March Entrepreneur Spotlight

Laura Eric Profile

After the tragic loss of her daughter, Grace Smith, to cancer, Laura Smith was inspired to start Panda On. Initially, Laura wanted to simply help her three living children move forward after losing their sister, who was an inspiration throughout her fight with pediatric sarcoma. Since then, their inspiration has grown and The Smiths want to share Gracie’s light and encouragement with the world and start a movement.

The panda is significant because it was Grace’s favorite animal. Panda On will sell panda bears and t-shirts that have a tag attached with a message of encouragement. Laura equates herself with other philanthropic merchandisers like Life is Good and Hallmark, as well as having some attributes of nonprofits like TeddyBearCancer foundation.

Panda On is not a nonprofit, but it is built on the values of charity and giving back to the community. Laura believes that the bears will be a great gift for anyone who needs positive reinforcement, whether they are ill or moving on to a new chapter of their life.

This will be the first startup for the Smiths. They know it will not come without its own difficulties, financial feasibility being the toughest to overcome for any startup. Right now the current costs are graphic design, website building, and product design.

Laura places a large emphasis on working with businesses that share similar values towards sustainability and community outreach. Panda On believes that there is more to business than making money. Touching people and uniting them to a cause is equally, if not more important.

Panda On was one of the first GENIE clients in Telfair County. When asked about working with the GENIE, Laura said, “BIG has helped guide me through the steps to becoming a business owner and has helped steer my dream toward reality. Suzanne is patient and personally interested in our success. It’s great having the BIG team available because they think of new things to benefit the business and can view the business objectively.”

Currently, Laura is focused on completing prototypes of the bear and shirt so she can start a kick starter campaign in 3 months. Laura’s dreams for Panda On are BIG! She wants to make people’s lives better and share her products and messages of encouragement all over the nation.

Entrepreneur Lecture Series to Feature Digital Cobbler, Lucy Beard

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On Tuesday, April 28, at 5:30 p.m., in the College of Engineering and Information Technology, Room 1004, the Georgia Southern College of Business Administration Business Innovation Group (BIG) will host the Entrepreneur Lecture Series with speaker, Lucy Beard, as she discusses her adventures in starting Feetz, the digital cobbler for the new era.

After becoming frustrated trying on several pairs of ill-fitting shoes, Beard pondered the idea of custom-fit shoes using 3D printer technology. She and her team spent a year developing the unique SizeMe™ technology with guidance from experts in footwear and 3D printing.

Customers use the Feetz mobile app to take three pictures of each of their feet. Then, the customer designs and personalizes their Feetz shoes to fit his/her own personal style. The shoes are then 3D printed and shipped to the customer.Feetz-3DPrintedShoe-TheCord2

Feetz relocated from San Diego into The TENN Master Accelerator Program at Launch Tennessee in Chattanooga. The company has since developed patent-protected algorithms and customized software that create the 3D printable shoes from models of customers’ feet. The company has also been working on novel material compositions and material designs to extend the durability and flexibility of the 3D printable materials available. Beard has also raised $1.3 million in seed funding from Khosla Ventures and The JumpFund.

BIG is excited to have Lucy Beard share her story and amazing technology with the Georgia Southern community as it awaits the much anticipated construction of the digital fabrication laboratory (FabLab) slated to open at City Campus. Growth of the City Campus with the FabLab and Innovation Incubator will bring similar opportunities to entrepreneurs and innovators in the region.

The Entrepreneur Lecture series was developed by the Center for Entrepreneurial Learning and Leadership as a way to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit. This lecture series plays a great role in helping to harness and grow an innovative culture in the region. For more information or further inquiries, please email Suzanne Hallman, BIG business advisor, at

Georgia Southern PR Class Visits Jeff Davis County with GENIE

PR Campaigns class visits Jeff Davis industrial sites

Mrs. Lori Mallard’s PR Campaigns class visits Jeff Davis industrial sites


Tasked with creating an online presence for the Joint Development Authority of Jeff Davis County (JDAJDC), GENIE partnered with Mrs. Lori Mallard’s Public Relation Campaigns class and visited the rural south central community. Mr. Illya Copeland, Executive Director of the JDAJDC, hosted the class and took students on a tour of working industrial sites in Hazlehurst, Georgia. Students were able to gain a better understanding of the community’s economic development strengths and struggles.

Many students found that Jeff Davis’ existing industry has a lot of potential. It is already home to the largest hardwood sawmill in the United States, Beasley Forest Products. Not only does its existing industry show potential, but because the outside market is desirable, there is room for growth. Students compiled their findings from the visit and summarized them in letters to Mr. Copeland.

“Our hands-on research that was obtained during this visit is essential to our understanding and commitment with this campaign project to give Jeff Davis County an online presence,” wrote Kaylee Joslin.

