DETROIT (WWJ) — Three Wayne State University student ventures are one step closer to realizing their entrepreneurial goals after undergoing a rigorous mentoring program and being awarded pre-seed capital from Blackstone LaunchPad’s Warrior Fund Competition.

Sponsored by Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Lakeland Ventures Development, Detroit Venture Partners, Bizdom and NextEnergy, the competition is designed to prepare the students to pitch, secure and effectively use venture capital.

Student ventures are awarded up to $5,000 after convincing a panel of educators, industry leaders and venture capitalists that the businesses are supported by a viable business plan.

Elias Majid, owner of Eli Tea, a Detroit-based artisan tea company featuring American herbals, chai and apothecaries tea, was awarded $3,000 to help move his company forward. The 24-year-old entrepreneur, who began selling his tea creations at farmer’s markets and online in February, is currently selling about $300 worth of products per week. His expansion plans call for selling his global and U.S. grown teas wholesale to restaurants and eventually opening his own teahouse.

Artist Kelly Guillory was awarded $4,073 to help with the production of a graphic novel she’s illustrating through her company, Ashur Collective. The Wayne State student has teamed with her best friend, New Jersey writer Jaime Acocella. to produce “Blood Money: The Road to Detroit.” The comic illustrates the lives of two men who, through a split inheritance, are forced to run a mob together, or lose their profits to money-hungry rivals. Guillory requested the money for printing and copyright expenses and for exhibition costs associated with Youmacon, Detroit’s annual anime convention slated for fall.

Students Mark Crain and Norman Dotson were awarded $3,000 for the marketing of, a crowdfunding website dedicated to social good in Detroit and Chicago. The charitable organization — which includes a staff of six who support themselves with day jobs — strives to empower individuals to transform their communities through collective philanthropy.

Student participants are members of Wayne State’s Blackstone LaunchPad program, established in 2010 with a grant it shares with Walsh College, from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation of New York in partnership with the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan.

The program provides new venture assessment, mentoring and networking services to the campus community to encourage entrepreneurship as a viable career path, help individuals start new companies and take untested ideas to market.

“The Warrior Fund Competition is structured to help students improve their business models and set them on the path toward obtaining venture capital,” said Aubrey Agee, senior program administrator for Wayne State’s Blackstone LaunchPad and Warrior Fund manager. “Winning provides the students with the validation that they are better prepared to secure future funding. We are confident these students possess the passion, determination and the business acumen to take their first steps towards obtaining venture capital.”


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