Updated as of May 5, 2021 at 8:46 p.m. to include video.
This year, the Acorn Fund awarded nine student-run businesses a total of $9,000. The fund received 14 applications from students in the Martha & Spencer Love School of Business, the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Communications.
The Acorn Fund was created in 2014 by the Student Government Association to financially support original, innovative and feasible student-run projects that have the potential for a positive impact beyond the classroom. In 2014, the fund was given an endowment of $200,000, and since then it has helped student entrepreneurs of all majors, handing out approximately $9,000 annually.
Last year, the Acorn Fund gave over $12,725 to undergraduate entrepreneurs who presented their projects to the committee. There were a total of eight submissions presented to the committee; six of those submissions were accepted. The businesses chosen must attend mandatory Acorn Fund workshops and attend monthly committee meetings.
Elon sophomore and chair of the Acorn Fund Kate Wirth said she is excited to continue working with SGA to further develop the fund this year.
“It’s amazing that these people are 19 to 22 years old, and they already have such a clear idea and are so passionate about certain topics,” Wirth said.
When reviewing the 2021 applicants, Wirth said it has been fun to learn about what they’re doing and how to support them, especially for students who don’t have jobs and just need a little bit of help.
“We’re excited to hear back from those applicants and get to know more about their businesses and get to support them on their journey,” Wirth said.
The businesses are allocated different amounts of funding based on their applications and the committee’s review. She Can Lead — a business focused on empowering women through leadership education — was awarded $1,250, which covered the costs of a conference dedicated to closing the gender representation gap in leadership on college campuses. Vidya — a software services and consulting company providing technology training courses — was given a grant of $4,500, which went towards a patent, marketing and logo development.
For those who want to apply to the fund, applicants must attend an Acorn Fund workshop, submit an application, give a presentation about their venture and complete a spreadsheet of a budget sheet that specifies the exact costs of the applicant’s venture and how they plan to use the funds.
The Acorn Fund Committee reviews the application to decide if the ventures are realistic and to disperse funds based on how much was requested as well as other criteria.
Senior Steve Hawthorne is the chief financial officer of apparel company Good To See You, and last year, Hawthorne was able to receive an investment of $600 as well as a trademark.
“Through the connections with the Acorn Fund, they matched us up with the Elon Law School [Small Business & Entrepreneurship] Clinic, and they provided all the guidance and the resources to actually get the trademark done at a reasonable price for us,” Hawthorne said. “I don’t think we would have had access if we weren’t students.”
Through this, Hawthorne’s company received a second sum of money for the fund, totaling $1,100 this year. Hawthorne plans to invest the money into areas he wasn’t able to prior to receiving the funds, such as a marketing program.
“I think some of that is going to incorporate Google Analytics, Facebook ads, we also need to hire a graphic designer to do our next summer line,” Hawthorne said. “Now that we’re graduating, we don’t have access to cameras. Typically we just would rent stuff from media services, so we put that in our budget, and that got awarded.”
Elon senior and CFO Matthew Mitten’s clothing company Climate Change Apparel received $2,000 this year, and said he looks forward to expanding his presence as well.
“I have it kind of going into three different buckets: One of them is for the online store, another one is for in-person selling and the third is for sustainable products, which is something that is really important to me,” Mitten said. “I can buy things that I didn’t have enough profits for before, but I was hoping to do, and so now it kind of gives me a little cushion, a little leeway to experiment.”
Hawthorne said he is grateful for the help that the Acorn Fund has provided for his company and the progress that has been made within the past year at Elon.
“It has surpassed my wildest dreams. You know, when we started this, … we didn’t set out to create a business,” Hawthorne said. “We just wanted to put [Good To See You] on the shirts, because we thought it was cool. And after getting compliments on it, we thought, ‘Hey, maybe we could turn it into something.’”