A few challenges presented themselves to the students during their research, such as the high unemployment rate. Potential employees lack certain soft skills that employers find desirable. “…because there is a high unemployment rate in Jeff Davis County, there is an available work force. However, we need to make sure that this work force gets the proper education and training, such as cross training on working in many different areas, setting up informational sessions of how to create a resume, how to dress for an interview, how to prepare for an interview, and information on how to stay away from drugs in order to not lose a potential job due to drug testing, etc,” said Mary Hill Amason.

Creating an online presence for Jeff Davis County will be beneficial to industry by spreading statewide awareness. The students continue to work in the classroom with Professor Mallard to develop campaigns and strategies for implementing a new website. A final presentation date has been set. The GENIE team and JDAJDC are excited to be working together with students to further their education and bring new opportunities to Jeff Davis.

College of Business Team Competes in 6th Annual FastPitch

fastpitch2015On Thursday, March 5, the Creative Coast held its 6thAnnual FastPitch competition at the Creator’s Foundry in Savannah, GA. The Georgia Southern University winners from the 3 Day Startup (3DS) event, Advinup, represented the College of Business and Georgia Southern.

The day started at 8:00 a.m. and consisted of twenty participants pitching their products and/or services to a panel of six judges and three panelists who asked three minutes of follow-up questions after each presentation.  The three categories were service-based, product-based, and student entrepreneurs. Each pitch was evaluated on innovation, impact, structure, and delivery.

Advinup, a viral video competition application designed by Tyler Brown, competed in the student entrepreneur category against students from SCAD and Armstrong State. College of Education student and Advinup team member, John Nwosu , pitched the viral video competition concept, explaining likes become currency and users compete in different categories to win iPhones, travel opportunities, and more.  “Tyler Brown and the entire AdvinUp team are a group of students who are humble, hungry, and smart. They are exceptionally talented and tenacious in their pursuit of making the most of this start-up experience,” states Steve Stewart, PhD, professor of entrepreneurship, faculty advisor to Advinup, and Advinup Advisory Board Member. “They’ve surrounded themselves with excellent people, availed themselves of the resources of the Entrepreneurship program, the Business Innovation Group, and 3DS, and have learned from every experience. They exemplify what the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program and the College of Business at Georgia Southern are about–excellent students engaged in an outstanding student experience in the context of a world-class university environment.”

At the end of the day, Andy Cabistan, a graduate student at Armstrong State, won the student category for his pitch on a peer-to-peer phone and web application called Turbee, which allows for short distance, in-person deliveries. Lara Neece’s invention, the Bicycle Wrap Skirt, won first place in the product-based category and was the overall winner.  Lea Lynch proposed the idea of FosterFit, winning first place in the service-based category and runner up overall.

Statesboro Magazine Article on Innovative Statesboro

The Statesboro Magazine had an article in it’s January 2015 issue about the growth and innovation happening in Statesboro. Not only did the article talk about ‘The Blue Mile’ project for revitalization of South Main, but the City Campus and FabLab were featured in the article as well.

Please read the full article here.


3DS a Student’s Perspective

written by Jessica Raymond

So, you’re sitting on your couch–bored out of your mind. It is the beginning of a three-day weekend, and you have nothing to do. You heard from a friend of a friend that some awesome party is going down tonight, but he is notorious for over-hyping things. After a long battle with silence, you pull out your phone to check your social media network for a solution. It’s a total bust. You are bombarded by photos of your friends hanging out and having a blast while you sit at home. Where are they anyway? And how did they know about this event?

What if there were an app that filled you in on the best moves going on in town? No false advertising–no fake posts, just genuine fun.

This was one of the ideas pitched during Georgia Southern University’s 2nd annual 3 Day Startup (3DS) event, February 20-22.

3 Day Startup is an opportunity for college students from freshman to doctorate levels in any field of study to gain entrepreneurial experience. Over the course of three days, participants are tasked with building a business from the ground up. It is indeed as difficult as it sounds.

DSC_0077Having gotten the opportunity to participate, I can say first hand that despite the lack of sleep, I learned a lot from this program. I learned a lot about people, investors, and a ton about entrepreneurship and business startup that will definitely stay with me.

Day 1 kicked off with an information session hosted by the 3DS representative Jackson Dyre-Borowicz, who is an entrepreneur himself. After this, the participants were sectioned off into small groups and put into separate rooms where we pitched our business ideas. This part was pretty intimidating. The best way to describe it is telling your deepest secret to a group of six strangers to be judged. Put yourself in this situation: Here is an idea you have pondered or contemplated for perhaps a day, possibly a week, and in some cases, years, and you are opening it up to a very harsh, cut-throat critique. Even if you aren’t “re-inventing the wheel,” you still have to come up with a valid point as to why your idea will work despite its competition. Essentially, this is what entrepreneurship is all about. It is also here, where you realize how possible it is to make this happen.

