Announcing Our Eship Scholars Inaugural Cohort!

Tuesday October 6, 2020

What is an Eship Scholar?

The Eship Scholars program was created to celebrate and support students from backgrounds and identities underrepresented in entrepreneurship who display the drive and qualities of a successful entrepreneur, but who may not self-identify as an entrepreneur.

Scholars receive a fellowship award of up to $5,000 which they can use for their business or personal expenses. This support helps students focus on reaching their entrepreneurial goals. This program also connects these high-potential student entrepreneurs with mentorship, coaching, and connections from industry experts. This results in students being able to invest in their own self-development, launch successful careers and/or ventures, and accelerate their entrepreneurial journey on their own unique path.

Funding for this program was made possible through the NC IDEA Ecosystem Grant.


Watch below to learn about the experiences of three of our Eship Scholars!

2020-2021 Class Profile

Kerstan Nealy

Kerstan is a public policy major, with minors in African studies and medical anthropology. Her company Simply Coils is dedicated to providing quality hair care for individuals with sensitive skin. In her spare time, she enjoys watching movie explanations and reviews.


Cameron Traylor

Cameron is a media and journalism major. He is interested in Eship because it gives him the opportunity to grow his business, his network and his entrepreneurial skills. A fun fact about Cameron is that he loves listening to classic R&B music.


Xiangyi Li

Xiangyi is a business major with a minor in computer science. She is currently growing two business, Jellyfish English Lab and JALI Jewelry. Jellyfish is an English peer tutoring platform that aims to help Chinese college students with the English language while exposing them to American culture. JALI Jewelry offers sustainable jewelry alternatives. Xiangyi loves food and has been working on her cooking skills over quarantine.


Siani Antoine

Siani is a Master of Public Health student concentrating on maternal, child and family health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She founded Bloom Into Womanhood, a wellness space for women of color, which she hopes to grow into a lactation and childbirth education center. In her free time, Siani enjoys designing and creating earrings.


Robbie Tillman

Robbie is a computer science major with an intended business administration minor. He would like to start and grow a platform-based technology company soon, but currently runs a business that facilitates pop-up drive-in movie events on college campuses. Robbie loves to fish and has traveled to nine foreign countries.


Francis Amponsah

Francis is a media and journalism major with a concentration in advertising and public relations and a minor in entrepreneurship. Francis’s love for entrepreneurship was sparked by his mother’s entrepreneurial mindset which was influential in his upbringing as a first-generation child of immigrants. Francis is also a graphic designer and Chance the Rapper liked his rework of the Acid Rap mixtape cover on Twitter.


Sherrod Crum

Sherrod is a business administration major with a social and economic justice minor. He is the founder and CEO of Mission: Scholarship, a nonprofit designed to provide equitable access to college and scholarship preparation resources  for disadvantaged students. He is also the co-founder and president of The Black Entrepreneur Initiative at UNC, an organization geared toward cultivating a community for black entrepreneurs, creators and innovators. He is a vegetarian on the weekdays, but on weekends he enjoys eating junk food and cheering on the New Orleans Saints.


Harshul Makwana

Harshul is a business administration and computer science double major with a passion for exploring how entrepreneurship and technology intersect. He is the co-founder of QUVI, a company that creates water bottle sanitization kiosks using UV-C technology. Harshul likes playing and watching basketball, his teams are the LA Lakers and the Portland Trailblazers.


Aiyana Woldu

Aiyana is a business administration major on the pre-business track with a minor in Shuford Entrepreneurship. She is the founder and owner of Tsanai Tingz LLC, for which she produces hand-crafted resin-based home decor. In her free time, she enjoys reading autobiographies, watching Ted Talks and doing anything artistic.


Merve Rida Bayraktar

Merve is a computer science major. She is the founder of Pink STREAM, an organization that aims to educate, motivate, empower and inspire K-8 girls in STREAM (science, technology, robotics, engineering, arts and math). A fun fact about Merve is that she is interested in art and got into crochet over quarantine.


Our cohort was featured in Tech Startups!


Click below to watch Caitlyn Kumi and Aspyn Fulcher discuss the Eship Scholars program!


