for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

Article Co-Working Student

With Help from The Hurt Hub, New Owners of Elite Roofing Raise the Roof

Last December, co-owners Mick Koster and Ross Erickson acquired Elite Roofing, a small roofing service started in 2012 by Scott and Laura Himler. Koster and Erickson—who both left behind executive roles in corporate America—saw an opportunity to elevate Elite Roofing to the next level.

Along with investor and alternative energy expert Don Miller, Koster and Erickson wanted to continue the company’s commitment to exemplary craftsmanship and first-rate customer service, but expand the company’s product line. “We saw an opportunity to expand and scale the company by bringing in modern processes and technology…including adding in solar solutions to offer a turnkey solution for customers,” writes Koster, a former executive at Lowe’s Home Improvement, headquartered just down the road in Mooresville, NC. “We are strong believers in the opportunity residential and commercial solar energy offers long-term, and most companies are focused on either vertical almost exclusively. We believe that a roofing company that can address both solar and roofing customer needs will be more successful.”

The company also hopes the solar energy line will not only revolutionize the roofing industry, but will cultivate consumer accessibility to alternative energy. 

While some startups have struggled to stabilize because of the ongoing pandemic, Elite Roofing was fortunate to be classified as an essential business. “We’ve benefited from roofing and construction being considered an essential service since day 1.  Roofs still leak and people need to keep them in working order, so we have been able to continue operations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” Koster notes.

Accordingly, the company has used the summer to redesign their brand. With the help of Gig-Hub student consultant Brie Burrell ’23, the company updated their brand to complement their recent expansion. “Brie is an extremely talented individual that led the design and execution of our new Elite logo, color palette, and brand guidelines…She worked with us on understanding our brand positioning and growth plans, and then developed a number of creative designs and multiple iterations that did an excellent job of communicating our company’s key services.”

Elite Roofing also worked with Matt Cuddy—former Program Coordinator at The Hurt Hub and current owner of Third Cup Creative, a web design studio—to redesign the company’s website. “It was a seamless transition between Brie’s brand work and Matt’s technology and web design development that took our web presence from a liability to major asset,” Koster notes. 

For Koster, Gig-Hub was a mutually beneficial collaboration. The program provides startups an avenue to discover “talented, driven individuals [who] are hungry for some real-world projects to expand their skill set and gain some valuable experience.” On the flip side, working with Burrell and Cuddy gave Koster the rewarding opportunity to “pass along” the skills he’s learned from his career in marketing and software development. “It’s been a great mentoring opportunity for me…With over 25 years of marketing, software development, and new business development experience, it was fun to be able to pass along some of the insights and skills that I’ve learned developing multiple brands and consumer experiences.” 

Elite Roofing operates out of The Hurt Hub, which Koster praised for providing the space and community necessary to fulfill their mission of revolutionizing the roofing and alternative energy market in the Carolinas. “While it’s been a little abnormally quiet the last few months, the sense of community and engagement with other members has been great to see where we can help and learn from each other,” Koster notes. “Each and every day I see more evidence of how truly small our world is, and it’s great to make new connections, share experiences, and build relationships with such a vibrant community.  Our decision to locate in the Hurt Hub@Davidson was a great one, and we couldn’t be happier with the experience so far.”

Startup Student

Interview with Izzy Moody + Nelly Turnage: Founders of Bryan Skinwear

Interview with  Izzy Moody and Nellie Turnage , Founders of Bryan Skinwear

Tell me about your business, Bryan Skinwear. Can you describe it in 2 sentences?

Bryan Skinwear offers a solution for skin imperfections and blemishes made specifically for men. Our simple and discrete products create a clean complexion in seconds and guarantee an effortless and attractive appearance. Our mission is simple: to give men the clear confidence they need to look their best!

How did you first get involved with the The Hurt Hub@Davidson?

When we first decided to start Bryan Skinwear, we asked friends and family for advice on where to even begin. We were told that The Hurt Hub at Davidson has many great resources for entrepreneurs, and they were right! There are so many resources from workshops to the mentorship program that we didn’t even know existed. As soon as we found out about everything the Hub offers, we immediately applied to the mentorship program to get involved!

What initially drew you to our mentor program?

Without any experience starting a company, we were lost on where to begin. When we came across the mentorship program on the Hurt Hub@Davidson’s website, we thought it seemed like a great opportunity. In our initial meeting before getting accepted into the program, everyone was very welcoming and excited to help us! We are so grateful to be a part of the program and cannot wait to see where it takes us.

