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Bobcat Seed Fund helps students reach their business goals

Published: November 10, 2020 Author: Bri Schoepf

The Bobcat Seed Fund, offered through the Center for Entrepreneurship, provides a unique opportunity for any Ohio University student who has identified a business concept or has already started a business to be awarded a grant to help their business idea prosper. 

The fund was started in 2018 and has granted a total of about $15,000 to six student-founded companies so far. These companies include eFuse, The Cell Fixers, The Sun Room Skirts, Athena Publishing, Dahshur, and Augury, which were all able to begin with the financial support of the Bobcat Seed Fund

Nate Finley, senior studying business administration, received a grant from the Bobcat Seed Fund to invest in the infrastructure of his startup, Athena Publishing. This grant helped support the registrations with Broadcast Music, Inc. and the Harry Fox Agency, music licensing organizations. 

“This enabled me to begin administrating artist copyrights and act towards Athena Publishing’s mission—to assist rising songwriters and composers in getting paid for the fruits of their talent,” said Finley. “So far, I’ve been able to help my first client, The Borders, a neo-funk band out of Columbus, Ohio, in administrating their debut album to start collecting songwriter royalties.” 

In addition to providing the Bobcat Seed Fund, the Center for Entrepreneurship also aims to contribute to Ohio University’s entrepreneurial ecosystem by enhancing education and activity through various programs, events, and other resources that students can utilize to reach their business goals. Paul Benedict, new director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, wants students to understand the importance of not only the Bobcat Seed Fund, but also the other tools provided by the center that are just as beneficial in starting a business.

“The Center for Entrepreneurship exists to serve the entire University community, and the Bobcat Seed Fund can support any Ohio University student. We want to help them pursue their passions and make an impact—big or small,” said Benedict. “We know that funding from us can make a real difference. And even when we’re not quite ready to award a grant to an applicant, we always try to help them in other ways.” 

A clothing startup, Augury, has also been able to progress with the help of the Bobcat Seed Fund. It was founded by Devin Wistendahl, BFA ’19, who also manages all creative direction, designs clothing graphics and branding material, and directs video and photographic media for promotional purposes. 

“With the help of the Bobcat Seed Fund, we were able to invest in our own screen-printing equipment, moving a key step of our production process in-house. In addition to saving time and money, this has given us a level of creative flexibility that we wouldn’t have been able to achieve if we had to rely on outside manufacturers,” said Wistendahl. “This investment has streamlined production time from a previous two-week turnaround to only two days total. Also, it decreased production cost per T-shirt by 40 percent.” 

Students who are interested in receiving financial support from the fund first fill out a simple application. They are asked to provide the name and description of their business idea; website URL if applicable; a short elevator pitch; descriptions of their background, experience, and qualifications; and the amount of money they will be requesting. 

Once the application is submitted, the investment committee, consisting of all students, reviews it and discusses the next steps. The managing director then communicates with the applicant either asking follow-up questions to gain a better understanding of their business idea or inviting the applicant to meet with the team to make a formal pitch. During the formal pitch, the applicant presents, followed by the committee’s discussion of their decision.

“I am so grateful for the Bobcat Seed Fund. Not only did it give me the experience of creating and pitching an idea to a board, but it allowed me to have the necessary funds to begin chasing my passion,” said Mary Grace Monzel, BSJ ’18, MBA ’19, founder of The Sun Room Skirts, a socially conscious clothing company. “The Sun Room has impacted so many people and all of that was possible because of the Bobcat Seed Fund. Having your own business is challenging, but it’s such a rewarding experience that has pushed me to grow and acquire valuable skill sets from sewing to graphic design. The Bobcat Seed Fund is the best way to start an idea you are passionate about in college while having support and mentorship from like-minded entrepreneurs.” 

The Center for Entrepreneurship serves the entire Ohio University community. It operates as a partnership between the College of Business and the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

Those interested in serving on the Bobcat Seed Fund’s investment committee should reach out to the fund’s Managing Director, Shayla Phillip at sp690019@ohio.edu and Paul Benedict at benedict@ohio.edu with a cover letter and resume.