Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:21 pm
StyleQ (Chantel Teague and Emani Taylor), NewWay (Willie Alexander and Bryce Killibrew) and Root Media Co.’s Digiclipit (Aziz Abdullah) also each received $2,500 following the urban entrepreneurship training program. The four startups that were funded will also get office space at the MWERC Energy Innovation Center, 4201 N. 27th St. on Milwaukee’s northwest side, where The Blueprint is held.
Tyeshia Coopwood, founder and sole employee at Potty Pearls, plans to use the funds to open a 300-square-foot light manufacturing space at the Milwaukee County Research Park’s Technology Innovation Center, launch a subscription box service and get her Potty Pearls product listed for sale on Amazon. Potty Pearls are scented chemical packets the chemist developed to mask bathroom odors.
“I think personally for me, the ability to scale pretty quickly distinguished me from the others,” Coopwood said. “I know some of the others in the cohort were in the genesis of their idea phase or pre-revenue stages.”
YES founders and brothers Khalif and Que El-Amin launched The Blueprint in July with the aim of supporting growth in the central city, helping residents develop technology and innovation skills, and increasing diversity in Milwaukee’s professional millennial population.
From among nearly 60 applicants, YES selected 40 businesses for the first stage of the program, a three-day business boot camp, and then narrowed the field to 12 companies that participated in an eight-week training program called The Cultivator. The 10 entrepreneurs who completed the training pitched their companies at the end of the program on Nov. 11, and the funding allocations were determined this week.
“We wanted to expose as many young entrepreneurs as possible to the resources because even the 40 companies that went through the boot camp, we’re still sending them resources and mentors and connections,” Khalif said.
Coopwood said she learned the importance of collaboration, customer feedback and scalability, as well as technical aspects of building a business model, through The Blueprint program.
“I am just so grateful for the opportunity to be in the Blueprint program,” she said. “I truly feel that this is the beginning to many collaborations and this genesis of businesses in the city.”
Potty Pearls has been growing rapidly since Coopwood established it in July 2017 through word-of-mouth and repeat customers, and is now turning a profit, Coopwood said.
“We judged the businesses on three different criteria: Their pitch, the viability of the business and class participation,” said Que El-Amin. “PottyPearls, Tyeshia scored really well in all of those categories and I think what set her apart was she already had customers that were paying and she already had a product. It was easier to see return on investment with her product.”
The El-Amins plan to make some minor adjustments to The Blueprint and host two cohorts per year, with the next call for applicants beginning in February, Que said.
“(The first cohort) showed a lot of enthusiasm going through the program and they built a lot of collaboration between the businesses, which I think will go a lot further than the investment and the time they spent in The Blueprint program,” he said.