Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, BS’81, once said: “Ideas are easy. Everybody has business ideas, but 99.99 percent of those humans don’t do sh*t about it.” The IU entrepreneurs we feature here—some of whom have appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank, which features Cuban as one of the “sharks”—have done sh*t. They are what Cuban might call “the executors,” and they have made significant contributions in industries such as pet food, pain relief, food and beverage, and even commercial pollination.
Steve Green, BA’78, DDS’84, and Brian Evans, BS’96, both former IU men’s basketball players, bonded over their shared experience of being coached by Bob Knight. In October 2020, the pair founded Arora Sleep—a company that makes custom-fit oral devices to help people who are suffering from sleep apnea and snoring.
Because Animals, co-founded by Josh Errett, MBA’15, is on a mission “to create nutritious pet food without ever harming any animals or the environment” in the process. It’s a tall order made possible by using cultured meat—the product of growing animal cells outside the body. “We didn’t want to make cats and dogs vegan, what we want to do is to give them meat that was sustainably made,” Errett says. The company aims to launch its revolutionary pet food in the coming years.
Big T NYC
The idea for Big T NYC, the world’s first couture tea brand, came to Theresa Krier, MBA’09, while working backstage at New York Fashion Week. She then set out to create “a delicious, calorie-free, wellness-enhancing beverage that would help people stay hydrated and focused in any situation.”
Hunter Hawley, BS’20, founded Blueprint Stats—a video analytics platform that breaks down basketball game film—during his freshman year at IU Bloomington in 2017. Hawley was the first student to pitch a startup idea to the IU Angel Network.
Adam Sobol, BS’14, MS’16, is the founder and CEO of CareBand. On a mission to empower people with dementia and their caregivers, the company produces wristbands with cutting-edge location and activity monitoring technologies. The band, which operates up to a few miles from the wearer’s place of residence, will alert caregivers when the wearer has gone outside of a set radius or is showing signs of distress.
For Mindy Ford, BA’90, and Laura Musall, BA’88, their hot flashes sparked the idea for CoolRevolution—a breathable and sweat-absorbent pajama line for menopausal women.
Steve Rosen, BA’02, is the co-founder and vice president of CreateOn—a company that reimagines the products you already know and love to create new experiences “you’ll love even more.” CreateOn launched in 2020 after securing a partnership with Magna-Tiles.
Having trouble finding a golf buddy? David Wong, BS’05, was too—until he created Deemples in 2016. The app, available in select countries, helps golfers meet up for a session at the driving range or a round of 18 at a nearby course.
East Third Collective
In 2021, sorority sisters Nicole “Nikki” (Porter) Lapidus, BGS’99, MS’07; Renee (Panicco) McGrath, BS’00; Kathleen “Kat” (Stewart) McPeek, BA’99; and Darcie (Lehmann) Cohn, BS’99, co-founded East Third Collective. The online shop is a place where customers can build their own gift boxes filled with goodies from small businesses around the country.
There are more than 20 million motorcycles on the road in Thailand, but only 0.01 percent run on electricity. Vikram Ahuja, MB’14, PhD’15, started Edison Motors, coined the “Tesla of Thailand,” to change that statistic.
Kaleb Ryan, BGS’06, quit his job in 2013 to start Elevated Citizen—a luxury menswear line. Since then, Ryan has fashioned suits for more than 30 MLB players, as well as former Hoosier men’s basketball head coach Archie Miller and Hoosier football head coach Tom Allen.
Elliott & Carmen
Leon Chu, BS’89, has owned Elliott & Carmen Fine Jewelry in Singapore since 1999. The storefront is located in the Raffles Hotel.
Flowers for Dreams
Joseph Dickstein, BS’12, co-founded Flowers for Dreams in 2012. The socially-conscious flower company purchases fresh flowers from farms across the Midwest, creates floral arrangements, and then donates 25 percent of its net profits to local charities.
Flying Squirrel Outfitters
After quitting his job in Seattle, Brian Carraway, BS’07, decided to plant roots in Chiang Mai, Thailand. What started as a small venture making handmade travel hammocks for tourists, blossomed into Flying Squirrel Outfitters—a sustainable business that provides seamstresses in small Thai villages with fair wages and flexible hours.
Ravi Bhatt, BA’03, is the co-founder and CEO of Folia. The company is best known for its award-winning annotation product, iAnnotate, that allows users to read, mark up, and share documents on a tablet.
