Crews News

Crews Center Director's Message

"As we look to the start of a new year, we are excited about the opportunities coming for our students and community. We are also excited about the ongoing stories our students have to share.

To bring all of these entrepreneurial events, activities and stories into a central news source, the Entrepreneur's Edge, e-newsletter was born! I believe you will enjoy reading about all that is happening at the Crews Center and within its various programs and stories about the students, faculty and community members that we support.

We invite you to follow us on Facebook as well; there is always something newsworthy being shared. Join us for any of these entrepreneurial opportunities throughout the year. It's a great time to be an aspiring entrepreneur in Memphis!"

Michael HoffmeyerMichael Hoffmeyer
Crews Center Director
Bryan Barringer, EIRBryan Barringer

Year-End Networking Event

Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 11am -1 pm

A collaboration between the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship and the Hooks African-American Male Initiative (HAAMI)

Speaker - Dr. Earle J. Fisher


  • Entrepreneurship and Social Justice
  • Student Entrepreneur Updates
  • Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization (CEO)
  • Crews News Updates

Please RSVP at


EE Logo

A Publication of the UofM Crews Center for Entrepreneurship

Spring 2019 Edition

Compass/ImagineU Feature Story

By Paula Anderson

The Compass Team

Pictured: Ryan Pierce, Isaiah Reece Allen Lundy, Joe Mvula and Luiz Saucedo

Teamwork is just one of the skills you will learn while working on a business idea. Students from the University of Memphis and LeMoyne-Owen College collaborated to develop a business concept to help homeowners handle service calls related to electricity, heating, air conditioning and plumbing during the ImagineU summer internship program in 2018.

Ryan Pierce, Luiz Saucedo, Joe Mvula and Isaiah Reece Allen Lundy are all undergraduate students pursuing academic degrees, but each is focused on entrepreneurship as their career path.

During the ImagineU internship experience, they teamed up to work on a business concept that originally focused on lawn care services.

Pierce said, "Our company began as a lawn care service that donated a substantial amount of its revenue to non-profit organizations that worked to support lower income communities. Through continued research we found that residents had home maintenance issues that spanned far beyond just lawn care, so we decided to pivot. Our company today offers more services, addresses home-care needs faster, and provides a Launchpad for newcomers in the industry to create their own businesses."

The team learned about customer discovery, revenue structures, customer segments, and channels while developing a business concept.

Each team member has a specific role in the company, Compass. Pierce, a political science and economic major, provides leadership to the team as the chief executive officer. His goal is to ensure the business concept is progressing in the right direction.

Luiz Saucedo, international business major and student of the UofM said, " My role is to develop our marketing strategy, so we can reach our target audience and customers."

We are going to reach out to people who are electricians, plumbers and heating and air conditioning technicians.

As a student in the ImagineU program, Saucedo learned communication skills and customer discovery.

Saucedo said, "We plan to use Facebook ®, Instagram, Twitter ® and Snapchat ® to reach our customers and set-up a website."

Joe Mvula, mathematics major and student at LeMoyne-Owen College said, "We are trying to come up with an on demand concept for homeowners to schedule services while away from home and use a geolocation technology to track when the technician is coming."

According Mvula, ImagineU shifted his thinking from a job to becoming an entrepreneur. Mvula said,"I thought I was going to work for Wall Street until I changed my mindset about creating opportunities for others and not just seeking opportunities."

Isaiah Reece Allen Lundy, finance major and UofM student said, "My role in the company is to handle the cost structure for Compass. Our business model consists of a subscription model for $100.00 for customers to purchase residential services and a 5 percent transaction fee."

As the team continues to develop their business model, they will be participating in the Delta I-fund accelerator program for 12 weeks this semester.

The Classic is more than just a football game; it is a celebration!

Pictured: Fred Jones

By Paula Anderson

Fred Jones

It has been 30 years since the unique concept of merging football and entertainment into one weekend celebration for alumni from Tennessee State University (TSU) and Jackson State University (JSU) came into existence.

Fred Jones, founder of Summitt Management Corporation said, "The Classic was created to allow both schools to bring alumni together to enjoy football."

Both schools tried to host football games in Memphis on their own. But, the business model to merge sports and entertainment was more successful according to Jones.

"The game is the magnet, but the entertainment makes the entire event stand out," said Jones.

"Each year over 50,000 people gather at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium to watch (TSU) and (JSU) football teams during the annual Southern Heritage Class(SHC), which is presented by FedEx," added Jones.

Alumni can also expect concerts before the game featuring artists like Gladys Knight, Jeffrey Osborne, Charlie Wilson and MAZE featuring Frankie Beverly.

