.

This year’s cohort of Catalyst Scholars have worked throughout the fall semester to consider what Wake Forest can do to develop the whole person. As a result, the scholars have offered recommendations to design the college experience in ways to produce engaged leaders for the Wake Forest community.

Gray O'SaileGray O’Saile, a current Catalyst Scholar, explains that through the CAT program, and final presentation, he has gained the skills he needs to become a positive change in the world. “Catalyst Scholars gave me the ability to not only analyze and understand problems for individuals in society, but to also act on those observations, develop helpful solutions for these issues, and use the powers of influence and presentation to introduce these solutions into a community or a society to enact change,” O’Saile explained. “It taught me how to turn my broad liberal arts education, and the traits developed within this educational style, into an actual product, something that can be used to positively impact societies.”

The Catalyst Scholar program builds upon foundational entrepreneurial thinking with a focus on innovation, design thinking and impactful storytelling.  These creative skills, combined with applying concepts learned from a cadre of faculty from across campus (Provost Rogan Kersh, Dean Michele Gillespie, Sr. Assoc. Dean Christy Buchanan, Vice President Penny Rue, Prof. Bill Conner, Prof. Cindy Gendrich and Prof. Eranda Jayawickreme were among the guest lecturers), helps students apply some of the best thinking from their liberal arts disciplines to solve real world problems.  The course encourage scholars to engage and motivate each other and their community by building relationships and fostering change.

Marlee StarkMarlee Stark, a 2014-2015 Catalyst Scholar, calls the Catalyst Scholar program “the most impactful experience” that she has had during her time at Wake Forest: “Catalyst Scholars pushed me to interrogate my communication and leadership styles and taught me the value of storytelling. While I think I have always generally taken an interest in how others interact and create together, the Catalyst Scholars program allowed me to engage with this concept in a more formal manner while forging some of my most valuable friendships on campus in the process.”

At a school where building positive change through Pro Humanitate is at the heart of everything that we do, Catalyst Scholars are going a step further by learning how to use their own leadership skills to make Wake Forest, and the world at large, a better place.

Finding a Niche: Student Entrepreneurs Develop Loopey Laces, LLC

By Allison Pennington, Communications Intern, Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship

collis Worcester

Sometimes, the best entrepreneurial ventures are those that are right in front of you. Earlier this year, Tommy Worcester (’17) and Tim Collis (’17), junior Finance majors and aspiring entrepreneurs, set out to develop an entrepreneurial idea that would get their feet wet. After months of brainstorming and researching different options for how to find a niche in the sock/footwear market, Worcester and Collis realized that there was a tremendous opportunity here on campus. After learning of a custom shoelace business which sells exclusively Nike shoe designs, these student entrepreneurs developed the idea to create shoelaces imbued with sorority letters to complement the Chuck Taylor Converse shoes that Wake Forest sorority members traditionally wear.

In the last couple of months, Worcester and Collis’ idea has taken off and Loopey Laces is now a fully-operational business that will begin selling its product during the first week of January alongside sorority recruitment! Loopey Laces will use tabling displays to market their products to the Wake Forest student body.

KD LettersWorcester and Collis explain that the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (CICE) has contributed immensely to their ability to create Loopey Laces. “The CICE New Venture Grant committee put us in front of the CICE Advisory Counsel of successful alumni, who were willing to sit down with us to hash out many of our questions,” explained Worcester. “We now have a professional network that ranges from business professors to consulting employees to founders and employees of different entrepreneurial institutions throughout the country. The ICE network continues to drive decisions in our business today,” he added.

Loopey Laces LogoAlthough Worcester and Collis hope to initially market Loopey Laces at Wake Forest and in the North Carolina area, they are planning to expand to the national space via eCommerce and physical trips within just a few months. “Years down the line, we are considering deals with major Greek retailers, collegiate organizations, and high school groups,” explained Worcester. “We don’t know exactly what the future might bring and that’s why this opportunity is so exciting!”

Congratulations to Tommy Worcester and Tim Collis on their success! Make sure to check out Loopey Laces when their products debut on campus in January.

Lani Lazzari, CEO of Simple Sugars and 2013 Shark Tank Winner, Encourages Students to “Live the Life they Love”

By Allison Pennington, Communications Intern, Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship

“You should never have to choose between a life you love and a job you love.” –Lani Lazzari

Lani LazzariLani Lazzari, the CEO of Simple Sugars and 2013 Shark Tank winner, was the keynote speaker at the Do Something Challenge main event, held on November 19, 2015 in the Kulynych Auditorium of Byrum Welcome Center. During the event, Lazzari, who followed her dreams to found Simple Sugars at the age of eleven, shared her own success story with the students, faculty, and staff in attendance. Lazzari also used her own entrepreneurial experience to share advice with other young entrepreneurs interested in either starting their own for-profit businesses or becoming involved in making a difference through social entrepreneurship.

At a young age, Lazzari had trouble finding skin care products that she could use on her sensitive skin. After numerous visits to the dermatologist and finding that even prescription lotions and skin creams were full of artificial preservatives, she played around in the kitchen and created her own recipe. Simple Sugars began as a hobby, but Lazarri quickly realized that she had created something really special, as there was a need for an all-natural lotion alternative in the beauty market.

Shark TankIn 2012, Lazzari was approached by Shark Tank and asked to pitch her idea on the show. After making it past twelve rounds of auditions, Lazzari pitched Simple Sugars to the sharks and signed a deal with Mark Cuban. As a result, Simple Sugars exploded overnight. Shark Tank producers told her to expect $20,000 worth of sales in the days after her episode aired, but Lazzari was shocked to find that in less than 24 hours, she had received $600,000 worth of sales as well as over 13,000 emails and voicemails – on her private cell phone number and email address!

