Startup wins UGA Summer Launch pitch contest with its plan to simplify school fundraising

Student startups brought in $107,548 in revenue and attracted over 1,000 customers during the 8-week business accelerator
Startup Pitch Contest winner Halle Bynum

Halle Bynum remembers when her dance team’s Yankee Candle fundraising order arrived at the dance studio just a few days before a major dance competition.

Instead of making sure the team’s moves were ready, her coach and teammates spent hours sorting hundreds of candles and moving dozens of boxes to the homes of their boosters.

“I thought, ‘There has got to be a better way to do this — simpler way for the students and simpler way for the coaches,” Bynum told the judges at the UGA Entrepreneurship Program’s Summer Launch pitch contest on Aug. 11. “So, I created H&L Marketing, a platform designed to streamline the fundraising process.”

Bynum, a second-year UGA student planning to study management, won first place at the 2022 Sumer Launch Demo Day pitch contest and $5,000 to invest in her business.

Summer Launch is the UGA Entrepreneurship Program’s intensive business accelerator.

Each student entrepreneur already developed their business through the UGA Idea Accelerator program. The eight-week summer program focuses on generating revenue and finding customers.

Second-place honors went to Chicktopia, an automated chicken tractor concept developed by UGA poultry science major Chris Ayers and biological engineering major Jeff Whitmire. Third place went to Chandler Sherry of ChanArt, a company that creates art based on college mascots.

The system Halle and her brother Landon Bynum created uses a web sales platform offering locally sourced products. When the fundraiser is over, each order is packed at a distribution center in Atlanta and distributed directly to the donor. H&L Marketing then sends a check for 45% of the sales revenue back to the schools and sports teams.

Halle, originally from Fitzgerald, Ga., started recruiting local schools and sports teams to fundraise with H&L Marketing in 2020. Since then, 75% of her customers returned to the company for a second fundraiser, she told the judges. During the eight weeks of the Summer Launch business accelerator, she signed up 30 more clients.

That quick growth is the goal of the Summer Launch Program, said Jim Flannery, lecturer in the UGA Entrepreneurship Program and Summer Launch Program co-organizer.

Summer Launch is the last stage of UGA Entrepreneurship’s multi-tier approach to fostering and developing student businesses.

Summer Launch gives each team $5,000 in seed funding and one-on-one guidance to get them to the point where they bring in revenue. This year teams brought in $107,548 in revenue during the eight-week program, Flannery said.

In addition to H&L Marketing, Chicktopia and ChanArt, this year’s competitors included:

• SWAKE, a sweatproof beauty line created by UGA applied consumer analytics master’s student Vanessa Sachs.

• Dera Styles, a natural hair products and self-care brand created by economics student Odera Ani.

• MELD, a matching platform connecting small businesses to college interns created by 2022 marketing graduate Samantha Greco.

“Just a couple of days ago, we told you that every single team could walk out of here tonight and support themselves with their business,” said Cali Brutz, an associate director of the UGA Entrepreneurship Program who served as a mentor during Summer Launch. “So, teams, I hope you see how much each of you has grown over this summer. Please walk away from this experience knowing that you now have a path of your own to create.”

Of the 39 teams making it through the UGA Entrepreneurship multi-tier development process over the years, about 55% are still in business. Nationwide only about 10% of startups make it past three years, Flannery said.

The mission of the UGA Entrepreneurship Program is to help develop the mindset of future entrepreneurs and prepare students for business leadership roles. UGA Entrepreneurship Program accelerators are open to UGA students and Athens community members.