How have your mentors helped shape your venture? 

The mentors have really been a huge help. After our initial meeting before entering the program, the mentors urged us to create a business plan. This made us really think about what we want to achieve and how. Then, once we were introduced to Daryl and Joe – our current mentors – we were able to go in with a more concrete plan and hear their feedback. Recently, we have been discussing our prototype with them and what changes we want to make before mass-producing it. They have been very helpful giving us contacts and resources to use along the way. We cannot thank them enough for their help and we look forward to continuing to work with them.

Has Bryan Skinwear made any major pivots or progress due to COVID-19?

Bryan Skinwear has faced both pivots and made progress due to COVID-19. When the virus first hit, we were in the process of finding the perfect product by ordering samples. This process took longer than expected because many private label manufacturers closed or their samples were on backorder, causing a delay. On the bright side, we used the extra time off of school we had to conduct more market research and create marketing material.

What’s one thing you think everyone should know about you but probably doesn’t?

We are both members of the Davidson Field Hockey team, which we think gives us an extra competitive edge!

What is one fun fact or exciting thing about you two?

We were both born in Colorado, where Nellie still lives. We also met by chance at a recruiting event years before we ended up going to Davidson together. It’s crazy to think that now we have a business together!

Article Student

Gig-Hub Transforms an Uncertain Summer

Following the nationwide shutdown in March due to COVID-19, hundreds of companies made the difficult choice to rescind in-person internship offers to college students. For students, internships and part-time summer positions provide essential stepping stones toward career development. 

In response, The Hurt Hub ramped up its efforts to provide a short-term solution to Davidson students: Gig-Hub. Gig-Hub employs students as consultants with strengths in one of eight different skill pools, such as marketing or data analytics.  After completing an orientation session–aptly named Gig-Hub 101–student consultants are matched with startups and companies with specific needs for short-term, paid jobs. In light of the internship shutdown, The Hurt Hub reported an increase in student demand for Gig-Hub projects.

Here are just a few examples of students and clients working together this summer through Gig-Hub:

Earlier this summer, Gig-Hub student Melanie McKenzie ‘21 designed animated infographics for TechChange, an online learning platform. “Most of the courses need graphic components like tables or animations…[so] lately…I’ve [developed] skills in graphic design on Adobe Illustrator,” she writes. 

Brie Burrell ’23, another Gig-Hub consultant, worked for Elite Roofing—a residential and commercial roofing startup based at The Hurt Hub—last April. “I headed the design and execution of their logo and helped add color and font information to their brand guidelines,” Burrell writes, “[It] allowed me to add my own creative flair and create something that we both love!”

Mick Koster, co-owner of Elite Roofing, noted how Burrell’s work exemplifies how consultants help build growing startups. “She [Brie] is an extremely talented individual that led the design and execution of our new Elite logo…she worked with us on understanding our brand positioning and growth plans, and then developed a number of excellent designs and multiple iterations that did an excellent job of communicating our company’s key services and would allow us to expand into solar without going through an additional major, disruptive graphic design change.” 

Burrell further mentioned her Gig-Hub work provided the opportunity to develop her graphic design skills: “I was able to learn a lot about brand development and that sometimes less is more…the experience allowed me to dive deeper into some of the “back-end” functions of the Adobe programs and broaden my knowledge.”

Beyond developing technical skills, McKenize also suggests Gig-Hub consultants receive essential exposure to the professional workplace, developing professional and interpersonal skills: “I also learned program manager skills…such as standardizing methods of communication [and] organiz[ing] meeting notes.”

McKenzie testified that the application process is “fast” and “super easy”: “Basically, you submit a resume [on Handshake]” followed with attendance at “Gig-Hub 101,” an orientation hosted by the Hurt Hub@Davidson where “you fill out your skills and preferences for which sorts of gigs you…want to work.” After that, “you apply for individual gigs with clients, which are also posted on Handshake…Usually they only require that you submit your resume…[but sometimes] includes an interview.”

McKenzie does raise a fair concern: initial tasks for Gig-Hub students are smaller, and it requires a sizable amount of time before transitioning into bigger projects. “My work is composed of many smaller tasks,” she notes, “[but] I’ve noticed that through this summer, I’ve been able to dive deeper into projects and scope out what needs to get done without needing a To-Do list beforehand. I feel like I’ve gained more autonomy over my work and that’s been really rewarding.”

