Students launch businesses with Accelerator

by Rory Sheil / Beacon Correspondent • September 18, 2014

1411013824-tiffanyroca_adams_091514._0004.jpg
Tiffany Roca

Three entrepreneurial student teams have been selected to participate in the debut of Emerson Accelerator, a two year program designed to help students start their own businesses. 

The teams, announced Sept. 9, include one pair working to incorporate 3D printing into organic food, another group marketing and mixing music for college musicians, and another offering advice for television pilots. 

“There’s a huge demand for something at the school that fosters entrepreneurship,” said Tripp Clemens, an Emerson graduate who helped develop the program.

Clemens said he, along with alumnus Jake Bailey, designed the Accelerator program to help enterprising students of any major to turn their entrepreneurial dreams into a reality by providing a variety of tools and resources. 

Out of 18 applications, three were selected: Boston Organic Goods, JMZ Music Consulting, and InterMEDIAry. The extracurricular program provides each team with mentorship, space to work, and $6,000 in funding to split between the three groups based on need and merit. 

With Boston Organic Goods, Tiffany Roca and her partner Michelangelo Aragon plan to help farmers make their own organic, sustainable products, some of which to be created with 3D printing. 

Roca said she is grateful for the chance to launch a business while still in school.

“We’re all just so hardworking,” she said. “We just want to get stuff done now, and it’s great we have the opportunity to do so.”

JMZ Music Consulting, created by Emerson junior Maya Rafie, and Zac DelVecchio, a Berklee College of Music student, will work with independent musicians. They plan to help these artists with marketing and music production.

“We realized there was such a niche for all these music students and all these art students that nobody is touching,” said DelVecchio, a sophomore studying business, marketing, and finance at Berklee College of Music. “Everyone is looking so far ahead they forget what is right in front of them.” 

Rafie, a marketing communication major and former Beacon correspondent, said she was excited to bridge Emerson talent with collegiate artists. 

“Being at Emerson, I am always surrounded by filmmakers, writers, and all that,” said Rafie. “I see all these people at Berklee who are trying to make music videos, and it’s iPhone quality. So combining both schools and having the talents of Emerson being applied for musicians is where I got the idea.”

Graduate students Amy DePaola and McKenna Stephens, founders of InterMEDIAry, hope to help television show creators test pilots intended for female and LGBTQ audiences by posting them online and analyzing viewership data. 

DePaola said that before she started InterMEDIAry, she has worked with independent filmmakers to make branded television pilots, but wasn’t satisfied with the way advertisers tried to control content. 

“The idea initially was to have our own content platform,” she said. “We feel that if we find independent projects and sort of build a marketing plan around them and share them with only industry people, then we can collect data, and from there a network can really know what they’re buying into before they actually buy it.”

Hopeful teams submitted applications last March. This included a written proposal and a short video to be reviewed by an executive board made up of a team of hired business professionals selected each year.  

Each team has been assigned two mentors including Emerson alumni like 2014 graduate and Temple Twist founder Jon Allen and Trish Fontanilla of Vsnap video messaging. These mentors have been asked to help the students get their startups running by sharing their real-world experiences and knowledge of their respective markets, according to the program’s website. w

The Emerson Accelerator also provides students with access to WeWork, a shared office space located across from South Station. WeWork provides students in the Accelerator program with a gathering place for events and guest speakers, and 24-hour access to facilities with coffee and snacks.

“The space itself is designed extremely nicely,” said Roca. “It’s so innovative, it just makes you want to work.”

Each team agreed that creating and refining a marketable business model is its current priority.

“We’re going to find our niche,” said DePaola. “That’s sort of the goal.” 

Some Emerson professors, like Stanley Miller from the marketing communication department, plan to help with the projects. 

“This is the time period to really get dirty,” said Miller, who serves an administrator of Accelerator. “This is the time to find out what does work and what doesn’t.”