“We had to restructure our business in a short time frame,” explained Lazzari. “Before Shark Tank, Simple Sugars had no Customer Service. We had only two part time employees, both of whom quit the week after the show aired. We didn’t have a supply chain either. We were still buying sugar from the grocery store!”

Simple SugarsAlthough Simple Sugars faced many structural challenges in the days following the Shark Tank premiere, Lazzari and her new team were able to continue growing the business. They retained eighty percent of customers who purchased a product after watching the episode, a huge feat for any business. Today, Simple Sugars is a multi-million dollar skincare line that sells products online and in retail stores across the world. Simple Sugars operates out of a 10,000 square foot facility in Pennsylvania and currently has seventeen full time staff members.

Although Lazarri is proud of the products that she created, she explained that she is even more proud of the company culture she has provided for those employees. “You should never have to choose between a life you love and a job you love,” she explained. “I want employees to come to work happy and even be sad when they leave. At Simple Sugars, we strive to create a positive energy culture where we celebrate everything.” Lazzari wants Simple Sugars to be a company that is changing the way that people look at jobs. She wants her company to be a role model for other companies who want to help their employees be fulfilled by their jobs.

S1230010When asked what she has learned through her Simple Sugars journey and what advice she would give to aspiring entrepreneurs, Lazzari offered advice about taking risks, learning from failures, and understanding that success takes time. “Take yourself seriously,” she told the audience. “The first step to getting others to take you seriously is to do so yourself.” Lazzari, who at only twenty-one years old has already accomplished what many entrepreneurs hope to accomplish during their lifetime, encouraged students to follow their dreams: “Dream it and then live it,” she explained. “Every day.”

To learn more about Lani Lazzari, click here. To learn more about the Do Something Project, click here.

What Would You Do with $5,000 to Change the World?

By Allison Pennington, Communications Intern, Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship

Do Something Challenge LogoAs part of Wake Forest’s celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, The Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship hosted the 2nd Annual Do Something Challenge, an event designed to allow young social entrepreneurs to pitch ideas for how they want to make a difference in their community. The Do Something Challenge culminated with a main event featuring Shark Tank Winner Lani Lazzari in Kulynych Auditorium on November 19, 2015.

This year’s Do Something Challenge posed this to Wake Forest students and community members: What would you do with $5,000 to change the world? In all, twenty-five students pitched ideas to a panel of judges about how they would put the money to use. The pitches spanned a wide range of initiatives and included ideas to tackle educational deficits, social justice issues, economic problems, and other social issues in the community.

Lindsey CarpenterLindsey Carpenter, the first place winner of this year’s Do Something Challenge, received a $3,000 stipend to fund her idea, Thrive to Strive. Thrive to Strive is a weekend-long career planning workshop that will be held in the spring for local high school students. During the workshop, students will learn how to write resumes, practice their interviewing skills, and learn how to succeed in the business world.  “If we really want to change the world,” explained Carpenter, “we have to look at where the world starts, and that’s with our children. Children are the building blocks of society…the future…they’re what we put our hope in.” Congratulations to Lindsey Carpenter for her winning pitch!

Rushil MehtaRushil Mehta, the second place winner of the 2015 Do Something Challenge, was awarded a $1,500 stipend to fund his idea, Agricultural Opportunities. Mehta’s idea is to hold a food-focused career fair around the food and agricultural jobs that are available in Winston- Salem. Mehta explained, “My goal is to bridge the gaps between the opportunities and the people in Winston- Salem.” He added, “I’m not trying to solve hunger in Winston-Salem. I’m trying to inspire the minds that will.” Congratulations to second place finalist Rushil Mehta for his wonderful idea!

In addition to the first and second place winners, four other pitches were chosen as semi-finalists. These top six pitches were presented during the main event and audience members were then given the opportunity to vote for the pitch that they would like to receive a $500 Audience Choice Award.

Matt Williams“Captivism,” an idea pitched by Wake Forest graduate student Matt Williams, was chosen to receive the $500 Audience Choice Award. Captivism, a social justice crowd-funding site, will allow patrons to donate their money to a wide range of social justice issues, including those local to the Winston-Salem community. “Captivism is the tool for the next generation of change agents,” explained Williams. “When our capital meets activism, change becomes revolutionary.” Congratulations to Matt Williams for winning this year’s Audience Choice Award!

Winners also received membership privileges to Flywheel, a premiere co-working space in downtown Winston-Salem.

This year’s Do Something Challenge was planned and executed by senior Kelly Guin and her Executive Team.

Do Something Challenge Exec Team and LaniPictured here from left to right are:

Kelsey Brown (’16), Director of Logistics

Sabrina Parisi, (’18) Director of Public Relations

Amanda Ulrich (’16), Budget Director

George Papakonstantinou (’19), Speaker Coordinator

Lani Lazzari, (Incredibly Talented Entrepreneur and Speaker)

Kelly Guin (’16), Executive Director

Stephanie Sullan (’16), Director of Programming

Kent Garrett (’16), Public Outreach Director

Not Pictured: Olivia Cheney (’16), Marketing Director

“This year’s Do Something Challenge was amazing. We had such inspiring student pitches, passionate judges, and an incredibly talented and accomplished speaker,” said Kelly Guin, Executive Director. She added: “Being the Executive Director of the Do Something Challenge was the most rewarding experience of my collegiate career and I am incredibly grateful for everyone that was a part of it.”

The Do Something Challenge would not have been possible without our generous sponsors: The Office of the Provost, the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship, the Student Activities Fund, the WFU School of Divinity, the Women’s Center, the Entrepreneurship Society, and Winston-Salem Flywheel.