"There's also a parade, fashion show, coaches luncheon and more," said Jones.

Another highlight of the game is the tailgating experience. Before the game, over 10,000 people converge upon Tiger Lane/Fairgrounds with tents, barbecue grills and music.

"The Classic Tailgate started out small, but quickly grew to be a big deal. Each year, we have over 500 tailgating spots, and they sell out fast. The Classic is all about Memphis, and we plan to continue that tradition," added Jones.

As an entrepreneur, Jones started his journey in 1971 when he left a local job and joined Isaac Hayes to travel with him. He booked artists such as The Isley Brothers, Stephanie Mills, Luther Vandross, Prince, Usher and many more to Memphis.

When I planned the Classic in 1989, there were no social media platforms, internet or email. I only had one sponsor the first year, stated Jones.

His legacy will impact generations to come and he offers these words of advice to new entrepreneurs.

"Build relationships, conduct research and believe in yourself".

To learn more about the Classic, visit the website @

Content Creation Lab

By Bryan Barringer

C3PO - Crews Content Creation & Production Office

We are excited to announce that the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship now offers a lab just for creating media content for your entrepreneurial needs. With have a new camera, lighting gear and media production machines, you will now be able create a variety of video and audio content customized for your specific purposes.

For a business to thrive, it needs customers. To attract customers, a company needs to promote awareness. In today's world, there are few economical channels to promote a business better than through social media. Recording short videos and producing compelling content is a great way to engage potential customers. Vlogs and Podcasts are tried and true methods for gaining followers and increasing your influencer rating. And with more followers, comes more revenue streams.

Our intent with this new resource lab is to provide quality gear for the UofM students and faculty to create media content to support their business and to spread awareness of their business-related missions. The lab is available for any student-founded business during our normal office hours.

Contact Bryan Barringer at for a tutorial session.

Entrepreneur Highlight - Isaiah "Ziggy" Reece Allen Lundy

Business resources are flourishing in Memphis

By Paula Anderson

Courtesy Photo: Epicenter Team

Epicenter Team

Starting a new business is a huge risk, but it is also an opportunity to create a path of independence and financial wealth for yourself and the next generation.

Over the last few years, Memphis has been sounding the alarm about how to grow minority and women-owned businesses. While statistics show 20 percent of small businesses fail in the first year, a local nonprofit organization, Epicenter, is working with local entrepreneurs to build, grow and sustain their businesses.

"As a hub organization, Epicenter strategically connects and expands the network of support for all entrepreneurs in the Memphis region. We pilot bold, new solutions and collaborate with partners to ensure entrepreneurs have access to the resources they need to launch and thrive locally," said Regina Ann Campbell, chief program officer for Epicenter.

Located in the Cooper-Young District, one of the resources Epicenter provides is co-working space for business owners. Entrepreneurs can purchase a variety of membership plans access to a shared workspace, traditional office amenities, and ample opportunities to meet and collaborate with each other.

Campbell said that entrepreneurs looking for resources like access to capital, talent, mentoring, or technology can fill out an initial form on Epicenter's website. An Epicenter team member will then followup to connect the entrepreneur to a local partner, program or resource.

Pathway Lending is one of Epicenter's partners that offers access to capital and technical assistance to entrepreneurs.

Travis Hughes, Vice-President of Lending, works with entrepreneurs who need capital for their business.

Hughes said, "We are ecstatic about our partnership with the Epicenter. In the six months of being their primary funding partner, we've lent out close to $3 million dollars and provided hundreds of hours in technical assistance to Memphis small business owners. As the VP of Lending for the West TN area, it's my privilege to help business owners secure financing, work with communal partners on economic development strategies and help supervise the Memphis Small Business Opportunity Loan Fund."

The funding for entrepreneurs was very helpful for Tanocha Thedford, founder of Big Momma's and Granny's Catering. She attended one of the information sessions about the loans. Thedford said, "I was able to open up my storefront on Nov. 16, 2018 which allowed me to hire a full-time employee - Ernest Brown.".

"In December, my sales increased 5 - 10 percent and I had three catering events per day," stated Thedford.

"Epicenter is a breath of fresh air for entrepreneurs. There is someone there to answer every question," added Thedford.

In addition to the funding, Pathway Lending has assisted her with marketing and learning how to manage a business.

Epicenter, has developed strategic partnerships with more than 40 local and regional organizations that serve entrepreneurs, including Start Co., Memphis Bioworks, Crews Center for Entrepreneurship, and many more.

The latest effort is the 800 initiative, which is designed to help 800 businesses with paid employees to scale and grow their businesses. According to an article in The Memphis Daily News, "a partnership with the City of Memphis, Start Co. and Epicenter, has been established to increase growth that will help 800 out of approximately 40,000 minority-and women-owned businesses."