Meet the Mentors

Rajeev Alur

Rajeev Aluru is currently working as Head of Operations Analytics for Calpine Corporation in Houston. He is responsible for leading portfolio optimization for Calpine to increase shareholder value by utilizing analytics, digitization, and engineering. Prior to joining Calpine, he worked at Duke Energy in various engineering and product development leadership roles. He also co-founded a digital energy start-up to optimize the production of oil and gas fields.

Rajeev graduated with the OneMBA program from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and Ph.D. in Engineering from Auburn University.


Phaedra Boinodiris

Phaedra Boinodiris is dedicated to the mission of STEM and inclusivity in her community with a particular passion in AI and Ethics. She is a prolific public speaker and author, she is on the IBM Academy of Technology’s leadership council, a Fellow of the RSA, and serves on the advisory boards of several academic institutions. She is currently pursuing a PhD in AI and Ethics thanks to the European Union. She won the United Nations Woman of Influence in STEM and inclusivity Award in 2019, received the Social Innovator Award by IBM in 2018, received the 2014 Kenan Flagler Young Alumni Award, became a Fellow of the American Democracy Institute in 2011 and in 2007 was recognized by Women in Games International as being one of the Top 100 Women in the Games industry.


Daryl M. Davis

Daryl is a serial entrepreneur with assets in various industries from sports and entertainment, food and beverage, real estate, content creation and event production. With over 20 years of experience, he has done joint venture and brand partnership deals with Live Nation Urban, Think Broccoli / Broccoli City, Art of Sport, Pepsi, Adidas, Nike, DirecTV, Pizza Hut, Marriott, Verizon, Activision / Call of Duty, Faze Clan, Fortnite, Capitol Records and Motown Records.  In addition, Daryl has assisted in the negotiations of numerous entertainment contracts as well as contracts for professional athletes in the NBA and NFL through the usage of analytics and tax mitigation strategies.

Also, Daryl serves as an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at Indiana University-Bloomington’s Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Chairman of the East Coast Advisory Board for JCEI in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University-Bloomington and Chairman of the Innovate and Lead committee on the advisory board for the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship at UNC at Chapel Hill.  Prior to the founding of his first successful entrepreneurial venture, The Parrish Group, LLC, Daryl worked as an investment adviser for Wachovia Securities as well as Riggs Bank where he was the youngest Vice President and Director in the bank’s history.  Daryl is a native of Rocky Mount, NC, and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Lianne Dobson 

Lianne is a certified Physician Assistant and a self-made entrepreneur in the natural hair industry. Also a mother and military spouse, she dedicates herself to raising two awesome children while supporting her husband who defends our country. While she started out as a natural hair blogger, over the past few years she has transitioned from influencer to masterminding, creating, and producing her own natural hair care brand, Gemini Naturals. Her business and products actively focus on all-natural temporary hair colors and hair maintenance.


Justin Fouts

Justin Fouts is a co-founder and Creative Director of Triad Studios, LLC and recent grad of UNC. He is heavily involved in bringing Triad’s video and animated productions to life. He also runs the company’s accounting and finances. Justin got his start in the creation realm through music production, but his experience quickly translated over to video creation in 2017. In mid-2018, Justin dove head first into the world of animation and has been growing his abilities ever since.


Johnny L. Hackett, Jr

Johnny migrated to Raleigh, NC in 1998, attending Broughton High School where Community Service was instilled upon arrival. Broughton required 25 hours of community service each of the four years in order to graduate, which ended up having a huge impact on Johnny. From there, Johnny attended North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, returning to Raleigh in 2005 where he began his career with Xerox as a Six Sigma Black Belt. Johnny started his own non-profit organization to help educate teenage youth in 2009 and has been active on the “front line” of the community and corporate environments ever since – enjoying a great I.T. career at IBM, BCBSNC and Unity Digital Agency, while also leading multiple entrepreneurship ventures where he supports other nonprofits and small businesses. Currently, Johnny operates a Black-Owned Business directory for the state of North Carolina titled #BlackDollarNC and is an Alliance Partner with the City of Raleigh’s Office of Economic Development and Innovation, helping to take care of the needs of small business owners in the city of Raleigh and beyond.


