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Posted on: August 12, 2021

GVL STARTS Names First Class of Next High-Impact Ventures

People meeting around a conference table with GVL STARTS logo at top

GVL STARTS has named its first class of aspiring entrepreneurs.

The new program at Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a partnership with the City of Greenville, Greenville Local Development Corporation (GLDC), and the South Carolina Department of Commerce. It is designed to help local innovators move from idea to action by connecting them with a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and teaching them the skills they need to fund and grow their ventures.

The first cohort is a diverse group, with an equal split of men and women and racial minorities. 

·    Stacey W. Bevill - Golden Career Strategies offers career transition services for individuals and onboarding and outplacement for companies, including coaching, training, workshops and assessments.

·    Rachel Caldwell - Dibs uses an embedded social media platform to crowdsource a parking space in real-time with the ability to request a pick-up in exchange for a parking space.

·    Eric Cooperman - Bottle Titan’s wine monitoring products span several target markets including broad-market wine consumers, high-end wine collectors, commercial suppliers/producers, and the supply chain.

·    Grayson Dawson - Hop Robotics aims to streamline the ordering, dispensing, payment and age verification process of beverage operations through automation and robotics.  

·    LaShonn Edmunds - Comfy and fashionable four-way stretch smart shoes for women with swollen feet.

·    Thomas W. Epting - Developing new and disruptive frequency technology that simultaneously determines the directions to and information content of incoming signals received from multiple transmitting sources, and transmits signals to multiple receivers utilizing real-time determined directions on the same frequency channel. 

·    Diana Foster - Patriot Waste Technologies is a multifaceted innovation in waste management. Designed to keep recyclables and compostable items out of landfills, PWT is starting its sustainability efforts with glass recycling.

·    Jonathan Fowler - Logicle is a consulting agency that helps businesses focus on connecting data strategy to business strategy.

·    Stufona Latta - Bake Your Mark is a business-to-business dessert consulting company that offers an array of handcrafted treats to provide organizations with a means to increase brand loyalty and engagement.

·    Joey Loman - Synergy Mill is a 3,000-square-foot "makerspace" workshop located in West Greenville. We have a shared workshop with woodworking tools, metalworking tools, electronics tools, welding equipment, 3D printers, a laser cutter, workbenches, and more; teach workshops on welding, woodworking, and other tools; and provide consultation, advice, and sponsorship to help people who have ideas for physical products, or high revenue potential hobbies, establish businesses.

·    Muhammad Mehmood Mallick - A digital media company that empowers the youth of Greenville through building a cohesive community that connects local growing businesses to a younger audience.

·    Marni Peters - Therapy studios will incorporate proven LED light therapy with other alternative therapies, including massage, cupping, and cryotherapy.   

·    Jatoya Rector - A lifestyle photographer capturing life’s moments for clients.

·    Dia Patrece Robinson - Twisted Urban Fiber Arts is a textile product and teaching-based company. In addition to producing quality fiber arts materials, the mission is to show how fiber arts can improve mental health through sharing personal experiences, use fiber arts to inspire others, especially minorities, to discover creative expression through representation, and connect globally with other fiber arts enthusiasts proving commonalities outweigh differences.  

·    Dionne Sandiford -  An easy-to-clean and transport product that covers a mattress or sleeping mat and has a built-in blanket and pillowcase for children on the go.

·    Christopher L. Sexton - Smoke N Grill is an eclectic barbecue restaurant that provides a unique atmosphere and diverse menu that combines Southern soul food delicacies with traditional barbecue. 

·    Jennifer K. Spears - Affordable solutions for self-care and stress relief through massage therapy, herbal teas, and herbal bath products.

·    Zachary Stephens and Chandler T. Long - Sustain Edu’s Sustain AppTM software is the globally leading campus sustainability platform for data collection and management pertaining to campus engagement, education, volunteering, philanthropy, and marketing.

·    Spencer Tate - Revere is a website and app that creates a marketplace for college athletes to use their likeness and image.

·    Christian Taylor - Project Conduit is a recording studio that provides access to exclusive content, tools and coaching to take musicians' and producers' careers to the next level.

·    Kyle Charles Tenke - Creating an original board/card game based on probability science.

·    Eva K. Vega and Henry Vega - A nonprofit that specializes in event accommodations for the disabled community.

The eight-week program, which will be offered twice a year, begins on August 17. Sessions will be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Participants will have the opportunity to pitch their idea or new venture during the final week for a chance to win $5,000 to assist with initial startup costs and free desk space for one year in the heart of downtown, surrounded by other entrepreneurs, investors and support organizations.

“Engaging with the Greenville community is nothing new to Furman,” said Anthony Herrera, Furman University’s Chief Innovation Officer and the founding executive director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “GVL STARTS is one of the many new ways we are collaborating with community partners to grow a culture of innovation and position Greenville as a national hub for entrepreneurship.”

According to Bryan Davis, Managing Director of the Furman Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Program Director for GVL STARTS, while startups and small businesses are critical to a vibrant economy, over 70% of new businesses fail within five years due to problems that can be addressed with the right foundation. 

“Fortunately, a community like Greenville, which is fueled by collaboration and driven by a can-do spirit, has the opportunity to flip the script in an inclusive and equitable fashion,” said Davis. “There is a critical mass of collaboration partners around the table supporting the GVL STARTS program, and ultimately, the aspiring entrepreneur or founder. To me, that is the magical element of this. It’s not just about the great training, it’s about the connections and experience you’ll have that will absolutely give you a leg up to be successful in Greenville, regardless of your background, race, gender, age, etc.”

According to Greenville City Manager John McDonough, GVL STARTS helps address the challenges facing every aspiring entrepreneur – the accessibility of training, connections and resources – and exemplifies the type of partnerships that Greenville is known for. 

“Greenville is more than a vibrant place to visit and an affordable place to live. It’s a thriving community for entrepreneurs,” said McDonough. “We welcome, support and collaborate with innovators, and the GVL STARTS program powered by Furman will provide the educational workshops, coaching and networking they need to build confidence and ensure success.”

About Furman University’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

Founded in 2018 and recognized by the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers as 2020's Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Center, Furman University's Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship exists to develop innovative and entrepreneurially-minded leaders who are equipped to transform our communities through social and entrepreneurial ventures. Learn more about the Institute at

About Furman University

Furman is a private, undergraduate liberal arts and sciences university of 2,700 students in Greenville, South Carolina. The university is noted for its rigorous academic program and strong faculty, and its 750-acre campus is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful in the nation.

At the heart of the university's academic experience is The Furman Advantage, a strategic plan that combines learning with immersive experiences outside the classroom, creating a personalized pathway that prepares students for lives of purpose, successful careers and community benefit. Learn more at

About the City of Greenville

The City of Greenville is the central city in Greenville County and the economic center of the Upstate. Greenville boasts one of the top housing markets in the nation and an annual cost of living that is consistently lower than the national average. The City also maintains AAA bond ratings from all three major rating agencies, the only city in South Carolina with that distinction. In addition to focusing on quality of life issues such as recreation, open green space, environmental sustainability, public safety and engagement and mobility, the City works diligently with its economic development partners to retain existing businesses and strives to recruit new businesses and facilitate the creation of meaningful job opportunities within the region. Learn more at

More about GVL STARTS
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