Rollins Center Announces SEOY Winners, Introduces Three New Awards
PROVO, Utah – Apr 16, 2021 – The businesses created by BYU students are as unique and versatile as the student entrepreneurs themselves and span every category, from thrift store clothing to digital marketing to real estate. Each year, the BYU Entrepreneurship Club and the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the BYU Marriott School of Business recognize dedicated student entrepreneurs with revenue-generating businesses through the Student Entrepreneur of the Year (SEOY) awards and recognition program. This year’s Student Entrepreneur of the Year, Isaac Dushku, founded his company, Lord of Maps Inc., a mere twelve months ago.
In addition to the title of Student Entrepreneur of the Year and the ranking of the top revenue-generating businesses, the SEOY program introduced three new awards this year: the Women in Entrepreneurship (WE) award, the Job Creator award, and the Emerging Elite award.
“The Rollins Center is excited to include three additional categories of recognition this year,” says Mike Hendron, an associate teaching professor of entrepreneurship and the academic director of the Rollins Center. “First, we added a special award to highlight one of our successful student female founders, in partnership with the Rollins Center’s Women in Entrepreneurship program. The WE program provides encouragement and support for female students here at BYU who start and run their own businesses.” The Women in Entrepreneurship award was given to strategic management senior Marissa Barlow for her swimsuit company, Nani Swimwear.
The second new category highlights one of the most important economic benefits of entrepreneurship: creating employment opportunities. “The Job Creator award recognizes the company with the largest employee workforce, with an emphasis on providing full-time positions,” says Hendron. This year’s Job Creator award was given to Ben Webber for Big Red Jelly, a company with fifteen full-time employees and five part-time employees.
The final new category, the Emerging Elite award, spotlights companies that are not yet large in terms of revenue but which are poised for rapid growth and future success. This award was given to three different students: Lex Maynez, for his vintage and modern clothing store, Sad Boi Thrift; Keaton Wall for his real estate company, Wall Global LLC; and Tayla Chapa for her handmade clay earring company, Feminiscence. All three students experienced notable growth and increased revenue in their companies throughout the previous calendar year.
In the past twelve months, Dushku, a junior in the pre-professional industrial design program, went from being a casual doodler to a person who draws maps every day for a living. His company, Lord of Maps, started with a rough sketch of a fantasy-style Utah map in March 2020. He posted a picture of the map on Facebook, and someone offered to buy it. After that, requests for other states came pouring in. Now, Dushku has more than forty maps available on his website and more than forty-thousand followers on his Instagram account.
Dushku, who hails from Centerville, Utah, hopes that other students can look at the success of his company and feel encouraged to turn their own passions into businesses. “People don’t see drawing fantasy maps as a viable career option,” he says. “I feel honored to win the Student Entrepreneur of the Year. I want to encourage other students on campus who are skilled in an art or craft to turn their creations into real businesses.”
Since Dushku’s passion is now his business, his job never feels like work. “My business has been a total joy,” Dushku says. “I actually want to wake up Monday morning and get to work.” Looking forward to the future, he hopes to draw maps of all fifty states and several countries. “After that, I’ll chuck a dart at a world map and start drawing wherever the dart lands,” he says.
Barlow’s company, Nani Swimwear, offers swimsuits intended for comfortable, fashionable active wear. The company now sells its uniquely designed swimsuits to customers from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The unique circumstances of 2020 proved to be a roller coaster for Barlow and her company. “Last year was packed full of challenges and extreme emotions, both high and low,” says Barlow, a native of Smithfield, Utah. “After four years of running Nani, I went through my first major burnout. I got over my burnout and all of the emotional roller coasters by learning to enjoy the journey and going back to the core mission of Nani—empowering women.”
Webber’s company, Big Red Jelly, strives to set up businesses of any size for digital success. The company refines a business’s brand by building digital solutions, such as a company website or social media accounts. “Receiving the first-ever Job Creator award is a huge honor,” says Webber, an international relations senior from Orem. “Our process of trying to help others thrive isn’t just for our clients but our team members as well. We emphasize the importance of having strong relationships within our own team and with our partners. Without those key relationships, 2020 would not have been as successful for our company.”
The SEOY program is a great opportunity to recognize the amazing success of BYU student entrepreneurs, notes Hendron. “BYU has so many students with the passion, skills, and ability to build rapidly growing companies. The SEOY program also highlights the diversity of student businesses from those building fashion brands and consumer products to retail business, to technology services businesses, and more,” he adds.
The rankings for this year’s SEOY program were based on revenue reported by the companies for the 2020 calendar year. Dushku and his business will also be memorialized through his inclusion on a plaque in a prominent display case near the Rollins Center office, allowing him to join the legacy of successful student entrepreneurs who came before him.
2021 SEOY final standings ranked from largest to smallest by their business revenue:
- Isaac Dushku, Lord of Maps Inc. Co-founder: Alexander Dushku
- Marissa Barlow, Nani Swimwear. Co-founders: Janna Barlow and Amy Rasmussen
- Ben Webber, Big Red Jelly. Co-founders: Josh and Zach Webber
- Shaunna Sanders, Voyage Direct Primary Care. Co-founder: John Sanders
- Brigham Bateman, Wasatch Threads Inc. Co-founders: Mark and Lynette Bateman
- Adrian Felix Choquevillca, Famet Transportation Corp. Co-founder: Mauro Felix Choquevillca
- Josh Head, Sledge Island Media LLC
- Bryan Stringham, MagTrax
- Jake Huntley, Rose + Thyme Floral. Co-founder: Katie Huntley
- Ben Osguthorpe, Demand River. Co-founder: Riley Budd
2021 Emerging Elite award winners:
- Lex Maynez, Sad Boi Thrift
- Keaton Wall, Wall Global LLC
- Tayla Chapa, Feminiscence. Co-founder: Daniel Woodfield
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert