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  • Published on June 6, 2016
  • Last Updated October 5, 2021

For many, college is an extension of youth, but these students are utilizing their time in school to start thriving companies already gaining national attention.

Age: 21
School: WashU
Majors: Leadership and Strategic Management, Entrepreneurship
Company: GiftAMeal

Premise: GiftAMeal partners with food banks and restaurants to distribute meals to those in need. Each time a user dines at one of the partner restaurants and uses GiftAMeal, a cash donation is made to a food bank.


Noteworthy Milestones: Signed Jimmy John’s as the first chain restaurant on the app; signed on 32 Greater St. Louis area Applebee’s restaurants; named one of the top three student startups by Student Startup Madness at SXSW; accepted into the Future Founders Fellowship; received a $50,000 investment from Capital Innovators; named one of the top five student entrepreneurs at Miami’s Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards; winner of WashU’s RECESS pitch competition.

Utilizing Resources: “Being in school has opened up WashU’s resources to me and has also allowed me to directly apply course material to my business. I also have been able to meet with great advisers such as Emre Toker and Cliff Holekamp to better myself as an entrepreneur and hear their feedback on my ideas for the company.”

Age: 20
Saint Louis University
Major: Entrepreneurship
Company: Trep-ology

Premise: Trep-ology is a two-part digital platform that teaches innovation and makes internalizing entrepreneurial skills literally child’s play.


Causes for Celebration: Partnership and licensing discussions with nationally recognized educational organizations; more than 200,000 educators interested in teaching the curriculum; selected for SLU’s 2015 Diamonds in the Rough Accelerator; pitched at SXSW; featured in an article; filmed a pilot for a new show on a major television network

Parental Advice: “I love to quote my parents: ‘Why not you?’ Why not be a young entrepreneur? Why not graduate college and step into running your own company full time?”

Connecting with Mentors: “[At SLU] I’ve been able to go to the entire Center of Entrepreneurship and its director, Tim Hayden, for unbelievable guidance and support. Every silly question, disheartening bump in the road and slight success has been answered, overcome and celebrated with such ease.”

Age: 22
School: Maryville University
Major: International Business
Company: Enemy (a.k.a EnemyGG and Enemy eSports)

Premise: “[We are] pushing the exploding eSports industry forward through innovative player development and focus. We also want to provide the best games possible for the eSports fan base in terms of entertainment value.” Successes So Far: $393,239 in winnings alone; 1st place, 2015 League of Legends NACS Spring Split (9-1); qualified for the NA LCS in 2015; 2nd place at the 2016 Smite World Championship; won the 2016 MLG CS:GO Minor in Columbus; currently 1st place in North America in the Smite Pro League (9-1)


Smooth Transition: “I have an absolute passion for competitive video games. I used to be a player, so moving to an ownership or general management position was a no-brainer.”

Real Life Experience: “[It] allows you to apply what you are taught in the classroom as well as learn what cannot be taught in the classroom. Over the past year of being in eSports, I can comfortably say I have learned more tangible things than I have ever learned in a classroom in all my years of school.”

Age: 28
School: UMSL
Degree: Doctoral candidate in cell and molecular biology
Company: Upaya Pharmaceuticals

Premise: Upaya is a startup pharmaceuticals company developing antibiotics to treat patients suffering from infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, commonly known as Superbugs.

Upaya MohitPatel-1 copy

Recent Wins:
Named one of St. Louis Business Journal Top 30 under 30 Business Leaders of Tomorrow (2013); awarded UMSL’s Student Inventor of the Year (2013); awarded outstanding Biology Graduate Student award

A Purposeful Process: “After we patented the technology, instead of waiting to graduate, I wanted to commercialize it. In 2013, Superbugs caused 2 million illnesses and [killed] more than 23,000 Americans. Performing the research along with business development adds value to both these processes.”

Best of Both Worlds: “[School and work] go hand-in-hand. I plug in my research to the business to bring our technology closer to the market; other times I get constructive feedback from advisors and mentors that helps me further the research.

This story appeared in EQ’s Summer 2016 issue. 

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