Tag: Prosper

The below post was republished with permission from PluggedIN, an automated talent recruitment and matchmaking platform specifically focused on startup companies. PluggedIN was founded by Colleen Liebig, who serves as an Industry Career Specialist & Advisor at Olin, with specialization in entrepreneurship.

“The more you know about yourself, what you’re good at and what you bring the team, you can then surround yourself with people who fill in your gaps. I think that’s part of what makes up a good team.”
– Mary Jo Gorman, serial entrepreneur, investor, advisor and managing partner of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs

In this podcast, Mary Jo Gorman talks about how she got her start as an entrepreneur, what milestones and key learnings propelled her to success, and what she looks for when making investments in women-led companies through the Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Accelerator. Prosper is currently accepting applications for their Spring 2017 cohort. They are looking for early stage companies with a scalable business model in the Tech, Health Tech, and Consumer Products spaces. She shares insights on:

  • What investors look for in companies to invest in and how to use The Berkus Method to better position your company when raising capital.
  • Successful entrepreneurs tend to have great critical thinking skills. Many, many decisions get made, and you have to make more right ones than wrong ones
  • When a startup should consider going from bootstrapping to raising venture capital, and markers and milestones that serve as key indicators. Check out The Founders Dilemma.
  • Knowing when to pivot and ways to mitigate your risk at each step.
  • How hiring for the level of experience depends on our rate of growth.

Learn more and follow Prosper STL:

Photo: Mary Jo Gorman speaks at the Knight Hall/Bauer Hall building dedication on May 3, 2014. Credit: Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Two accelerators managed by Olin alumni are winners of the Small Business Administration’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition that announced $4.4 million in prizes on Aug. 4, 2015 during the White House Demo Day for entrepreneurs. St. Louis-based accelerator for women, Prosper Capital, where Dr. Mary Jo Gorman, EMBA’96 is a managing partner and New Jersey-based accelerator Great Turning Advisors where Steven Boughton, MBA’14 is founder and president each won $50,000 grants. Congratulations!

Here’s the SBA news release:

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today announced the 80 winners of the second annual Growth Accelerator Fund Competition. The recipients represent 39 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.


Location of 80 accelerators that won the SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Competition

Accelerators serve entrepreneurs in a broad set of industries and sectors – from manufacturing and tech start-ups, to farming and biotech – with many focused on creating a diverse and inclusive small business community.

“SBA is continuing to make advances in supporting unique organizations that help the start-up community grow, become commercially viable, and have a real and sustained economic impact,” said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. “Through the wide-spread outreach of this competition, we are able to reach entrepreneurial ecosystems across the country. My commitment is to make our resources available to 21st century entrepreneurs where they are, and these accelerators, also known as incubators and innovation hubs, are the gathering place for today’s innovators and disruptors.”

Applications were judged by more than 40 experts with entrepreneurial, investment, startup, economic development, capital formation and academic backgrounds from both the public and private sector.  The first panel of judges reviewed over 400 applications and presentations and established a pool of 180 highly qualified finalists.  The second panel evaluated the finalists’ presentations and pitch videos and selected the 80 winners.

Read the full press release.

This semester, I have had the incredible experience of serving on the Center for Experiential Learning Entrepreneurial Consulting Team (CELect). The CELect program pairs graduate students with St. Louis based startups. Over the course of the semester, student teams complete consulting projects designed to help young companies achieve specific business outcomes.

T-Rex Lammert bldg

Coworking space at T-Rex. Photo courtesy of John Warren, Jones Lang LaSalle.

CELect classes are held at T-Rex, a technology incubator and coworking space located in downtown St. Louis. The modern workplace stations at T-Rex are complete with dinosaur-themed murals, glass-paneled conference rooms, and individual phone booths. The juxtaposition of the building’s historic architecture and its creative, fun-loving interior make T-Rex the ideal entrepreneurship classroom. Located close to a MetroLink train station, it is very convenient for students to travel back and forth from campus.

Our first CELect class was a full day of instruction, co-taught by Cliff Holekamp, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship & Director of the Entrepreneurship Platform, and Bart Hamilton, Robert Brookings Smith Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship. Together, the professors gave an overview of the St. Louis entrepreneurial landscape and provided tips for how to be an effective startup consultant. Throughout the day, Olin alumni stopped by to share the personal reasons why they chose an entrepreneurial career over the traditional corporate path.