Parker Lynch, BA’06, a special-education teacher and someone who struggles with ADHD, started HedgeHog Health with a specific consumer in mind—his students. A Kickstarter campaign, which has raised more than $70,000, brought the company’s first product to life. The Hoglet, a fidget computer mouse that vibrates, lights up, and even emits a lavender scent, is designed to help kids with learning challenges stay focused.
Thoughtful and vintage-inspired designs, which are often gleaned from university archives and old yearbooks, are how you can easily spot a Connor Hitchcock, BS’16, original. Homefield Apparel, launched in 2018, creates unique collegiate swag for more than 150 colleges and universities across the country.
Who are the rising Indiana filmmakers of today? Meredith McGriff, MA’14, PhD’16, and her husband, Thomas DeCarlo—co-creators of the streaming service Hoosier Films—are inviting viewers to find out. For $18 a year, subscribers can access hours of content while directly supporting the filmmakers, who receive 50 percent of the company’s net profits.
Internet of Elephants
With the goal of supporting animal conservation efforts, Gautam Shah, BS’93, founded Internet of Elephants. The company creates immersive digital experiences that allow users to learn about, track, and interact with wildlife across the globe.
College buddies John Enghauser, BA’91, and Christopher Lackner, BA’92, launched Jeng, a beverage company, in 2020. Their alcohol-free, hemp-infused sparkling cocktails come in three flavors—Moscow mule, paloma, and Jeng & tonic.
With the philosophy that snacks can be healthy, fun, and tasty, Louise Yuan, BS’01, started Jia-Yo Snax. The company currently offers three products: Sunshine Crackers, Quinola, and CocoMatcha Biscuits.
Joe & Bella
After struggling to find his grandmother clothes that were both functional and not “too ugly,” Jimmy Zollo, BS’10, founded Joe & Bella—a company that offers stylish, easy-to-wear, quick-change clothes for older adults, including those living with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other physical and cognitive changes. The company’s motto is: Dress without stress.
Rodney Robinson, BS’98, Lathay Pegues, BAJ’00, and Terrell Cooper, BA’05, started JohnTom’s BBQ back in 2006 after years of trying to recreate a secret family recipe. Bottled in Indianapolis, the company now sells four flavors—original, Hoosier Heat, Peppered Gold, and Sneaky Hot.
Just Pop In!
Carly Swift, BA’96, and Mandy Swift, BS’97, founded Just Pop In! in 2003. The gourmet popcorn company has since expanded to include a storefront at the Indianapolis International Airport and a café north of downtown Indianapolis.
Emily Griffith, BS’14, is at the helm of Lil Bucks—America’s first sprouted buckwheat brand. A perfect topping for an açaí bowl or yogurt, buckwheat is a gluten-free and grain-free fruit seed containing plant-based protein and prebiotic fiber. Lil Bucks products can be found at your local H-E-B, Kroger, and Whole Foods Market, among other retailers.
In 2014, the idea for Pigasus Pictures—an Indiana-based film production company—was born. Zachary Spicer, BA’06, and John Robert Armstrong, BA’02, MFA’07, premiered their first feature film, The Good Catholic, in 2017. The movie was shot entirely in Bloomington, Ind., with a crew made up of mostly IU alumni. “What started as just a strategy for one film, really became a mission for a company. Our vision is to engage communities, to create jobs, to retain talent, and to inspire the next generation of filmmakers right here in Indiana,” Spicer says.
Based in Boston, Mentor Collective assists universities in running large-scale mentoring programs. The company was founded in 2014 by Jackson Boyar, BA’12, who believes forging long-lasting relationships is the key to higher graduation rates—and success beyond the diploma.
Identical twins and fashionistas, Mica Caine, BS’18, and Maya Caine, BS’18, launched Mive, a carbon neutral, size-inclusive slow fashion marketplace with a virtual measuring experience in 2018.
Pranav Mehra, BA’11, is the co-founder of Nino Foods, which creates and operates cloud kitchen brands for the premium food-delivery market in India. A cloud kitchen is a commercial kitchen space that provides restaurants, without a brick-and-mortar location, a place to prepare food for delivery and takeout. Nino Foods currently has two brands—Nino Burgers and Francesco’s Pizzeria.
