Six Berks LaunchBox startups awarded ‘Grow Your Startup Grants’

Written by Lisa R. Baldi, Director of Strategic Communications at Penn State Berks.

The Berks LaunchBox powered by Penn State recently awarded six startup companies with, “Grow Your Startup Grants,” which provide entrepreneurs participating in Berks LaunchBox programs with $500 towards a need they have identified. Startup needs include talent to help with prototyping, marketing and design, or registration for an educational conference or training session. These grants are funded by a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development to Invent Penn State.

The grant connects entrepreneurs with “talent partners” who provide expertise to help them further their startups. The funds also help pay for an educational conference or training program in entrepreneurs’ industries and help them gain key knowledge needed to grow their startups. Each winning entrepreneur plans to pay additional funds out-of-pocket to supplement the grant to accomplish their goals. Grant winners are:

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Cory Dahlia Varona-Corniel and Nicol Varona Cancelmo from OCOA Beauty, Penn State Berks alumnae: OCOA is clean, luxury hair care line for curly and wavy hair, co-founded by Dominican sisters and Penn State Berks business alumni Cory Dahlia Varona Corniel, class of 2011, and Nicol Varona Cancelmo, class of 2013. Their mission is to redefine how curly hair products are made and how they make women feel. The sisters will use their grant money to hire a Penn State intern to grow marketing. 

Karen Tripolitis from Mindful Roots Children, LLC: Mindful Roots Children provides school staff with the training necessary to teach elementary students a daily 10-minute program aimed at enhancing social and emotional learning, creating peaceful learning environments. Tripolitis will use her funds to hire an artist, graphic designer and company that produces educational activity card decks to enhance her program.

Nathan Bonslaver from CarToCamp, Penn State Berks alumnus: CarToCamp designs, manufactures and sells adjustable sleeping platforms for car camping that are easy to set up and use. Bonslaver, class of 2022, will use his funds to hire an engineering design consultant to help in the final stages of an updated product line.

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Talonda Rogers from The Fourth Trimester MAHMEE: The Fourth Trimester MAHMEE is a nonprofit helping pregnant and postpartum women by providing maternity-care services, including advocacy, counseling and education. Rogers will use the funds to hire marketing support and a consultant to guide her fundraising strategy.

Tom Wentling from WarrantyClick Inc.: WarrantyClick supports the mitigation of product liability by streamlining the warranty registration and claims process for manufacturers with his app. Wentling will use his funds to hire a UX improvement expert to review and provide feedback on the application.

Vera Hempel and Kuba Kerner from KissUX: Kiss UX is developing an accessible prototyping application to turn the app design process into a scalable, repeatable and consistent experience for startup product teams, early-stage UI/UX designers and developers. The platform empowers users, regardless of their design experience and ability level, to transform app ideas into clickable prototypes quickly and efficiently. This team will use their funds to further the development of their application.

The mission of Berks LaunchBox, located in Suite 105 of the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in downtown Reading, is to support economic development and entrepreneurship. An innovation hub of Penn State Berks, the LaunchBox connects local early-stage entrepreneurs to the support, resources and facilities that they need to build sustainable and scalable businesses with a viable plan for growth.

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