After everyone pitched their business ideas, we voted on the two best ideas, and they ‘moved on to the next round.’ Everyone regrouped and, from at least 14 winning pitches, the participants selected the top six. From here, we branch off and work to polish our idea. As we work on who we are as a business, our target audience, the problem that we’re addressing, and the solution our business provides, mentors travel from room-to-room giving their advice and expertise on some of the problems we will face.

The group I chose to work with was an event planning business, Spark. I worked alongside Khalil Ford—a Sophomore Graphic Designer student, Mesha Russell—A Georgia Southern Alumni, and Xxavier Robertson, the founder behind Spark. What Xxavier wanted to do was mix passion with fundraising. You take an artist and a charity, bring them together, and create an event that tailors to personal exposure, networking, and fundraising. What he saw from working with multiple events was a lack of passion in fundraising. Sure people will donate to a cause they support, but at the same time why do a 5k run if the issue is domestic violence? Why not choose to run an event centered on art therapy to uncover the psychological damage behind domestic abuse? Here, money is brought in and both the artists and charity have exposure and can network with like minds. It is a great idea in my opinion;; however, it took us hours to get to this condensed version, and, if it had not been for the guidance of Rick Robins and the insight from Erin Heck, I don’t think we would have gotten there.

At the end of Day 2, we did a second pitch and had more mentors evaluating us. If that were not enough, we were given five minutes to present. This critique, however, was harder than the first. With more mentors came more questions. One revealed to our “CEO” that, though very fluent in business vernacular, he was using too much fluff and not telling enough about what Spark was and its purpose. So, we returned to the drawing board to polish up before our final pitch on Day 3. This pitch was harder than any of the others; a guest investor was watching; and it was possible that one of the six groups could participate in FastPitch in Savannah.

On Day 3, running on fumes and sleep deprivation, we gathered more information, condensed the presentation even more, played around with Powerpoint, and prepared for the final pitch. Luckily, the nerves didn’t set in until just about 20 minutes before Xxavier presented. By this time, two other groups had already gone.

DSC_0144The Pitch was flawless, and, even though we were not the group that moved on to FastPitch, we learned a lot along the way from both our mistakes and our mentors. We learned more about business; we networked with our fantastic mentors, and made potential lifelong friends. 3DS was a wonderful experience. I learned an enormous amount of information, and I hope to participate again.

February BIG Student Entrepreneur

Tyler Brown

Congratulations to Tyler Brown, our February BIG Student Entrepreneur!

Tyler and his team were chosen by panelists as this year’s Best Pitch at the recent 3 Day Startup Program. He pitched is idea to his peers in a small committee meeting on Friday and again to the larger group. His concept was then voted on and chosen as one of the 6 business ideas to move forward in the competition.
Tyler has been working on Advinup, which stands for, “Adventure’s in, you’re up,” a viral video competition app.
Over the course of the weekend his team worked together to develop the pitch. Tyler and co-founder Brook Tesema had already been developing the idea. The 3DS competition helped to accelerate that development and helped to perfect their pitch to investors.
Tyler is a Sophomore Electrical Engineering student at Georgia Southern. We’re excited to see what BIG idea he has next.
Congratulations Tyler!

3 Day Startup Ignites Students’ Entrepreneurial Spirit

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The Business Innovation Group held another successful 3 Day Startup (3DS) event February 20-22. Students from multiple disciplines and at different levels across the University worked in teams to create businesses over the weekend.

3DS facilitator Jackson Dyre-Borowicz flew in from Austin to help guide the students. Not only was he impressed with the students, but he was also impressed by the venue at Georgia Southern. Jackson said, “I had a great time engaging with the students, and as always, I was energized by their enthusiasm and willingness to commit their time to such a fully-immersive program.”

Students have been sending their gratitude and raving about the experience as well. Some students have also been in contact about working with the Innovation Incubator to help start their business.

Xxavier Robertson, founder of Spark, said “I want to see Spark become something real that works. Thank you for the opportunity to do 3DS and looking forward to working with you in the future.”

Others have been connecting with mentors they met over the weekend to help take the next big steps in their careers.

Panelists chose Advinup, a viral video competition app, to move forward and represent Georgia Southern in the Fast Pitch competition next month. Other competing teams included:

  • The Move – an anonymous location-based event app.
  • Book Biz – a college student book swap app.
  • Spark – a non-profit event planning and promotions business.
  • Design a Date – an app to help make date night planning frustration-free.
  • Wherebuy – a location-based retail inventory app.
Students participating in 3DS are definitely some of Georgia Southern’s finest! The Business Innovation Group is honored have met them and look forward to seeing what comes next for each one involved.Read More… 

SEGAJDA Presents BBRED Impact Analysis of Colonel’s Island Rail Connector

The Southeast Georgia Joint Development Authority (SEGAJDA) spent two days promoting their six-county region in Atlanta in November which included sponsoring the Georgia Economic Developer’s Association’s (GEDA) annual awards luncheon and a presentation to Project Managers from the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Those attending included Governor Nathan Deal and Commissioner of Economic Development, Chris Carr.