Myriad Health + Fitness
Open for nearly a decade, Myriad, originally Naptown Fitness, was started by two IUPUI alumni—Jared Byczko, BS’07, and Peter Brasovan, BS’08. The duo has since built the business from Indianapolis’ first CrossFit gym into a one-stop-shop for fitness at any age.
Former IU women’s basketball player Khisha Asubuhi, BGS’03, founded Originalitees in 2009. The clothing company specializes in state, city, and neighborhood pride apparel. Don’t worry—there’s a section on the website just for Hoosier fans.
Growing up, Kailey Donewald, BS’09, had severe asthma and allergies. It wasn’t until she was living a plant-based lifestyle in Bali that she discovered her diet was to blame. Sacred Serve, which was founded in 2017, sells plant-based gelato that is free of the top eight allergens, has less than 100 calories per serving, and is packed with plant-based nutrition.
In 2020, Zachary Kiehl, MBA’19, co-founded Sentinel—a company committed to protecting the lives of professionals in high-risk jobs, such as manufacturing, firefighting, and law enforcement. Sentinel’s SafeGuard platform uses data from human-worn and environmental sensors to track employee health and safety in real time.
While attending IU, Jennie Mosier, MM’19, began designing websites for fellow artists who were looking to portray their talents online. The work came pouring in—and it sparked the idea for Stagetime, a LinkedIn-type app for the performing arts. Mosier launched her startup in August of 2020 and has since teamed up with IU Ventures to grow the platform.
Gregg Arst, BA’97, founded Tanna, Inc. in 2016. The company assists Broadway shows in strategically increasing ticket sales and overall revenue.
Tedesco-Rosa Dining Lab
After designing their own dining room set, Greg Kent, BS’95, and Amee (Harrell) Kent, BS’97, founded Tedesco-Rosa Dining Lab—a furniture company with a focus on combining walnut wood and carbon steel.
The Bee Corp
Backed by the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund, The Bee Corp develops technologies used in commercial pollination. Ellie Symes, BS’16, MPA’18, and Wyatt Wells, BS’16, are currently marketing Verifli—a digital service that uses infrared cameras to determine the health of a hive. “Verifli [which launched in 2017] improves on manual inspection by being a faster way to grade. It is also objective since it relies on a model versus a human-eye inspection,” Symes says, adding, “because the hives don’t have to be opened, inspections can be done earlier in pollination, allowing beekeepers and growers more time to correct weak hives.” The innovative duo made the 2021 Forbes “30 Under 30, Enterprise Technology” list.
The Botanical Bar
In 2020, Victoria Beaty, BGS’17, launched The Botanical Bar—an online store that offers a curated selection of high-quality houseplants. If you’re ever in Indianapolis, you can also swing by Beaty’s brick-and-mortar store near the Bottleworks District.
The Mad Optimist
In college, Mohammed A. Mahdi, BA’17, Mohammed M. Mahdi, BA’06, and Anthony Duncan, ’11, all devout Muslims and vegans, discovered that traditional soap often contains animal fat. The Mad Optimist—a vegan, halal, cruelty-free, non-GMO, and gluten-free body-care line—was created to fill a void in the market. The three alums presented their “pay-what-you-can-afford” business model to the judges of Shark Tank in May 2020. After some negotiating, Mark Cuban, BS’81, agreed to a $60,000 investment in exchange for 20 percent of the company.
The New Savant
Erica Anderson, BAJ’06, is the co-founder of The New Savant—a modern scent studio that creates handmade candles. The brand launched in December 2020 and its first collection sold out in a mere seven minutes.
Two Chicks District Co.
Mina (Starsiak) Hawk, BGS’07, co-star of HGTV’s Good Bones, opened Two Chicks District Co. in Indianapolis in June of 2020. The store, filled with chic home furnishings and odd-end gifts, was designed to be a “neighborhood hangout,” a place to meet friends for a drink or use as a co-working space.
Determined to ease his chronic arthritis pain, Garrett Greller, BA’18, started Uncle Bud’s while studying at IU. “I used my fraternity brothers to vote on a logo and spread the word organically,” says Greller, who started Uncle Bud’s with just a couple thousand dollars. “I don’t think there’s a better time [to start a business] than in college. You have more resources than you’ll ever have.” Today, his hemp and CBD products—endorsed by celebrities including Toni Braxton, Magic Johnson, and Jane Fonda—are sold in eight countries.
Do you know of an IU entrepreneur not listed above? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.