for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

Startup Student Testimonial

Introducing NXT LVL ENT

Team Name: NXT LVL ENT

Team Members:

Victor-Alan Weeks ’19

Bradford Grant ’19

Lawrence King ’19

How We Got Here: We all met Freshman year and created NXT LVL ENT. We decided to take this more seriously and make NXT LVL ENT a business. We found out about the failure fund while doing grant research, we applied and thankfully we got the grant and are in the process of becoming a legitimate entity.

What We Do: We are a Record Label/Production company. We make music, videos and art of all kind. We also sell merchandise ranging from shirts, to hats, pants, etc, that bear our brand name, NXT LVL. We’re also an artist collective and we recruit talented artists from all backgrounds to create art that is important to them and art that will have a global impact.

Where we’re going/what’s to come: We’re going to become a legitimate company. We’ll be a record label, production company, clothing company and artist collective. We’ll continue to make music and learn more about the music industry and make art that will have a global impact and change the world.

Startup Student Testimonial

Blog Post 2

Building this site is in some ways much simpler and in some ways much more complex than I expected. First of all, I’ve discovered the beauty of plug-ins and have a particular place in my heart for ones that allow more customizable page design. With those, I feel like they are really helping me to realize my particular vision for the site with much less compromise than I would otherwise have to make. I’ve drafted a few different layouts, but have also realized that it will help a lot to have the site populated with posts so I can see how to place different post sections and categories.

Researching for posts has both reaffirmed my reason for starting this site and has inspired new content categories. I realized how difficult a lot of journal articles can be to follow, but more than that there are so many buzzwords that we throw around that for most people are ill-defined. When trying to compile something on the repeal of the individual mandate, I realized how much I don’t know about the US health insurance systems. I also realized how hard it can be to follow an article talking about Medicare, Medicaid, and the different public versus private provision options therein. Trying to keep track of which policies and properties are related to or can be ascribed to which insurance form can be difficult. While there is plenty of time, and plenty of need, for analytical posts, I’m also creating a new category that focuses on simple, clear definitions and explanations of how our systems work.

In terms of site personality, I’m working to keep a lot of my humor in the pieces. The luxury of a blog of my own is that I get to set the tone and that I don’t feel it has to have the same gravitas as an academic or even journalistic publication. I want the pieces to be fun to read. I’ve been playing with the more static about and introductory pages to get that voice down before I start translating it into more content driven posts. The most polished of those pages is one titled “Bark versus Bite” that covers the reasons I’ve heard people don’t study or follow economics and tries to mitigate those concerns.

Alum Article Startup

Jared Blakney (’14) shares his thoughts on Innovation & Entrepreneurship as a student and young alumnus

Jared Blakney (’14) talks with Madison Abbott (’19) from the with the Davidson student Innovation & Entrepreneurship team about the innovative projects he engaged in while a student at Davidson College, and how an entrepreneurial mindset continues to influence the work he does today as a young alumni.

During Jared’s time at Davidson, he participated in many programs offered by the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program, including 3 Day Startup and the Davidson College Venture Fund. Through the Avinger Scholarship, that identifies and recognizes one or two rising sophomores, juniors, or seniors who show the vision, qualities, and passions of an innovator, he developed Blakney Brand, ‘a lifestyle brand for the modern cosmopolite’ that he founded with his brother. Looking back on his Davidson experience, Jared reflected, “It was both a huge vote of confidence and extremely humbling to get that kind of support from Davidson. Working on the venture provided a major learning curve and I grew a lot from having to navigate all of the ups and downs associated with starting a business.”

After Davidson, Jared worked as Marketing Manager for a small digital product development company called Mission Data. As the marketing manager, he helped manage and grow the company’s innovation lab, a place where engineers could experiment with various emerging technologies like AR/VR, the internet of things, voice interfaces, and machine learning. He also helped Mission Data launch a new product. Jared finished up at Mission Data in October, and is currently in the process of looking for his next role. In the meantime, he is continuing to work with his brother on growing Blakney Brand. They had a soft launch last spring, and they are currently looking to ramp up sales and add to their product line.

When asked if he felt Davidson prepared him for these experiences, Jared said, “I think Davidson played a critical role in preparing me for my job at Mission Data and any opportunity I take on in the future. Being able to think critically and approach problems from a wide range of perspectives has been very beneficial for me working in a strategic marketing role and as an aspiring entrepreneur. At Davidson, you’re required to think across a wide range of disciplines, so it definitely fostered my analytical skillset and gave me the confidence that I can learn anything no matter what it is.” Jared’s experiences serve as evidence that a liberal arts education, while seemingly unconventional, can serve as fantastic preparation for a career in entrepreneurship.

With any worthwhile endeavor, there are bound to be some challenges. Jared said that the biggest difficulty he has encountered so far is maintaining inspiration for an idea. “There are some days I wonder if building a clothing brand is an endeavor I’m passionate enough about to make the necessary sacrifices for it to be successful. However, something always compels me to keep moving forward. I sort of have had to learn to just ride the waves of creative inspiration and just grind through the periods when I’m not as excited about building the brand.” Jared continues to enjoy working with his brother to bring their idea to life, and he has gained a better appreciation and understanding of the creative process. To him, the most rewarding part of this experience is seeing the finished product and launching it out into the world.

His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to find a place to work where you can learn a ton and where people are invested in seeing you succeed. He also says it is important to not rush things, and to not get discouraged when you’re not seeing immediate success. To sum it up, he said “Just be patient, keep grinding, and chipping away at your idea bit by bit, and eventually there will be a tipping point where things just fall into place.”

Startup Student Testimonial

Introducing Laser-cut Jewelry

A little over a month ago, we received a Failure Fund grant to design and create sustainable wooden earrings and necklaces. Our primary goal for this semester was to iterate through multiple phases of prototyping to find a product that fit our vision so that when we return for the spring semester, we can focus heavily on marketing and branding. We began by laser-cutting many different geometric shapes out of sheets of wood. Next, we painted them to see what we liked and what we didn’t, and the conclusion we came to is the simpler the better. The designs we liked the most and hope to replicate and expand on in the coming months are beautiful because they display the simple beauty of geometry, bold colors, and natural materials. Although the earrings and necklaces are still a work in progress, we have a much better understanding of the process of their creation.

A step we look forward to taking in the future is using a sustainable wood which has been sourced ethically. We are already in contact with a community partner and artisan, who will hopefully guide us in a direction. Another goal is to create a brand that reflects our product. We plan to package our earrings using a seed paper–a paper that contains wildflower seeds so that when planted, a miniature garden grows. We want people to see our brand as positive, responsible, and constantly engaging with the community. Additionally, we will constantly be rethinking how we can make our product as sustainable as possible while maintaining a reasonable price.


Kat and Megan

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Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Davidson College


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