Investments announced for student-led startups

JMU News

by Ginny Cramer


Harrisonburg, Virginia --  The James Madison University Bluestone Seed Fund, managed by the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship, announces its first investments deals. Three JMU startup companies will receive $5,000 each in seed capital as part of the Fund’s inaugural investment cycle.

Startup selection was highly competitive. The Student Founders and their start-ups include:

malique-middleton-bluestone-seed-fund.pngGewd Botanicals

Founded by Malique Middleton (JMU ’21, biology), Gewd Botanicals offers a line of natural, cruelty-free, eco-friendly products. Products are formulated using simple, natural botanicals backed by science. The line includes Oily Wash oil-based cleanser, Flower Power toner, All-Over-Ya-Body Butter moisturizer and Scrubba-Scrub exfoliator.

Headshot of founder Chris DorrHandicans

Handicans ergonomic trashcans are designed for accessibility. A wheelchair-friendly door and horizontal removal allow those with limited mobility greater independence, while improving safety and cleanliness. The patent-pending design by founder Chris Dorr (JMU ’21, economics and management), will come in a variety of models including large 60-gallon cans to lessen physical wear for janitorial and housekeeping staff. 

jack-oppenheim-bluestone-seed-fund.pngTow Ninja

The majority of tow companies in the U.S. are mom and pop shops. Tow Ninja, founded by Jack Oppenheim (JMU student, history), helps simplify communication and book keeping with a Quickbooks integrated web and mobile app. Companies can easily track and view tows, status and revenue. Vehicle owners will also be able to use the service to locate, manage and retrieve towed vehicles.   

The Bluestone Seed Fund is a donor-backed investment fund that provides equity investments in JMU affiliated startups, while also providing hands-on venture investing experience for JMU students, via the Student Venture Associates program. The program is the first of its kind at JMU. 

“We are very excited about the Bluestone Seed Fund first investment cycle. Our Student Venture Associates and Student Founders all got a very real-world venture investing experience. The startups that receive the funding will now be mentored and monitored as they continue to grow. We are thrilled to have three portfolio companies this cycle and are looking forward to adding even more to our portfolio in the spring,” said Suzanne Bergmeister, executive director of the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship. 

The first investment cycle was open to current undergraduate or graduate students and 2021 alumni. It will open to any JMU alumni who graduated within the past five years, no matter current location, in the spring 2022 investment cycle.


Contact: Ginny Cramer,, 540-568-5325


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Published: Monday, December 6, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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