Epicenter also collaborates with Start Co., Memphis Bioworks, and Innova to execute the Summer of Acceleration, a partnership that builds high-growth, high-tech startup companies.

Ryan Ramkhelawan, director of Acceleration at Start Co.said, "A great resource for entrepreneurs is our 48-hour launch. It starts Friday evening and ends Sunday with a final pitch. It is a crash course on how to start building a company from the ground up and a chance to connect with other entrepreneurs in Memphis. Throughout the event, we teach key startup principles on business model development, presentation skills and gaining useful customer insight. Also, the winner receives a prize and continued business coaching from the Start Co. team".

Kareem DaSilva, UofM computer science undergraduate student said, "With the emergence of IoT devices Smart City Tech is becoming more impactful than ever. Start Co's 48-hour launch is an excellent platform to bring bright minds in Memphis together to transform our city."

To learn more about Epicenter, visit their website @

Crews Center Fellows

Paula Anderson is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in Liberal Arts. In January, she was awarded a fellowship for her business idea. Memphis Small Business Quarterly is a quarterly magazine highlighting local entrepreneurs in Memphis. Paula also serves as the editor for the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship e-newsletter - Entrepreneur's Edge. 

Photo Image: Paula Anderson

Paula Anderson

Mitchell Chase Baker is an undergraduate student majoring in electrical engineering. Mitch's business idea is

Photo Image: Mitch Baker

Mitch Baker


Inaugural Edition - December 2018

UofM student launches online platform to help with career discovery

By Paula Anderson

Career Quo Winning 2018 IBMCAs a student, there are times when you need a professional counselor, coach or mentor to help you navigate through academic and business challenges. Whether you are working on a college degree or trying to obtain some experience, a trusted advisor can help with guidance and direction as you set your career path in motion.

Venkatesh Mandapati, UofM graduate student, participated in the Crews Center Launch back in February and he has moved his business idea from customer discovery to a Beta launch.

As an international student, Mandapati said, "I had a hard time connecting with others in my own professional career, and I decided to solve my own problem."

Careerquo is an online platform for players (students, mentees) and coaches (professionals) who can share their career expertise and background to help others in their professional careers.

Since February, he has participated in three pitch competitions. He won the Fast Pitch competition in April with a cash prize of $2,500 and was accepted into the Delta I-Fund program which yielded $5,000. And finally, he was accepted as a finalist in the regional qualifier for the International Business Model competition and received a cash prize of $3,000 to cover expenses for his trip to Jamaica.

One of the key elements for creating a product or service is conducting research to determine the viability in the marketplace.

"During our customer discovery interviews, we heard repeatedly, " I wish I had Careerquo while I was in College to reach out to mentors in any field or industry for my career discovery" (this) kept us motivated and gave our team the confidence to solve this big problem," added Mandapati.

The website allows players (students) to have 30 or 60 minute sessions on career discovery, mock interviews and resume writing. The site also allows prospective employers to reach players.

Mandapati said, "Players can reach out to coaches across different industries and players can build relationships with other players."

The company is planning a full product launch in the spring. To learn more about Careerquo, send email to Venki Mandapati @

Sign up today at

Summer Owens: Motivator, Mentor, and Mother

By Paula Anderson

Summer OwensUofM alumna, Summer Owens, has been making an impact since she wrote her first book, "Life After Birth." It is her personal testimony about facing the challenges of a teen mother. Despite the challenges, she continued to pursue her education and dreams. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Memphis and an MBA from Belhaven University.

She developed the S.O. What! Literacy, Life Skills and Character Education curriculum, based from her book. Owens said, "The curriculum uses the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts to help educators meet academic goals while focusing on topics like self-esteem, self-awareness, bullying, teen pregnancy and money management." Her story is about helping others to overcome their same obstacles while achieving success.

"The curriculum has been used with the City of Memphis' Memphis Ambassadors Program (MAP) as well as in several schools throughout Shelby County and beyond," added Owens.
Owens said, "Our youth face so many obstacles that inhibit them from learning or even wanting to achieve. The curriculum helps them get excited about reading, deal with some of those challenges, understand themselves, and create a plan for successful future despite those challenges."

In addition to helping youth to achieve, she also helps adults deal with some of the same challenges as a success coach.

"As a life coach, I am able to really go deep to help people with their life challenges, and personal circumstances and figure out how to achieve the success they want in their lives," added Owens.

Her clients are young professional women and youth. She said, they both have challenges with similar issues.

