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UM System program boosts student entrepreneurial efforts

Creighton DeYoung and Robert Caffery pose by the door of the MU Life Science Business Incubator while wearing suits.

Creighton Deyoung and Robert Caffrey were among the 18 students chosen to participate in the University of Missouri System’s 2016 Entrepreneurial Scholars and Interns Program (ESIP).
Outside the Life Science Business Incubator at Monsanto Place. Photo by Hannah Sturtecky.

Though Bobby Caffrey and Creighton DeYoung are MU undergraduates — a sophomore computer science major and a junior bioengineering major, respectively — when it comes to the “consumer appliance” they are working to develop, they come off as seasoned entrepreneurs.

The two were among the 18 students chosen to participate in the University of Missouri System’s 2016 Entrepreneurial Scholars and Interns Program (ESIP). Both expressed appreciation for being chosen for the ESIP program because of the chance to learn more about entrepreneurship and the networking opportunities through the program.

After completing nine hours of entrepreneurial coursework, students selected for the program will receive a $4,000 stipend for a 10-week internship to begin to work on their own startups. They can choose to work with a mentor or within a successful startup.

Caffrey and DeYoung cannot disclose the nature of their innovation, for which they have a pending patent but, Caffrey said, “In our biased opinion, it will earn a good return for investors.”

The students have chosen Dan Lowe of Legacy Development in Kansas City to work with them as a mentor. The pair already has invested considerable time and money into their venture, and Lowe plans to provide financial support as well.

Last summer, Caffrey and DeYoung took their second prototype to New York City and worked with a market research company to gather consumer feedback.

“We held three focus groups to tell us what we need to change,” said DeYoung. “What we’re doing now is building a third prototype which, upon completion, we will take back to market research and focus groups. We will be taking our new prototype to four places across the U.S. in order to cover as many demographics as possible.

“We’re looking for unbiased responses,” he added. “It’s what we need for investors.”

They’ve also hired someone to do SolidWorks modeling of their consumer product.

The business partners became acquainted because they shared many of the same classes and also both belong to Beta Theta Pi.

They cited Associate Teaching Professor Gregory Bier and Adjunct William Griffin, both teaching management in the Trulaske College of Business, as having been very influential in their venture, and said Bill Turpin, a 1978 MU electrical engineering alumnus who serves as director of MU’s Missouri Innovation Center, also has been very supportive and helpful.

“When this launches, it will be our company,” Caffrey said. “And there are so many more models that can be produced.