Programs That Drive Entrepreneurship with Mona

Segment #8 from University of Illinois


The U of I is a major incubator for entrepreneurship and innovation. They have an entire research park that’s home to more than 120 Fortune-500 and startup companies. These top corporations set up offices here in large part because of the university’s amazing student talent pool. In fact, more than 800 student interns are employed at research park, getting real-world experience right away. Lots of student hackathons and venture competitions take place throughout the year too. The student you’re gonna meet next, Mona, has built her very own business by leveraging another cool program called iVenture Accelerator. It supports student entrepreneurs with funding and access to world-class resource and mentors. Let’s go over to the reading room at the main library to meet Mona and hear her story.

Thanks Alex, and hi everyone. I started my entrepreneurial journey when I was 17 years old. I wanted to create a platform that allows a long-term good to be recirculated once it’s done being used. As we encounter new challenges in climate change and pollution, we’ll have to redefine the way that we use stuff such as clothes and household items, rather than treating them with a consumed and dispose mentality. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, right?

I knew I wanted to start a company while getting an engineering degree at a university. When looking at my college options, the University of Illinois stood out the most to me because of its fantastic entrepreneurship resources. So my freshman year, I moved in with an inventory of 500 clothing items. Before I even started class, I was able to find a co-working space in downtown Urbana, where I could store my clothes and get to work immediately. My next step was to find teammates. Lots of students are interested in startups, and the U of I offers a lot of networking events and chats where you can easily mingle with professors, students, and researchers. So it wasn’t difficult for me to find a group of passionate teammates who had strong marketing and software development skills.

Throughout the rest of my freshman year, we participated in many startup competitions. They included Cozad, which is a startup competition that has a $25,000 grant prize. And Illinois Impact Incubator, which helps to support social and environmentally focused startups like us. Over the summer, we also joined the prestigious iVenture Accelerator. iVenture Accelerator supports top students startups at the university. With iVenture’s help, we were able to take the company full-time and Karma Trade opened its first retail store. The moment when Karma Trade was no longer a “what if”, sparked a new energy in me and the company. Now, at the end of my sophomore year, we’ve helped over 100 people rejuvenate their wardrobe instead of going to fast fashion companies. More importantly, we’ve rescued over 2000 clothing items from landfill.

Running Karma Trade has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences I’ve had in life so far. I’ve learned what it means to be a business owner and team leader, while also making a positive environmental impact. And we’re just getting started. Our next step is to bring the service online, where you can swap your clothes and shop from your couch. I can’t wait to see where things will go from here. And I know the U of I network will be ready and willing to support us along the way. If you have an idea that you want to pursue, the U of I will help you achieve it. Back to you, Alex.

Mona, I can’t believe you’re only a sophomore. Karma Trade sounds like an amazing concept and I look forward to seeing it takeoff. It sounds like it already has. Bye Mona.

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