ProsperAfter our first class, we were divided into teams and set loose to get started on our projects! My team’s consulting project is for Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Startup Accelerator, a new player in the St. Louis venture capital scene. Founded in 2014, Prosper Accelerator makes twelve $50,000 equity investments each year in women-led technology, life sciences, and CPG startup companies. The businesses selected to receive capital participate in a three month program designed to help female entrepreneurs scale their companies and receive additional venture investment.

Throughout the semester, we have had the opportunity to meet with Prosper executives, interview the entrepreneurs running Prosper’s portfolio companies, and get an inside look at how the accelerator operates. It has been very rewarding to work with an organization dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs, especially since I have future entrepreneurial plans of my own. Our team is excited for what the rest of the project will bring, and believe that we can make a lasting impact on the future of the accelerator!

Pictured above, Prosper CELect team from left to right: Fabiola Paz, MBA’16; Elise Miller, MBA’16;  Alicia Harris JD’16; and John Hamlett, JD’16.

Wash U senior Jolijt Tamanaha is one of six women to receive a $50,000 equity investment grant and support from the new St. Louis-based Prosper Accelerator. The entrepreneurs selected for the inaugural class will take part in a three-month program that includes training, mentoring, and a curriculum designed specifically to help women scale their businesses and raise follow-on capital.

Olin alumni, professors, and lecturers are playing important roles in the Prosper organization that was created in 2012 to address the entrepreneur gender gap in the St. Louis region.

  • Dr. Mary Jo Gorman, EMBA’ 96, is overseeing the accelerator program as a Prosper Capital Managing Partner.
  • Kasey Joyce Grelle, MBA’14, Prosper Capital Venture Partner and Principal at Cultivation Capital, will be a mentor to the new accelerator entrepreneurs.
  • Maxine Clark is a Prosper Capital Managing Partner and mentor. The founder and former Chief Executive Bear, Build-A-Bear Workshop, is a frequent lecturer at Olin and co-taught a course last semester on women and leadership with Prof. Michelle Duguid.
  • St. Louis-based venture capital firm Cultivation Capital, co-founded by Cliff Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship, provides back-office support to the Prosper Women Entrepreneurs Startup Accelerator.
  • Peter Finley, Former CFO at Observable Networks and Pulse Therapeutics, Co-founder, Thompson Street Capital Partners, is a an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Olin and will serve as an accelerator mentor.
Farmlicipty co-founders Joljit Tamanaha and Drew Koch

Farmlicipty co-founders Joljit Tamanaha and Drew Koch

Jolijt Tamanaha exited from her first venture, Farmplicity last year. (Farmplicity was launched in Olin’s Hatchery class.) Her new startup, Champio is a platform on which a company’s employees compete to share the best/most relevant social media posts about the business.

Applications for the Spring 2015 Prosper Accelerator class came from over nine countries on four continents and represented a variety of industries. In addition to Champio, the members of the class include:

prosper accelerator

KiteReaders designs, develops and distributes e-books and apps for children ages 3 to 8.

Wondermento is building a new way to track your dog’s activity and to know what they are up to at all times digitally and through their hardware design.

Bookalokal is a marketplace for food entrepreneurs to list their services available for sale (out of their home) and to connect with customers looking for a unique dining experience.

HealthyMe platform design has five key elements to address the non- compliance issue and patients’ lack of resources to effectively manage their disease on a daily basis, the key problems of patients who have chronic disease.

Smart Monitor
SmartMonitor created SmartWatch®, an intelligent wristwatch that continuously monitors movement, developed for people prone to epilepsy and seizure disorders.

When Johnna Beckham, EMBA 39, had the idea to create a business selling custom suits to women online, she approached Ron King, Myron Northrup Professor of Accounting at Olin, for advice and support.  King said, “In general, with any new idea, one reacts to it based on the quality of the person and their capabilities and passion—people, project, and passion. In addition to seeing all of that in Johnna, I also saw that the market need for custom-made suits for women was an underserved market.” King ended up investing in and co-founding Johnna Marie with Beckham.