Owens is an adjunct professor in the Fogelman College of Business and Economics (FCBE). Her course, Life Skills, Personal Development and Change Management, helps students learn to balance multiple priorities and deal with challenges in their pursuit of academic and career success.

She currently serves as vice-president of Communications for the UofM National Alumni Association. Owens founded the S.O. What! Foundation to help local youth overcome challenging life situations on their own.

Classroom Collaboration

Collaboration in the classroom.
(Photo Credit: Mitch Baker)

Technology and education are the focus for Crews Center Fellows - Jay Murphy and Toti Cuervo. They have an opportunity to learn and focus on a start-up while pursuing graduate and undergraduate degrees.

Toti Cuervo, co-founder of Studious, said "There is a story behind the idea. I had an exam coming up in two days. The professor used a test bank to create the exam and 10 out of 100 questions were going to be selected, but all questions from the study guide had to be reviewed to prepare."

Cuervo decided to solve his own problem and created a group chat application, named Discord using Google ® Docs as the note-taking platform. The classmates collaborated as a team and divided up the questions to reduce the time factor to study and all 100 questions were answered.

"The purpose is to empower students to share notes and take ownership of the note-taking process. There will be an accountability process to ensure students are contributing to the note-taking collaboration," added Cuervo.

One of the goals is to help students with academic disabilities take their own notes and not rely on others. The platform will have features that mirror social media content posts and the notes can be public or private. It will allow notes to be searched using keywords and hashtags.

Cuervo said, "Monetizing the product is another goal for us. We want to provide a file sharing platform to create revenue for Studious."

Jay Murphy graduated in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in computer science and he is currently enrolled in MBA program at the University of Memphis.

Murphy said, "Studious is an educational start-up to help with shared note-taking for students in the classroom." Each student will be able to combine notes and make study guides. His role is based on designing the software (architecture) for the platform and the programming.

According to Murphy, they are in the implementation phase of the Design Thinking Model. The goal is to have a soft launch, so students can test out the product.

In May 2019, Murphy and Cuervo, will complete their studies at the UofM and continue to focus on their start-up plan.

Cuevro added, " When we live in a world where technology is a guiding factor in our everyday lives, working together as a team produces more results than working as an individual."

Software developer leads Memphis Chapter of Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO)

Software developer leads Memphis Chapter of Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO).
Kareem DaSilva - CEO Memphis Chapter President

Students at the UofM have an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship through the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization (CEO).

According to CEO's website, Gerry Hills, founded the organization to discuss concerns about entrepreneurship in 1983. The organization underwent a few changes until the official launch in 1997.

Now there are student entrepreneur chapters across the United States. Kareem DaSilva, computer science major and senior, is leading the Memphis chapter.

DaSilva said, "I am seeking students who challenge the status quo and see business opportunities."

The chapter currently has 33 members and offers bi-weekly workshops to aspiring entrepreneurs. DaSilva added, "CEO is here at the University of Memphis and is offering the best resources to student entrepreneurs. Find us on Tiger Zone to see our upcoming events."

Start-Up Tips/Resources

Start Co

Start Co. runs intensive accelerator programs for tech startups. Start Co. is located in downtown Memphis, and recruits tech startups nationally and internationally to build their businesses in Memphis. Visit Start Co.'s website to access the Founders Toolkit, which helps give entrepreneurs a starting point.


As a nonprofit hub organization, Epicenter leads the Memphis region's collaborative entrepreneurship movement. Epicenter and its partners connect entrepreneurs and their innovative ideas to programming, capital, customers, and talent in order to create a just, inclusive, and growing economy that accrues to all Memphians. Epicenter Website >



SCORE Memphis offers counseling, small business workshops and resources to entrepreneurs and local business owners. Face-to-face and online educational workshops are available at no charge. The website -- -- is a virtual library of resource material too.

College students combine coffee with community

College students combine coffee with community.

UofM Students decided to forgo a traditional corporate career path and opened a coffee shop combined with a pottery studio.

Micah Dempsey, co-founder, said. "We were friends in high school at Harding Academy where we learned the basic of ceramics."

They joked back and forth in high school class that one day they would hit their mid-life crises and open a business. But, that plan quickly changed when they both decided to pursue entrepreneurship in college.

Christopher Galbreath, co-founder, said, "College is the ideal time to start a business because you don't have all of the financial responsibilities like having a mortgage, and other family obligations.

"It takes a lot of hard work to make your dreams a reality. Our money, our time, our sweat, our stress it all goes into Belltower, said Galbreath."

"For a long time we each were working over 100 hours per week to keep the business moving forward," added Dempsey.

The beauty of this entrepreneurial journey is that both can remain in college while working on their passion. The Crews Center for Entrepreneurship is the reason both can continue to work on their undergraduate degrees in the University College.

