$25,000 Sohr Grants awarded to Vanderbilt student business plans

AIM Healthcare co-founder and Vanderbilt alumnus Jim Sohr endows grants program to promote entrepreneurship at the Owen Graduate School of Management

Media Contact:
Ryan Underwood
Business Editor
Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management
(615) 322-3469 | ryan.underwood@owen.vanderbilt.edu

Jan 17, 2012

Microfinance lending and ecologically friendly false eyelashes may not seem to have much in common.

But they’re both new business ideas that caught the attention of the prize committee awarding this year’s first annual $25,000 Sohr Grants, created to promote student entrepreneurship at the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management.

Vanderbilt alumnus and co-founder of AIM Healthcare Jim Sohr (BE ’86, MBA ’90) and his wife Leah endowed the new grants. A division of United HealthGroup purchased Aim Healthcare in 2009.

“We would love to create many companies that become as successful as AIM Healthcare,” said Germain Boer, director of the Owen Entrepreneurship Center. “With this kind of support, the Owen School can attract more students who already have a business idea that they want to develop. This funding, combined with the mentor support provided by the school’s alumni, will drive the success of these new ventures.”

Georgie Beauty
One of the grants went to second-year MBA student Megan Allen for her start-up Georgie Beauty. Co-founded in 2009 by Allen and her sister, Abbey Allen Watt, the company makes “eco-luxe” false eyelashes sold under the brand name “Winks by Georgie.” The company has established partnerships with luxury retailers Neiman Marcus and Cos Bar. It has also been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, InStyle.com, and numerous beauty and style blogs. About the target audience, Allen writes in her business plan, “These women are looking for the latest cosmetic products that help them achieve the celebrity look, but that’s not all. They are also increasingly concerned with consumer and environmental health.”

Contigo Financial
Focusing on the 60 million consumers in the United States who do not have access to traditional bank loans or credit card products, Contigo Financial is developing a micro-finance model to compete with pawnshops and payday lenders, where borrowing costs can exceed an APR of 400 percent. Loans would be provided only to employed people, secured through their paychecks, and accessed through debit cards. Co-founder Mario Avila, a second-year MBA student at Vanderbilt and President of the Owen Student Government Association, is part of a start-up team that has experience in consulting, investment banking, private equity and microfinance in the U.S. and Latin America.

In addition to the new Sohr Grants, Vanderbilt’s Owen Entrepreneurship Center awards a $15,000 summer enterprise stipend each year.

Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management is ranked as a top institution by BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, Financial Times and Forbes. For more information about Owen, visit www.owen.vanderbilt.edu.