Knowing how friends and loved ones have felt cut off from each other this year gave University of Georgia student Nisha Kavalam a startup idea to help spread the good times again – one picnic at a time.
Kavalam, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, pitched her picnic rental and setup service, called Out of the Basket, to the UGA Entrepreneurship Program’s Idea Accelerator judges during a Demo Day pitch contest in March.
“After a year of isolation, people are desperate to spend quality time with others, but they get stuck in the planning stages, especially with shutdowns still in place,” Kavalam told the judges.
“Out of the Basket offers a fun and engaging way for people to spend time with others outside, with services to rent everything needed for a day at the park.”
She won first place and $2,500 in startup capital — enough to buy inventory for her picnic setups.
Kavalam, who organized service-oriented spring break trips before returning to graduate school, lives near Piedmont Park in Atlanta. It’s the perfect place for picnics, she told the judges, and she plans to offer curated, hassle-free park visits. Out of the Basket’s services would set up a location for a date or small party, provide food and drinks and organize activities, ranging from scavenger hunts to board games and Frisbee.
“We all loved the presentation and the idea,” Aminah Matthews, founder of A Date to Remember date planning service and a 2019 UGA Idea Accelerator alumna. “Especially with COVID and people feeling so isolated, this is needed.”
The UGA Idea Accelerator has awarded more than $65,000 in startup funding to date and helped more than 540 budding entrepreneurs refine their business ideas.
The four-week, intensive business workshop pairs UGA student startups with entrepreneurs who coach them in the concepts of customer discovery, financial literacy and investor readiness. The next Demo Day is set for April 15.
Jim Flannery, a lecturer in the Terry College of Business who organizes the Idea Accelerator workshop, commended the teams and reminded them their ideas might take several iterations to come to fruition.
“If we knew how to create companies with a playbook everybody could do it, but we don’t,” Flannery said. “The process of discovery and exploration that we’ve gone through over the last four weeks is simply a playbook for thinking about how we grow a business. It’s not fool proof, and it’s not a place for us to stop.”
In addition to Out of the Basket, other companies recognized at the March 8 Demo Day, included second-place winners, Environmental Health Science students Alex Monroy and Katie Horne’s waste-free takeout container service, Sustainably Served, and third-place winner Environmental Resource Science student Adrian Robbins and her AgLite Solutions platform, a way of sanitizing horticulture tools in a greenhouse setting.
The Idea Accelerator is sponsored by Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech, Fiserv, and the UGA Entrepreneurship Program. Its mission is to help develop the mindset of future entrepreneurs and prepare students for business leadership roles. Applications and program information can be found at entr.uga.edu/uga-accelerator. The program is open to any UGA or community team.