Fearless founders

Graduates of Mizzou’s Entrepreneur Quest program share recent milestones.

Aug. 7, 2023
Contact: Deidra Ashley, ashleyde@missouri.edu

The University of Missouri’s Entrepreneur Quest (EQ) program is a launch pad for student businesses. Since its inception in 2018, nearly 40 Mizzou teams have participated in the competition — and more than $150,000 has been awarded to help them make their business dreams a reality.

Read on for updates from some successful EQ graduates.

Hayden Seidel (left) and Trent Esser (right) stand in front of the production line used to launch their first 3D-printed filament products made from recycled materials. In 2020, they won $5,000 from EQ.

Founders: Hayden Seidel, B.S. Ci.E. ’20, and Trent Esser, B.S. B.A. ’20
Location: St. Louis

Type of business: Printerior is an additive manufacturing company that uses recycled and sustainable bioplastics to produce filaments for most 3D printers on the market. The company also is an on-demand manufacturing house for 3D-printed products used in the architecture, aerospace, maritime and industrial molding industries.

“Hayden and I founded this business because we both have a passion for emerging technologies and sustainability,” Esser said. “Recent developments in 3D printing allowed us to combine our focus areas  into a business that can help fight the world’s plastic problem in new and innovative ways.” 

Milestones: In 2021, Seidel and Esser won a $50,000 grant from the St. Louis-based Arch Grants program. Printerior now has five employees (including its two founders), three commercial products and Fortune 500 clients. In the next few months, they plan to move to a larger production facility and bring their new printing technology to market.  

“Printerior has grown faster than we ever could have imagined,” Esser said. “Without the support networks provided by EQ and Mizzou, I’m not sure we would have been able to get our business off the ground.”

Jack Murray and his dog, Heidi, show one of his portable dog crates. In 2022, Murray won $15,000 from EQ.

Murray Kennel Co.

Founder: Jack Murray, a fourth-year veterinary student at Mizzou 
Location: Columbia

Type of business: Murray Kennel Co. is working to carve a niche in the growing pet industry by offering customers a collapsible dog crate. The idea for a space-saving design came to Murray during the COVID-19 pandemic while navigating a bulky, traditional dog crate in his tiny apartment. Since then, Murray has continued refining his design.

“After additional market research, we pivoted from our Murphy bed concept that attaches to a wall to concentrate on perfecting a lightweight yet durable collapsible dog crate that can be used for travel,” Murray said. “Of course, our crate is space saving and can still fold flat against any wall.”

Milestones: Murray has applied for a patent, developed an e-commerce website and worked with an engineer to create prototypes using 3D printing. His next steps are to find collaborators and raise enough capital to produce the molds necessary to manufacture the crates.

“The University of Missouri was the springboard behind Murray Kennel Co. in terms of business mentorship and the immense number of networking connections,” Murray said. “Mizzou expedited my small business venture, and many current students and alumni helped me get it off the ground.”

Michelle Gershkovich’s platform helps online shoppers choose accurate clothing sizes. In 2022, Gershkovich won $5,000 from EQ.

Founder: Michelle Gershkovich, B.S. TAM ’22
Location: Chicago

Type of business: ALLTER is an artificial intelligence-powered tool that recommends accurate and personalized garment sizes for online customers, fashion and uniform designers and e-commerce industries interested in reducing costly returns and their environmental impact.

“I founded ALLTER in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when shopping online was the only option,” Gershkovich said. “After purchasing and having to deal with returns, I decided that there needed to be a better solution to receive garments that fit perfectly the first time. I owe it to Mizzou for being a wonderful launching pad for us.”

Milestones: ALLTER, which now has six full-time employees, has secured multiple rounds of funding since EQ. The development team has created a functional sizing tool, and Gershkovich is currently working with companies to beta test and perfect it. ALLTER already has a waiting list of clients and is the newest member of the 1871 Chicago Entrepreneurship Association. 

“From limitless opportunities to wise professors, Mizzou has supported and promoted ALLTER every step of the way – welcoming my ideas with open arms while simultaneously pushing me to think outside of the box, arming me with knowledge and guidance,” Gershkovich said.  

Blake Brown stands in the space that will ultimately be the reception area of his retail store. In 2023, Brown won $10,000 from EQ. 
BTB Kicks

Founder: Blake Brown, B.S. B.A. ’23
Location: Oak Park,Illinois
@btb_kicks on Instagram

Type of business: BTB Kicks is a sneaker restoration, customization and resale business that grew out of Brown’s childhood passion for collecting and maintaining his own sneakers. At an early age, Brown began acquiring customers through word-of-mouth and social media marketing.

“I always had a passion for sneakers and made sure to keep my shoes clean,” Brown said. “When other people started asking me to clean their shoes, that’s when I realized I had something great on my hands — I could be doing something I love and making good money.”

Milestones: Since graduating from MU in May, Brown has been working on obtaining a business license, purchasing equipment, finishing renovations inside his store and diversifying his marketing tactics to grow his client base. He plans to launch his website and open the BTB Kicks storefront this fall.

“Mizzou helped me realize you can’t do everything alone, and it gave me the foundation of knowledge in aiding the creation of my business,” Brown said. “Mizzou was truly my playground to try different lessons learned in my classes on my college customer base.” 

About Entrepreneur Quest

Now in its fifth year, EQ is an opportunity for full-time Mizzou undergraduate and graduate students to translate their ideas and side hustles into scalable ventures. Those chosen to participate in the program have an opportunity to win seed funding from a $30,000 prize pool for their businesses and learn the ins and outs of the startup world through workshops and coaching from successful entrepreneurs.

“It’s rewarding to see the progress and success EQ graduates have achieved so far,” said Greg Bier, executive director of entrepreneurship programs. “They took advantage of the many resources Mizzou offers and continue hustling to make their dreams a reality.” This year, all EQ programming and events are scheduled during the fall semester. Applications are due Sept. 7.

EQ is sponsored by Hawthorn Bank, U.S. Bank Foundation and the employees of Veterans United Home Loans.


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