A company founded by University of Nebraska-Lincoln alumni and a UNL management major were honored for their entrepreneurship by the University of Nebraska system April 22.
The Walter Scott Entrepreneurial Business Award went to Bulu Box, a health, nutrition and weight loss “discovery box” that provides subscribers with monthly product samples that can improve their health and wellness. The Peter Kiewit Student Entrepreneurial Award winner was senior management major Justin Kyser, co-founder of DivviMap, which connects drone mapping companies with customers through a mobile app that allows users to keep track of their maps on their smartphones.
The awards honor students and businesses with ties to NU that are leveraging technology to expand entrepreneurial activity in the state and build a vibrant and innovation-based economy, both high priorities for the university system.
“Nebraska’s continued economic competitiveness depends on a vital ingredient: entrepreneurship,” NU System President Hank Bounds said. “We don’t know what all of the jobs of the future will look like. We do know that many of them haven’t been created yet. And we know that many will require the use of technology. If we want to sustain economic growth in Nebraska, we need to make sure we’re producing graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset, connecting startup companies with the resources they need to grow, and creating a culture where people with big ideas aren’t afraid to take risks.”
The Walter Scott award encourages existing businesses with a presence in Nebraska to create partnerships with NU in the area of technology. The award comes with a $10,000 prize to be used for the promotion and/or creation of student work experiences in the fields of information science, technology or engineering.
Founded in 2012 by Paul and Stephanie Jarrett, Bulu Box provides its subscribers a monthly box containing four to five product samples related to health and wellness. Customers can share their feedback on the products in exchange for reward points that can be used to purchase full-sized items on the Bulu Box website. Subscriber feedback is aggregated in real time via a software dashboard that allows brands to make data-driven decisions about product development and marketing. Bulu Box distributes up to 50,000 boxes of samples each month to subscribers across the country.
The Jarretts are UNL graduates and maintain a close partnership with the university. Bulu Box offers numerous internship and job opportunities to university students; more than three-quarters of the company’s full-time staff are UNL graduates. The Jarretts and their team are frequent guest lecturers in UNL classes, serve as mentors to students and host events that connect students with the Lincoln startup community.
Bulu Box plans to use its prize money to create additional computer science-focused internships.
“Partnership between the university system and companies like Bulu Box fosters entrepreneurial spirit in students, offers local businesses a stellar pool of internship candidates, and it provides talented NU graduates an opportunity to build lasting careers in Nebraska,” said Paul Jarrett, Bulu Box’s CEO. He has coined the hashtag #BangTheDrum to encourage entrepreneurs to share their stories.
The Peter Kiewit award recognizes University of Nebraska students who have directed their energies, ideas and talents toward community and business improvements with the creative and innovative use of information technology. The award is accompanied by a $2,500 prize.
Kyser, a senior in UNL’s College of Business Administration who grew up on a dairy farm near Beatrice, came up with the idea for DivviMap after seeing that drone mapping companies didn’t have the necessary infrastructure to share maps with customers in industries such as agriculture, where drone maps can help farmers and ranchers understand exactly what’s happening in their fields.
Kyser identified the market opportunity after his experience co-founding Digital Sky, which provides drone services to the agriculture, film and video production, electrical utilities, and engineering/surveying industries.
Kyser earned his private pilot’s license in high school and later attended flight school, where he earned his commercial pilot’s license and an associate’s degree in aviation. He developed a passion for unmanned aviation and started down the entrepreneurial path by creating Kyser Aviation, a commercial drone company.
Kyser’s mentor at UNL is Samuel Nelson, an assistant professor of practice and interim director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.
“It’s amazing to me that a student like me could have the access to resources through the university, and the entrepreneurial community, that I need to be able to pursue my passions,” Kyser said. “I definitely know that I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my family and the awesome people who have helped me along the way.”