They are taking online classes, so this helps them to maintain a balance between work and school.

Since the business started over 2 years ago, they have grown from a 50 sq. ft. storage unit to a 3,000 sq. ft. in a prime real estate area on the Highland strip.

Money is always a challenge for startups, but they have never considered shopping equity in the company.

When it comes to marketing, word of mouth is one of the best ways to share the business. From free drinks to social media to local performing artists, driving buzz to Belltower is done in many creative ways.

Galbreath added, "We offer pottery classes every week, run a ceramics co-working space of over 30 members, and sell many local artists' work as well."

"We are thankful to the Crews Center and University College for allowing us to stay in school," added Dempsey and Galbreath. 

Building entrepreneurial skills

Building Entrepreneurial Skills

On Sept. 21-23, students gathered to work in teams to develop, research and pitch business ideas. The Crews Center for Entrepreneurship collaborated with 3 DAY STARTUP, a nonprofit organization, that provides entrepreneurship programs for universities and high schools. It was an opportunity for students to develop their entrepreneurial skills.

UofM students worked in teams to develop business ideas to assist establishing a company in 3 days. One of the teams, The BLCK Effect, pitched an idea that focused on creativity.

Ashanti Degraffenreid, founder, said: "I want to have a market for creative outlets like singing, music, and painting."

Her company is a media platform for creatives. "I want other women to have a platform to express themselves and also provide networking opportunities", added Degraffenreid.

As the company moves toward establishing a business model, her team consists of students who have a background in creative mass media, finance, business management and video production.

"My goal for The BLCK Effect is to give light to black women creatives and giving them the support that they need to continue to create. It is more than a brand, it's a movement and it's for the culture and videography," said Degraffenreid.

ImagineU Reflections

By Anna Bloomer

ImagineU Reflections ImagineU, a 12-week paid summer internship program located at the University of Memphis, is one of the most in-depth solutions for entrepreneurial learning and experiences. It included students from the University of Memphis, Rhodes College, Southwest Tennessee Community College, LeMoyne-Owen College, Christian Brothers University, Visible Music College, and Memphis College of Art.

I was a part of the 2018 summer program, and it was one of the best I've ever experienced that elaborated on the fundamental necessities that every entrepreneur needs in order to build ideas and businesses successfully.

A few students at The UofM, Ashanti DeGraffenried and Ryan Pierce, took away a few key points that helped them start up their own personal ventures for the Fall 2018. Ashanti, creator of The BLCK Effect, worked on her idea to do online blogging.

She recently participated in a Fast Pitch competition and won! DeGraffenried said, "ImagineU helped me develop skills to learn how to take my ideas and bring them to life."

Ryan, creator of Compass, worked on his idea to create an app that allows for communities to have access to contractors who work on home improvements in a quick and efficient manner. Ryan has been in several accelerators to generate some networking for his business and he has developed a committed team that is dedicated to doing the research to help build his app.

"ImagineU and the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship have developed the entrepreneur in me. I learned so many valuable character building skills, and I gained confidence in who I am as an entrepreneur," Ryan said. 

Giving back during the holiday season

Giving back during the holiday season

Social entrepreneur, Daniel Smothers, combines his love for creating products with community service. While in high school, Smothers was the president of the Engineering Club and developed products to help generate money.

Smothers said, "Asking for money was always awkward for me as a kid, so I tried to be creative to make my own."

For this upcoming holiday season, he plans to make toys for children in an Olive Branch community. The service project will impact approximately 65 kids during the Christmas season. Smothers will make the toys using a 3D printer in the prototype lab at the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship.

As an accounting major, he is using his entrepreneurial skills to be a blessing to others.

Smothers said, "A 3D printer is like a computerized hot glue gun. It takes a medium, heats it up, spits it out as a liquid to dry as a solid."

Smothers recently attended a forum on the power of community service and servant leadership and Jeremy Park, CEO of cityCurrent, was one of the speakers.

Park said," After class, Daniel and I talked about an ideas that was sparked to create a Santa's Workshop, in order to help local kids experience the magic of the holiday season. He had some exciting, BIG ideas and after talking through them and the timeframe available, I recommended some ways he could go ahead and put his ideas into motion."

Student Ambassadors (Fall 2018)

  • Mitchell C. Baker
  • Anne Bloomer
  • James Brown
  • Paula Anderson, Newsletter Editor
  • Naim Hakeem, Newsletter Logo Design

Courtesy Photos of Belltower Artisans, Daniel Smothers, Ashanti Degraffenreid, Summer Owens, Kareem DaSilva