“Hemply Rooted” Wins $5,000 Prize at Annual JWU Sharkfest Competition

Story by JWU Media Relations , on Apr 26, 2022 12:30 PM


PROVIDENCE, R.I. — April 26, 2022 – Hemply Rooted, a hemp-infused condiment company, won Johnson & Wales University (JWU) students Maya Alderman ’23, Asia Vo ’23 and Jessica Hess ’23 the top prize at JWU’s Sharkfest student entrepreneurship competition. The annual idea pitch event was hosted by the Johnson & Wales University’s Larry Friedman Center for Entrepreneurship on March 30 in Providence, Rhode Island.

“For over a decade, Sharkfest has embodied JWU’s entrepreneurial spirit,” said Mary Meixell, Ph.D., dean of the College of Business. “By tapping into the creative potential of our students, we’re fostering hands-on learning while developing the next generation of business leaders. The combination will have a lasting impact on our students’ lives and our community.”

During the live competition, five teams pitched their business ideas to a panel of judges including Lauren Slocum, president & CEO at the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce; Annette Tonti, managing director at Rhode Island’s Innovation Hub; Lisa Raiola, MPH, president and founder at Hope & Main; and Aimee Dufresne, Ph.D, assistant dean at Johnson & Wales University’s College of Arts & Sciences. Each team was allotted five minutes to outline their ventures before taking questions from the judges.

In addition to Hemply Rooted’s $5,000 first-place prize, the university also awarded prizes to the second and third place finishers. Total Ergonomics, presented by Mathew Hartung ’25 and Michael Dattolo ’24 received a $2,500 second-place prize and the third-place winner, Hello Hygienics, presented by Jonathan Beres ’24 was selected by the live audience and received a $1,250 prize.

Alderman, Vo and Hess’s win comes on the heels of a second-place finish at JWU’s inaugural Future Food All-Stars Challenge in December 2021. Hosted in collaboration with the Larry Friedman Center for Entrepreneurship and JWU’s Food Entrepreneur in Residence, Tyler Florence ’94, ’04 Hon, the semester-long competition brought together students from a variety of academic disciples to identify a core business opportunity, develop a business model and product plan, and prepare for the opportunity to pitch their ideas to established investors.

The Hemply Rooted team remarked, “After three competitions, a lot of hard work, failure, and growth has finally led to our first big ‘yes’. With the seed money now in hand, we are incredibly excited for summer to kick off so we can get to work. Stay tuned for our website and product launch coming soon!”

About JWU

Founded in 1914, Johnson & Wales University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 9,000 graduate, undergraduate and online students at its campuses in Providence, Rhode Island and Charlotte, North Carolina. An innovative educational leader, the university offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in arts and sciences, business, engineering, food innovation, hospitality, nutrition, health and wellness. It also offers undergraduate programs in culinary arts, dietetics and design. JWU’s unique model provides students with the personalized attention, academic expertise and industry connections that inspire professional success and personal growth. The university’s impact is global, with alumni in 125 countries pursuing careers worldwide.

JWU MEDIA CONTACT: Rachel Nunes, Senior Communications and Media Relations Specialist, (o) 401-598-2752, (c) 401-895-7364