Guest blogger: Tanya Yatzeck, EMBA 43

Even with this support, Beckham found herself looking for additional help. Like most EMBA students and graduates, Beckham had a full-time job to do in addition to developing her entrepreneurial idea into a business and needed help organizing her effort.  She found Prosper Women Entrepreneurs, which she says has been critical in her ability to develop the business:


Johnna Beckham

“As a woman entrepreneur, you need like-minded women to gauge where you are. If your execution doesn’t work, you will fail, and it’s helpful to be with other people that have been through it. I did a ton of research through career networks, and then I found the Prosper Mastermind Program. It was the first program I found that had a solid format. It is very structured, which I like.”

Prosper Women Entrepreneurs was created by women business leaders in 2014 to address the entrepreneur gender gap revealed by a Kauffman Foundation report on the state of entrepreneurship. Prosper has numerous initiatives to expand women entrepreneurs’ access to growth capital, educational resources, and networking opportunities.

Beckham is currently participating in one of Prosper’s Mastermind Groups. The two-year training programs involves women entrepreneurs working together to move their businesses forward. The Prosper Startup Accelerator (managed by Olin alumna, Kasey Joyce Grelle, MBA’14), announced in July 2014 is a program that speeds up the growth of a business through access to equity investments among other resources and provides a more intensive three to four month training program offering $50,000 in equity funding.  The St. Louis Business Journal recently reported that applications for this program were double what was expected.


Maxine Clark

Maxine Clark, Founder and former Chief Executive Bear at Build-a-Bear was part of the group that founded Prosper Women Entrepreneurs earlier this year.  Clark, currently co-teaching the course “Women in Leadership” at Olin, says, “Most of the ideas funded in St. Louis are around technology and agribusiness. Women don’t always come up with those ideas. They want to do products and services. Prosper is a member of the entrepreneurship ecosystem—as is Olin—that provides women with the tools they need to be successful, whether the business is in science, technology or the consumer sector.”

Dr. Mary Jo Gorman.

Dr. Mary Jo Gorman.

Dr. Mary Jo Gorman, Founder and CEO of Advanced ICU Care and now Managing Director of Prosper Women Entrepreneurs earned her MBA in 1996 in Olin’s Executive MBA program.  She says, “The statistics around women-led companies show that they are not accessing capital. At Prosper Women Entrepreneurs we are trying to create a pipeline of companies that will be terrific candidates for venture capital and at the same time involve women who perhaps haven’t invested before and to get them to start investing at a level that makes them comfortable.”

Gorman also believes that gender-specific resources like Prosper won’t always be necessary. “Our sense of it is at this point in business growth, there still needs to be focused attention to underrepresented groups. In the future, this won’t be necessary. Now, focused attention will help people enter this space, who may not have thought about doing it before if it were in a more gender mixed setting.  Women often feel like they have to have everything perfectly, which sometimes appears as lack of confidence. We are trying to make the space feel like more of a safe place that results in a positive experience. “

Since completing her MBA, Gorman has started multiple companies and is a well-established business strategist with particular expertise in the medical field. Of the EMBA experience she says, “When I started my EMBA, I was a doctor with one small company. Without it there is no chance I would be where I am.  I learned that I have a strong interest in entrepreneurship, and I wrote a business plan and started a second company while I was in the program. It definitely set me on a path to learn what I needed to learn.  I expected it to lead me to healthcare administration, and I ended up in a very different place. “

Prof. Ron King, Director of the Center for Experiential Learning and Myron Northrop Professor of Accounting

Prof. Ron King, Director of the Center for Experiential Learning and Myron Northrop Professor of Accounting

When asked about the future of Johnna Marie, Ron King says, “I think the path looks very bright and I think the business model is likely to accomplish its objectives. But businesses are inherently risky. Even if the financial aspirations do not develop as quickly as planned, the process of building a business plan and putting a team together will add to her substantial resume. I’m hoping for the upside, not only for a return on investments –but for her growth and advancement. For the benefit of the St. Louis community and Washington University, there are so many reasons to support and champion efforts like hers. “

Johnna Marie launches in January 2015, and will participate in Olin’s booth at the 10th Annual Business Journal Women’s Conference in downtown St. Louis on January 30.