During the GEDA luncheon, the authority shared a video with the 250-plus guests, touting the region’s assets and the economic impact of a railroad extension at the Brunswick Port’s Colonel’s Island Terminal, made possible by the SEGAJDA in 2006 and sharing the results of the the Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development’s (BBRED), part of the Business Innovation Group at Georgia Southern University, recently completed economic impact analysis of SEGJDA’s new railway connector that shortened the transit time from the Port of Brunswick’s Colonel’s Island Terminal to Macon and several automobile assembly plants in Alabama. The Colonel’s Island Terminal is the number one port in the United States for new car imports and second overall for the processing of auto imports and exports. Mercedes Benz ships 60,000 automobiles a year from its manufacturing plant in Alabama to Europe using the intermodal freight system of the Southeast including trucks, railroads, and the Port.

This new connector has reduced typical transit time from about one week to around three days or less. The decrease in transit time increased traffic on the Macon to Brunswick rail line operated by Norfolk Southern. In turn, the increase in traffic had a positive impact on the regional economy.

The research team examined the connector in two ways. First, the team examined the amount of efficiencies (i.e., savings) due to the reduction in transit time. BBRED determined that utilization of the connector equated to $1.8 million in increased efficiencies to the logistics pipeline in 2013 alone. For example, the time to transport vehicles from the Mercedes Benz facility in Vance, Alabama, was reduced from approximately 3 to 5 days to just 24 hours. This reduction, combined with all other efficiencies, resulted in over $9 million in cost savings from years 2007 to 2013.

“The development of the connector track not only enhanced the competitiveness of the rail system from the Port of Brunswick,” said Dominique Halaby, BBRED director. “The resulting efficiencies resulted in new economic activities and jobs for the State.”

The increase in usage of the connector added $35.2 million to Georgia’s with roughly $21.5 million captured in the SEGJDA region equating to an employment impact of 89 new jobs. The result is a rail system that serves as a critical link between the Port of Brunswick and the entire Southeast United States. In turn, this rail link is now a vital part of the local and state economy.

Wally Orrel, SEGAJDA vice chair and McIntosh County Industrial Development Authority executive director stated, “The impact of this joint venture between the six counties (Brantley, Camden, Charlton, Glynn, McIntosh, and Wayne), DCA, and the Norfolk Southern Railroad has been extraordinary. The thousands of jobs and investment dollars it created by expediting the shipments of automobiles and commodities to and from the Port of Brunswick continues to explode yearly.”

For more information about SEGADJA or BBRED, visit their websites at or, respectively.

January BIG Entrepreneur Spotlight

Paul JohnsonThis month’s BIG Entrepreneur is Paul Johnson, Owner of Kingdom Cuts in Downtown Statesboro. Paul started Kingdom Cuts in December of 2013 after working in the industry for just over thirteen years. He became unhappy with a change in pay structure at the shop he was working for at about the same time the perfect opportunity for a space presented itself.

Paul is also the Pastor of the Spirit and Truth Worship Center located on East Main Street. The church had some store frontage space that was not being utilized to it’s full capabilities. The partnership was meant to be so Paul started Kingdom Cuts and the church started making rent off of a space that was making nothing.

When asked about his first year he said, “It has been very prosperous, especially for my own chair as a barber.” As most beginning entrepreneurs know, “The hours are long.” Paul knows the importance of keeping consistent store hours. He is there to open in the morning and close at night.

“Growth can be good, but you have to be ready to handle it,” says Paul. He said it can be stressful having more clients than barbers to take care of them. He wants to grow the business but still be respectful of the clients’ time, so he’s making sure he has the right team of stylists to take care of the work load. Paul has experienced tremendous growth in his own clientele. He has added one other full-time and three part-time employees to the business as well.

He started working with the Georgia Southern Innovation Incubator in February 2014. One of the first tasks he asked for help with was doing a market analysis of his clientele. The research helped him determine that his marketing efforts may not need to be focused on Georgia Southern students, but rather on families as they made up a larger part of demographics closest to him. When asked about working with the incubator program at BIG, Paul said “I have found the incubator to be pivotal in in helping my business by giving me expert advice and guidance to help me be successful. I feel like I’m not in it alone. Like there are other people who want to see my business succeed.” Paul even mentioned that Dean Amason is one of his best clients.

The Business Innovation Group has enjoyed watching him grow and congratulates him on a very prosperous first year! We hope our January BIG entrepreneur has many more to come.