HPU Students Receive Start-Up Funds for Business Ventures

Apr 17th, 2017

HPU Students Receive Start-Up Funds for Business Ventures

Pictured above are the 2017 recipients of the Pagon Promising Entrepreneur’s Fund at High Point University. From left to right are Rami Aoun, Taylor Elseroad, Joseph Cochrane-Brown, Philip Butts and Jacqueline Stein.

HIGH POINT, N.C., April 17, 2017 – Five students will make significant headway in moving their businesses forward thanks to a High Point University grant that supports student entrepreneurs. The Pagon Family Promising Entrepreneur Fund, a major gift from Leonard and Kata Pagon, supports students in developing business plans and launching companies.

The Pagon Fund is designed to provide real-world experience for HPU undergraduates to foster innovation and increase the probability of success. Through a competitive application process, it also provides students with direct exposure to mentors, investors and other capital providers.

The Pagons, from Novelty, Ohio, are entrepreneurs in their own right. Leonard Pagon is the CEO of Next Sparc LLC, and Kata Pagon is a successful optometrist. Their son, Michael, is a current student at HPU.

“Sometimes student entrepreneurs need some investment to validate a concept, and sometimes they need backing to actually launch their company,” says Kathy Elliott, director of HPU’s Center for Entrepreneurship. “The great thing about this creative fund is that it allows all of this to happen. This is a huge step forward for our students and their futures as entrepreneurs.”

A faculty committee considers applicants annually for the fund. This year, three student-run ventures were selected.


Jacqueline Stein, a junior business major from Orchard Lake, Michigan, received a grant to launch and develop her venture, PE3RS. The company uses virtual reality to teach educators about learning and mental disabilities from the first-person perspective of the student. When the VR headset is placed on the viewer, he or she is able to see and hear what the student experiences. PE3RS aims to fully immerse teachers in this experience to encourage empathy and a more personalized education for students.



Joseph Cochraine-Brown
Philip Butts

Philip Butts, a junior computer science major from Apex, and Joseph Cochrane-Brown, a junior business major from Cary, received a grant for their company, SOW. SOW is an alternative study tool enabling constant learning through unique mediums, including Google Chrome Browser Extension and a web application. While there are many platforms that attempt to aid in the study process, SOW plans to create an environment for students to incorporate their own study process rather than having to adapt to the pre-packaged forms that currently exist.



Rami Aoun
Taylor Elseroad


Rami Aoun, a sophomore business major from Raleigh, and Taylor Elseroad, a junior business major from Reisterstown, Maryland, received a grant to further develop and test their employer/employee matching service, Skills.Market. The website pairs employers with employees who have the skills they are seeking at no cost. It is designed to be geographically specific to enable easier and more deliberate searches. The initial plan is to launch the website on a local scale and then expand once all test requirements are met.




The Pagon Fund grants reflect HPU’s commitment to free enterprise. The university houses a Center for Entrepreneurship inside Cottrell Hall and hosts annual Business Plan and Elevator Pitch competitions where students can also land start-up funds.