Talpha Harris

With over 5 years of entrepreneurial and business experience, Talpha Harris is a patent-pending serial entrepreneur specializing in creating start-ups across multiple industries. She is the owner of Sustainable which assesses the viability of business plans and Ancient Path Adventures, a business that creates bible card and board games. Talpha is also currently managing the Entrepreneurship Hub at Bridgeway Capital, which encompasses accelerators, workshops and technical assistance. During her time at Carolina, Talpha served as a Program Assistant for the Shuford Program of Entrepreneurship, a Global Gap Year Fellow, a Nesiya Jewish Learning Fellow, and a Bryan Fellow. She was also a member of Honors Carolina, Carolina Women in STEM, the Sustainability Residential Learning Program, the BLUE Residential Learning Program, and the 1789 Venture Lab. 


Karriem Kanston

Karriem Kanston

Karriem Kanston is a certified coach, teacher, and speaker serving the personal and professional development of great leaders. Through teachings of servant leadership principles, Mr. Kanston guides his students through a journey of self-discovery that revolutionizes the way they lead their businesses.

Mr. Kanston is passionate about leadership and economic development. He studied at Johnson and Wales University, completing three concurrent degrees in business and education. But he is more than a well-educated and engaging speaker. Mr. Kanston is an advocate for underrepresented businesses, using his background to empower teams and their leaders to achieve more than they ever believed possible.


Camille McGirt

Camille McGirt

Camille McGirt, MPH, is a second year MBA student at Harvard Business School. During the fall of 2010, Ms. McGirt participated in the White House Internship Program and served for an entire semester in the Office of Presidential Personnel. After completing the White House Internship Program, she interned in Congressman Emanuel Cleaver’s (D-MO) office through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Program. When Ms. McGirt left Washington, D.C. she wanted to continue public service efforts and combine it with her passion for public health. During the summer of 2011, she established “Healthy Girls Save the World, HGSW” ( a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides a positive space for girls in North Carolina to foster the development of healthy habits related to proper nutrition, physical activity, and healthy lifestyles.


Cora Miller

Cora Miller 

Cora Miller is the Co-Founder and CEO of Young King Hair Care, the first plant-based natural hair care line intentionally crafted for multicultural boys. Inspired by her son Kade, she and her husband launched this company in December 2019 with the mission to redefine male grooming for the next generation. As a mission-driven brand, they seek to elevate and encourage black and brown boys to show up with full confidence and take pride in their self-care. 

Cora has nearly 10 years of experience as a leader in corporate social responsibility, strategic grant-making, program development and communications. Previously, she was the Vice President of External Affairs for a Fortune 3 company where she developed innovative approaches and oversaw the planning and implementation of her company’s social responsibility initiatives, including the management of strategic partnerships and evaluation of charitable investment outcomes.

She holds a Master’s of Public Administration with a focus in nonprofit management from Georgia State University and a bachelor’s in journalism and public relations from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Oliver Muoto

Oliver Muoto

Oliver Muoto is the founder of Metablocks, Inc., a leading provider of digital campaigns, activations and experiences to the music and entertainment industries. Prior to founding Metablocks, he was Co-founder and VP of Market Development at Epicentric, the leading provider of Business Portal solutions for Global 2000 companies to deliver integrated Web services to their customers, partners and employees. As the original VP of Marketing, Mr. Muoto was responsible for the successful launch of the company. Founded in 1998, Epicentric had over 300 employees and 350 Global 2000 customers before it was acquired by Vignette (VIGN), the industry leader in enterprise content management, in December 2002.

Mr. Muoto earned a Bachelor of Science degree Cum Laude in Industrial and System Engineering as well as a Minor in Marketing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA.


William Thomas

William Paul 

William Paul Thomas is a visual artist based in Durham, North Carolina. His work is centered on making images to record his life experiences and observations, with an approach that defies standard documentary practices. For over 10 years he has created intimate painted portraits of everyday people that he chooses as a way of recognizing their significance in his life’s path. Three portraits from his Cyanosis series are currently on display at the North Carolina Museum of Art in an exhibition called Front Burner, which features emerging and established painters from around the state.

