Gustie Entrepreneurs Build, Grow, and Win

Gustie-run companies JockLab and School Shark recently won an entrepreneurship competition and start-up funding to spur further growth.
Posted on November 8th, 2019 by

Alijah Nelson receives his first-place check from Director Marta Podemska-Mikluch at the 2019 Gustie Entrepreneur Cup.

Alijah Nelson receives his first-place check from Director Marta Podemska-Mikluch at the 2019 Gustie Entrepreneur Cup.

Two young companies that got their start at Gustavus Adolphus College continued their upward trajectories Oct. 14-15 at the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation Entrepreneurial Bridge Student Business Plan Competition. Both Gustie teams competed in the event using designs they developed while competing in the Gustie Entrepreneur Cup last spring. 

Alijah Nelson ’19, who won the Gustie Entrepreneur Cup in May, teamed up with Anierobi Eziolise ’18, Oliver Frempong ’20, and Mohammed Sheikh ’20 to take home the first-place prize of $5,000 at the Southern Minnesota event. Their company, JockLab, is working to further develop their product, “D-Up,” which is essentially a training robot that plays defense against a solo player in a game of basketball.

Nelson’s growing company recently secured a partnership with students at Minnesota State University, Mankato to continue to develop the technical side of the product. “Engineering seniors at MNSU will work on developing our product as part of their senior year project,” the recent Gustavus alumnus said.

Weston Lombard and John Campisi celebrate after their company, School Shark, won the People's Choice Award.

Weston Lombard and John Campisi celebrate after their company, School Shark, won the People’s Choice Award.

The other Gustie company at the event was School Shark, led by current students Weston Lombard ’21 and John Campisi ’21. The team took third place at the Gustie Cup in the spring and won the People’s Choice award (which includes a $2,000 prize) at the Southern Minnesota competition. Their product is an app that allows college students buy and sell textbooks to and from each other, creating lower prices for consumers than they may find by purchasing a new textbook.

“What inspired us to continue School Shark was our own personal experience of the problem we are solving and the impact we had at Gustavus in our first year. It’s a nationwide problem and our goal is to help as many students lessen the burden of the price of college textbooks as possible,” Lombard said.

Tom Clement, who serves as the Ogden P. and Elizabeth Confer Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Gustavus Department of Economics and Management and Associate Director of the Gustie Entrepreneur Cup, worked closely with both teams last spring.

“School Shark, as an idea, was actually developed in my January Interim Experience course in 2019. I have continued to remain close with the founders and they seek help and advice regularly,” Clement said. While the success of the companies is rewarding for the students, the professor especially enjoys the opportunity to with students through these kinds of mentorships.

“Entrepreneurship has been basically my whole life, in one form or another, for the past 48 years. I think it is the duty and obligation of entrepreneurs to pass that knowledge and experience on to others. It is exciting when I am able to work with students of all disciplines and backgrounds to develop their ideas and solve problems,” Clement said.

Lombard is thankful to his fellow students for helping shape School Shark into what it is today.

“We can’t thank Gusties enough for believing in us and proving that what we are doing can really help college students in a big way. Thank you, Gusties,” Lombard said.

After being created and nurtured at Gustavus, the futures of JockLab and School Shark are looking bright.

“Winning the Southern Minnesota cup helped us generate traction and expand the audience for our startup company,” Nelson said. “JockLab is on track to launch a crowdfunding campaign early spring of 2020.”

The founders have similar goals for School Shark.

“School Shark works and it needs to be brought to more students. We are expanding to new schools this year, a couple notable ones being the University of Iowa, Loyola University Chicago, and the University of Minnesota, Duluth,” Lombard said.

With both of these companies taking off, it’s clear that the Gustie Entrepreneur Cup has the potential to open life-changing doors for students.

“Entrepreneurship is the gateway to the economy for many and it is how regular people make the largest impact on the world. Good ideas are not biased and are not dependent on gender, race, color, religion, etc… If it solves a problem, that’s what matters,” Clement said.

Gustavus Adolphus College provides an excellent environment for aspiring entrepreneurs. A liberal arts focus on critical thinking and creative problem solving are hallmarks of a Gustavus education. Students excel at spotting opportunities and working in team environments. This is evidenced by the many talented alumni who have mastered these skills and built successful enterprises. Learn more about opportunities, including the Gustie Entrepreneur Cup and “Gustie Tank,” at the Gustavus entrepreneurship website.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


Comments are closed.