Since the Inc.U Competition officially launched in 2015, it has produced 10 winning teams and provided $120,000 in prize money to fund winning student startup teams.
Those 10 startups have since grown, shifted, and encountered new challenges and successes. This is the first in an article series which will explore where some of the winning teams are now, how the pandemic has impacted their businesses, and what the next big steps for their companies are.
Business name: Purpose The Therapeutic Subscription Box, LLC
Business description: Purpose aims to keep families connected and remind our older loved ones they are not forgotten. We offer a Quarterly Subscription Box where families can subscribe, fill out a custom survey about their loved one and upload their photos/message directly on their profile. The boxes are curated with underlying therapeutic themes (cognition, self-care, fine motor and strengthening) to promote aging in place, have enlarged font, and respect dietary restrictions. We also offer special occasion boxes such as Thinking of You and Birthday which are shipped within 3 business days.
Our Sponsor a Senior Program allows anyone to “sponsor” or purchase a box that is hand-delivered to a senior in need living in a nursing home. We work with social workers and activities directors to determine which residents do not have family or receive regular visitors and those are the individuals who are gifted the Purpose Boxes.
Business location: Hermitage, PA
Name(s) and title(s):
- Ali Izzo-Linton: Co-CEO
- Holly Masters: Co-CEO
Q: What stage was your company at when you participated in the Inc.U Competition, and what stage is your company at now?
Ali: Our company had products on the market when we pitched on “The Investment.” Since the show aired, we have expanded our company to add more products and a new box. As Occupational Therapy Practitioners, we wanted to provide a service to our fellow practitioners, which is why we coined the term “Therapist-Centered Approach.” Our new box and apparel line highlight other entrepreneurs in our profession and help us advocate for Occupational Therapy in a fun and unique way.
Q: How did participating in the Inc.U Competition impact you and your company?
Ali: Participating in the Inc.U Competition impacted us and our company by providing us with the funds to expand our business and develop essential aspects of our company, such as our custom website. The Inc.U Competition also gave us the opportunity to connect with investors, entrepreneurs, and fellow alumni. We also cannot forget that because of “The Investment,” we were invited to the President’s Tailgate and to watch the white out game in the President’s Box, which is one of greatest memories we have from our time at Penn State!
Q: What were you able to put funding from the Inc.U Competition towards?
Holly: Purpose used the funding to create a custom website! After checkout subscribers are directed to a built-in profile where they answer a survey about their older loved one, upload photos and their messages for each box. This allows us to streamline our fulfilment process to personalize each box. Additionally, we used the funding for marketing materials to attend our National Occupational Therapy Association Conference in Boston (which had to be rescheduled).
Q: What challenges have you faced since winning?
Ali: One big challenge we have faced since winning the competition was having our National Occupational Therapy Conference cancelled due to COVID-19. We had planned to attend for months in advance and had a large booth to promote our company and products. Sadly, the conference was cancelled 20 days before the event and we had to quickly prepare virtual content that was positive and engaging for our customers.
Q: What successes have you had since winning?
Holly: Since winning “The Investment,” we won the Small Business Grant from FedEx, started an affiliate program and were speakers for the Next Level Occupational Therapy Summit. This year has been full of learning, networking and scaling for the future. Purpose will officially be 2 years old at the end of June!
Q: How has the pandemic impacted/shifted your business?
Ali: This pandemic has made people step back and truly think about the important people they have in their lives, including their elderly loved ones. Because families are unable to visit senior care facilities during this time, we are happy to provide families with a safe and convenient way to stay connected with their loved ones.
Q: What is the next big step for your company?
Holly: The next big step for Purpose is continuing to grow our subscription services and our Sponsor a Senior Program across the United States. Now more than ever older adults are isolated and lonely. Also, we are preparing a 10×20 trade show booth for the Occupational Therapy Association conference in San Diego this coming year!
Q: What advice do you have for future participants of the Inc.U Competition?
Ali: Holly and I watched all of the previous competitions and wrote down every question the contestants were asked. Be prepared to explain in detail your financial situation, what you will use the money for, how you will scale your business in the future, and know your market well. Remember to have fun while pitching and show your personality!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Holly: Take every opportunity given to you! We were so grateful to participate and meet the other Penn State start-ups. Not to mention the WPSU film crew was a blast to work with!