Both McKenzie and Burrell noted, however, that Gig-Hub effectively connected students with startups and companies. “I feel that the process is mutually beneficial. Consultants get to gain experience with real clients in what feels like an ‘I am my own boss’ job, while startups/companies get services at a reduced rate,” Burrell says, “It’s another ode to the strength and support of the Davidson community during our stages of development and growth.” Whereas students have lost summer internship opportunities, Gig-Hub has provided Davidson students the opportunity to develop their technical and professional skills. 

The Hurt Hub is currently accepting applications for Gig-Hub consultants. Interested students can find the application on Handshake

Alum Article Startup

Thinking Outside the Box: LEAPS Academy Fights Odds, Adapts to the COVID-19 Economy

Following the country’s shutdown last spring, business analysts theorized  a “startup depression”—new companies would hesitate to enter the job market because of the economic damage caused by the pandemic.

 Mariem Bchir ’19 and LEAPS Academy are fighting those odds.  

Last fall, Bchir and Walid Hedidar—a graduate from the University of Denver and current UNESCO Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education—were awarded a microgrant through The Hurt Hub’s Avinger Impact Fund for their project LEAPS Academy, a tutoring service for educators in Africa and the Middle East.

Each Fall and Spring, The Hurt Hub offers seed funding through the Avinger Impact Fund, a competition for aspiring Davidson entrepreneurs who “demonstrate a serious commitment to their proposed venture.” Launched in the honor of retired Economics professor Dr. Robert L. Avinger Jr, the Fund awards microgrants up to $10,000 to jumpstart their ideas. In Fall 2019, three projects were awarded grants: FundNet—proposed by Sebastian Charmot ’22 and Oğuzhan Colkesen ‘22—Impact Network—engineered by Emre Koc ’20, Altan Tutar ‘20, and Huseyin Altinsik ‘21—and LEAPS Academy, co-founded by Bchir.

LEAPS Academy “aims [to] revolution[ize] the design, delivery, and evaluation of teacher education…[and] create a network of super teachers…[to] develop students’ potential, reform educational structures, and revive learning ethics,” writes Bchir. LEAPS students complete a five-point curriculum, including training in leadership, ethical frameworks and trust-building, the “art” of teaching and experimental styles, educational psychology, and classroom construction.

Bchir founded LEAPS to combat the “educational crisis in Africa,” she says. Specifically, Bchir contends students in Africa and the Middle East struggle to access a quality education. By providing teachers “with support and training,” Bchir thinks students will have access to an education that will generate change “in and out of the classroom.”   

Initially, LEAPS intended to use the Avinger award to cover the costs of the program’s initial training in Tunisia. Given the unprecedented conditions imposed by COVID-19, LEAPS had to adapt: “The COVID-19 pandemic changed the trajectory of this year’s timeline,” Bchir writes, “we had to think outside the box and bring a more creative approach to teacher education. Since the beginning of the outbreak, we have been working on designing webinars for teachers in Tunisia and working on a virtual strategy for future work.” In fact, LEAPS has already made progress on designing virtual resources: “So far, we have organized a virtual webinar for teachers around education in times of cris[is]…We are also planning on shifting our summer training online.”

By the end of the year, Bchir plans to “invest the funds in providing accessible technology to our teachers [while] also preparing…our marketing strategy” including establishing LEAPS as an LLC in the US.

Beyond The Hurt Hub’s financial support, LEAPS’s exposure to the support team at the Hub trained them to adapt to unpredictable conditions.  “The Hub… provided the space and mentorship for LEAPS…[We] enjoyed brainstorming and creating content over the weekends in the Hurt Hub@Davidson. Furthermore, we participated in several competitions such as Failure Fund, Venture Fund, and Avinger Fund [which] provided mentorship from amazing mentors.” In particular, Bchir wished to “shoutout” Evan Charles Rozantes of Launch Academy and Connyre Corbett from Corvos Labs + Venture Studio, who serve as the LEAPS team’s mentors. “They [to this day] continue [to] encourage us and give us constructive feedback.”

 While some worry of a “startup depression,”  LEAPS Academy exemplifies how small startups can pivot according to the economic climate and continue to develop. Perhaps having the ability to adapt will, in turn, develop into a successful business. 

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