Thomas draws on his personal network to offer complex representations that counter the simplified stereotypes found in popular media. In addition to painting and drawing, he also deploys video and photography to capture idiosyncratic, abstracted depictions of love, joy, and adversity. He earned a B.F.A. in Studio Art from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and an M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

He currently teaches Visual Communications at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC


Walter Pinson

Walter Pinson is President and Chief Operating Officer at Smashing Boxes. A seasoned entrepreneur and technology executive, Walter has nearly three decades of experience in product development, technology consulting, and software engineering. Walter holds an MBA, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and global strategy, from George Mason University’s School of Business and he earned a BS degree in Computer Science, with a focus on distributed and parallel computing, from GMU’s Volgenau School of Engineering. Additionally, he studied European Market Dynamics at Oxford University and he most recently completed the Strategy and Innovation program at MIT,  where he studied blockchain and cryptoeconomics.  Prior to Smashing Boxes, Walter was Founder and CEO of Alekto, where his mission was empowering consumers through convenient access and control of their credit report tradelines. Over the course of his career, he has held a number of roles, most notably Chief Software Architect at SMBLive, Technology Strategist at Microsoft, and Sr. Manager at USWeb/CKS (marchFirst).  Completely bought into the notion that “health is wealth”, Walter finds himself in a gym on most days.  His hobbies include golf, skiing, and motorcycle racing.  But mostly, he enjoys spending time with his family.


Tojan Rahhal, Ph.D.

Dr. Tojan B. Rahhal

The Board of Directors of Engineering World Health in Durham, NC (EWH) has named BME Alumn Dr. Tojan Rahhal as their next President and CEO. Dr. Rahhal most recently served as the Assistant Dean of Inclusive Excellence and Strategic Initiatives and as Adjunct Assistant at the University of Missouri College of Engineering, Columbia.

Dr. Tojan Rahhal earned a Biomedical Engineering degree from NC State University with a focus on tissue engineering and biotechnology. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics at UNC Chapel Hill, working in the lab of Dr. Joseph M. DeSimone. Her research focused on nanotechnology and translational medicine. She developed micro- and nanoparticle therapeutics for pulmonary delivery using the PRINT® fabrication technique.


Vahbiz Shroff, PhD, ACC

Vahbiz Shroff, PhD, ACC 

With a PhD in Clinical Biochemistry and a certification in Executive Coaching, Vahbiz brings a diverse professional background to the coaching experience. Over the past 20 years, she has enjoyed fulfilling careers in science, business, coaching and consulting.                      

Her strengths include life, leadership, career transition and business coaching. Her passion is to help clients connect to, and unleash the genius within themselves through insightful conversations and perspective shifts. She supports her client’s goals and offers a confidential place for them to share and grow. 

Vahbiz’s clients include the healthcare and STEM industry, major Universities in North Carolina as well as business and entrepreneurship training organizations. Most recently, Vahbiz serves on the Board of Directors for the International Coaches Federation, Raleigh Chapter.


Sophia Woo

Sophia Woo

Sophia Woo’s background is a blend of accounting, entrepreneurship, and a passion for cuisine being a longtime lover of people and food. In 2013, she and her business partner launched a popular food truck business following a successful Kickstarter campaign. The Pho Nomenal Dumpling Truck quickly drew the attention of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, and they won Season 6 being crowned the first and only all-female champions of the show. Her team decided to put their winnings from the show towards opening their brick-and-mortar restaurant—MOFU Shoppe. MOFU Shoppe’s name, translated as “more fortune” in Mandarin Chinese, reflects Sophia’s belief of “more food, more fun.” The restaurant reflected their ideals of culture, family, inclusiveness, and community The dishes are inspired by foods commonly eaten all over the Asian continent and represent their identity in a unique way.

Sophia received both her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Masters of Accounting from UNC. She worked two and a half years at as an Associate at PwC before launching her two ventures with her co-owner. She currently serves as a board member for A Place at the Table and Artspace and expanding her professional career in the startup world