LaunchNET Kent State Expo and Awards Celebrates Entrepreneurs
LaunchNET Kent State team members, mentors, advisors, friends and entrepreneurs came together on April 12 in the Kent Student Center Ballroom to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2015-16 academic year.
This year's speakers included Julie Messing, executive director of LaunchNET Kent State; Deb Hoover, president and CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation; and Melody Tankersley, senior associate provost and interim dean of Graduate Studies.
The keynote speaker was Sharlene Chesnes, CEO of InterChez Companies, LaunchNET Kent State board member and Kent State alumna. Chesnes was recently named the university's President’s Ambassador for 2016 and the SBA 2016 Small Business Person of the Year for the Cleveland district. She spoke about the importance of perseverance and being open to all kinds of opportunities, while demonstrating the importance of diversity in her own life and business.
The LaunchNET Kent State staff recognized some of the key partnerships from the year, as well as student entrepreneurs who made significant progress in their ventures:
- Entrepreneur-Technology: Brian Stofiel (senior, aeronautics) - Stofiel Aerospace
- Entrepreneur-Product: Ariella Yager (junior, entrepreneurship), Sam Graska (junior, biology) and team - CaseMD
- Entrepreneur-App: Michael Frindt (senior, business management) and Zach Eckert (senior, finance) - Oftin
- Entrepreneur-Social Good: Shanice Cheatham (graduate student, public health) - Endemic Solutions
- Entrepreneur on the Rise: Andrew Badger (graduate student, library and information science) - Anime Beach
- Emerging Partner: Kent State’s Student Multicultural Center
- Emerging Partner: Kent State’s Center for Adult and Veteran Services
- University Partner-Faculty: Jessica Barness (assistant professor, visual communication design)
- University Partner-Staff: Benjamin Tipton (Corporate and Foundation Relations officer)
- Mentor: Dave McKee
- Regional Partner: Réka Barabas, director, Bad Girl Ventures NEO
Following the awards, guests had the opportunity to network with and ask questions of the entrepreneurs, 20 of whom exhibited their ventures at the expo.
“It is a really exciting way to end the year with this event that shows all the hard work that our entrepreneurs have done in the last nine months, while attending classes and participating in other activities,” says Zach Mikrut, LaunchNET program manager. “We are all very proud of the preparation they’ve done, getting to the point where they are able to confidently talk to potential mentors, investors and customers.”