It’s 2020—the decade that started full of promise. Instead we have COVID-19, a global pandemic, a time when many businesses are having to shut down, never mind trying to start a new business amid this unthinkable crisis. This is where Trinity Tigers yet again prove to be an unstoppable force. Rather than put their entrepreneurial dreams on hold, students showed resilience by forging ahead with their newly created businesses, and on Thursday, Oct. 8, one of the six finalists will be awarded the $25,000 grand prize at the final round of the Stumberg Venture Competition. The competition will be publicly live-streamed at 6 p.m. (CT) on the Tiger Network at live.trinity.edu and on Trinity’s official YouTube channel.
“It can be hard enough starting a company when you’re a student, but it’s even harder starting a company while you're a student in the middle of a pandemic and a global recession,” said Luis Martinez, Ph.D., director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “All of our student companies have been impacted by COVID-19—every single one. This year’s Stumberg Competition is, in large part, a story of true resiliency and persistence for our students.”
These enterprising students have had to work through all facets of developing their businesses, attending the summer accelerator program virtually—at times with team members working collaboratively in different cities and different states. Though some teams had to pivot and change the premise of their company altogether, none of them gave up.
“We ran our entire summer accelerator program virtually with students in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Amarillo, and Portland, Oregon—all while trying to run their businesses,” Martinez says. “Trinity Entrepreneurship brought in virtual guest speakers and provided important content and mentoring to help keep their businesses running.”
The following six teams will be competing for the $25,000 grand prize:
Neha Kapur ’22, business analytics and technology, Sasha Litvinov ’22, engineering science, and Stan Shao ’21, engineering science
Chiropack is an everyday backpack for users with back, shoulder, and neck pain. Its bags are designed to feel like you’re lightening your load using their unique weight distribution technology. The goal at Chiropack is to make a backpack fit as best to your body as possible, and they accomplish that using their Chiropack Best-Fit Experience, which determines your best-fit backpack size.
As a young student, Kapur had constant back pain. Her backpack never fit well, and never worked for her so she developed this company. Because of COVID-19, Kapur began working with her team completely remotely in March—in different cities—until the start of school in August when they finally met face-to-face.
Tiffany Perez ’21, communication
CompassVet performs compassionate euthanasia for pets in the comfort of their own home and surrounded by family, even during COVID-19. Home euthanasia by a licensed veterinarian is a safe, humane, and lower stress alternative to euthanasia in a clinic setting. They will guide families through their pet’s end of life care.
Perez is not only a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, but also a transfer student from Alamo Colleges, who specifically chose to come to Trinity because of its entrepreneurship program and the opportunity for her to start her own company. She’s married and co-founded the company with her wife Tara Perez, who is a veterinarian.
Sebastian Trujillo ’22, accounting and finance, Austin Sanders ’22, finance
Empower Media helps small retail businesses branch out into the world of e-commerce and digital marketing. By focusing on their client’s user acquisition, PPC, web analytics, and e-commerce solutions, they can help make sure clients become profitable online.
This team overcame a couple of setbacks. To begin with Trujillo, a native of Panama, was forced to return home when campus closed after spring break and was not sure if or when he would be able to return to the U.S., but continued to work remotely with his team—luckily restrictions eased, and he made it back in June and has been living with his business partners in San Antonio. Their business was originally to set up portable charging stations or large live event venues, such as music festivals, until COVID-19 happened. This international team completely changed their business model and are now a digital marketing SEO company for local businesses. Their hope is to develop traction in this space during the pandemic so when live events once again open up, this team will have established a client base for their original business model.
Francisco Macias ’20, psychology and philosophy
Monarch Migration is a multimedia platform that navigates the American social system for immigrants, sponsors, and employers. Through the medians of education and employment, they prepare and assist immigrants and their families so they can achieve the American dream.
Originally a two-man team of first-generation Latinx students who came in with a Taco CART franchise concept in San Antonio, the team split, and Macias a two-time recipient of the MAS (Trinity’s Mexico, the Americas, and Spain program) Alvarez Internship grant, worked with RAICES (2019) and with Caritas Legal Services (2020)—which provide legal aid for low-income and migrant families. These internships helped Macias realize the need for immigration solutions due in part to his own family’s history as Mexican and German immigrants, and the struggles he has undergone growing up within a first-generation American family. Macias, whose passion is law, started Monarch Migration only two months ago.
Tara Lujan ’22, psychology and Zachary Taylor ’20, computer science
Sapphire is creating a water bottle lid, with patent pending technology that tracks water consumption automatically and displays the amount of water you consume on top of the lid. The lid also connects wirelessly to devices such as phones and smartwatches. The company is developing prototype lids that are compatible with major water bottle brands.
Lujan is on Trinity’s women's soccer team and knows the importance of proper hydration, and Taylor just graduated in the spring and now works at NASA as a software engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Kincannon Wilson ’22, mathematical finance and economics and Amy Platter ’22, neuroscience and economics
Thoughtful creates tasty, healthy snacks from active, all-natural ingredients to help hard workers achieve self-care through their diet. There is a big link between diet and mental health that is largely unaddressed by available packaged snacks. This company makes snacks that fuel people’s minds and bodies while promoting focus and reduced stress.
Wilson and Platter are the resident assistants for Trinity’s entrepreneurship hall (E-Hall). Wilson was in E-hall and was mentored by Gavin Buchanan ’19, who along with his business partner Andrew Aertker ’21, created PATCH (short for Pill-Administering Technology for Compliance Healthcare) and were runners up in the 2018 final Stumberg Competition. Wilson represents a long line of E-Hall students who participate in Stumberg Competition and is now serving as a mentor with Platter for new first-year entrepreneurship students.