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TechFW coaches, and UTA student-entrepreneurs cash in

TechFW is pleased to offer its heartiest congratulations to $25,000 winner Hashira Studios and five other top finishers who shared an additional $60,000 in The University of Texas at Arlington 2021 MavPitch Business Competition. Since 2018, more than $1 million has been awarded through the Maverick Entrepreneur Program and Award Fund.

“It is an honor to partner with UTA and work with the students over the summer as they advance their startups,” said Hayden Blackburn, Executive Director of TechFW. “All the students were highly coachable, lifetime learners, ready to continually improve their startups.”

The competition is one of the few student-focused entrepreneurship programs in the country that awards these amounts of cash funding to help the startup businesses, according to Jeffrey McGee, the program’s organizer and associate professor in the College of Business’ Department of Management. “We are trying to nurture and strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit and community at UT Arlington.”

At the final pitch presentation, McGee affirmed the effectiveness of the Deep Dive programming and the receptiveness of the students: "Ive enjoyed seeing how much progress these students made over the course of the Deep Dive," he said.

UTA students were invited to submit a three-minute video pitch of a new venture idea. The submissions were evaluated and judges selected 13 student-led startups to continue to a Phase II Deep Dive, which involves mentoring, coaching, access to other resources and the opportunity to participate in a second pitch competition.

Deep Dive is a partnership between UT Arlington and TechFW, an incubator/accelerator that has been helping entrepreneurs launch and grow emerging technology companies since 1998.

“The 7-week Deep Dive covers customer discovery, business models, go-to-market strategies, financial forecasts, and strengthening the pitch deck with clarity and completeness for their presentation,” Blackburn said. “It also included two pitch practices sessions to test, tweak and get everything ready for the finale.”

Jacqueline Gomez and Julio Sanchez started Hashira Studios, which features unique anime-inspired designs in clothing. They discovered a strong customer base in people who prefer more subtle designs that reflect their anime interests, as opposed to clothing with big, obvious references. The company’s monthly sales started at about $4,581 in December 2020 and peaked in June 2021 at $51,195.

“We received one million views on one of our designs,” Gomez said. “Everything is made to order, so there is no overstock.”

Tied for second were Carissa’s Custom Costumes, a full-service costume business focused on conventions and festivals, and Soirée, a specialty meal-kit delivery service for dates or special occasions. Each team was awarded $15,000.

Third-place awards of $10,000 went to Petal, a company that seeks to change the way consumers shop by reducing the usage of single-use plastic bags; Pinch Master, a firm that manufactures and sells width-adjustable, grip-strength-training equipment for mountain and rock climbers; and iPark, a firm that is building a centralized parking system app that provides parking experiences and solutions by utilizing sensors to track the real-time occupancy status of each spot.

Kimberly Mayer, associate vice president of research and interim executive director for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Innovation, said the competition inspires students to begin to think about their ideas as legitimate businesses.

“These student-led ventures have the potential to generate positive impacts on our economy, offering new products and services and creating jobs in our community,” Mayer said. “The quality of business ideas the students put forward in MavPitch is always impressive.”

Blackburn, who has seen many entrepreneurial ventures, was impressed: “The growth in the short time for these students was exponential and I have no doubt they will continue to grow in their entrepreneurial journeys well beyond this competition. It was an excellent group of student-entrepreneurs that any coach would be lucky to work with.”


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