Allie Davenport wants to help others improve their mental health and well-being. This is the principle behind her company, StarMind, a self-development brand whose first product, The Guide, is a mindset journal that introduces self-development principles through integrative QR codes, daily logs, and reflective activities.
“The concept of self-development and mental health has hit home for me for a long time,” Davenport says of the inspiration behind StarMind. “I wanted to create a product that can help others get introduced to the self-development world.”
Davenport’s concept was the winner of this year’s Get Seeded Demo Day, held April 19. In its second year, Demo Day is the culminating event of UConn’s Get Seeded program.
“Demo Day started in 2021 as a way to celebrate our entrepreneurial ecosystem and leverage our Get Seeded program at the end of the academic year,” explains Jennifer Mathieu, executive director of the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI).
Get Seeded holds a series of pitch nights throughout the academic year. These events give student entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their innovative ideas, with the chance to earn seed funding. At Demo Day, five teams who pitched at one of the pitch nights are invited back to present to a panel of alumni judges in a competition to earn additional seed funding.
Demo Day also offers students a chance to assess their personal growth as they refine their concepts and develop their entrepreneurial skills, says David Noble, director of the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
“It’s an opportunity for students to showcase the progress they’ve made since they were first awarded money from Get Seeded,” he says. “It’s a chance to stand in front of people and show that they are doing as opposed to talking about things.”
Davenport, who is also part of the pilot cohort of the Werth Innovative Leadership Development Program’s Freshmen Female Founders, says that seeing her progress has given her a confidence boost.
“I participated in a pitch night for the Freshmen Female Founders, the Get Seeded pitch night, and Demo Day,” she says. “It’s cool to see how far I’ve come in a year, refining my pitch, sharpening my communication skills, and gaining a level of confidence. My ideas are valuable, and I have a seat at the table.”
The alumni judges play a key role in the Demo Day experience, offering insights, feedback, and support. This type of mentorship is critical, says Mathieu.
“I do not believe that an entrepreneur can be successful without a team of advisors and, most importantly, mentors who have helped them along their journey,” she says. “I believe that mentorship at the very early stage of entrepreneurship, especially in programs like Get Seeded, is imperative.”
Noble agrees. “The Werth Institute and CCEI provide access to many different types of mentors,” he says. “Those relationships change over time, but they are absolutely the most important aspect of student entrepreneurship.”
Natalie Lacroix and Eva Quigley—who won Demo Day in 2021 with their product, Reach Bar, a nutritional and protein bar—say they felt well supported as student entrepreneurs at UConn.
“Through the Werth Institute, CCEI, and the learning community program, everybody at UConn just wants you to succeed,” says Quigley.
“UConn was the perfect ground for us to just dive right in, give us that safety net, where we could explore and figure out new things,” Lacroix says. “It’s given us all these resources and the perfect opportunity to grow and build and prepare us for a great future.”
“I think it’s so imperative to invest in the future of our entrepreneurs both at UConn and beyond,” says Mathieu. “If you are interested in providing support both with time and with resources, I can’t think of a better way than with Get Seeded: Demo Day.”