Delivery website concept wins business model competition

Valeria Brenner (center), winner of UM’s 2022 Servin’ the South business model competition, is congratulated by Rich Gentry (left), co-director of the university’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Steve Grantham, president of the J&R Group restaurant and one of the judges of the competition. Photo sent

OXFORD, Miss. – A delivery website built for small businesses has won first place in the 2022 Servin’ the South Business Model Competition, hosted by the University of Mississippi’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Thryft Ship allows small businesses with an Instagram presence to get a shipping link for customers to use, saving time and avoiding mistakes on shipping labels. Through its partnership with ShipEngine, a shipping and logistics platform, Thryft Ship offers commercial-level pricing that makes shipping items faster and cheaper.

The concept was developed by Valeria Brenner, a marketing and international business major at the University of Georgia in Johns Creek, Georgia. She took home $10,000 as the winner of the competition.

“I had a savings account my freshman year in college, and shipping was always a huge hassle for me,” Brenner said. “I’ve always thought that while shipping is time-inefficient and confusing, it is.

“That was until I started talking to other frugal accounts in the community and realized that everyone was dealing with this problem, not just me. I set out to find a solution to make shipping via Instagram a faster process and came up with Thryft Ship.”

The purpose of the business is to help new business owners with Instagram accounts become more efficient, saving time so they can focus on growing their business.

“Valeria had a fantastic idea born out of her own experience promoting products on Instagram,” said Rich Gentry, CIE co-director and professor of management. “This entrepreneurial venture and the official support of the UGA Entrepreneurship Center at the Idea Workshop helped her build the venture that has brought her so much success.

“This event is a unique opportunity for student entrepreneurs to showcase and discuss their business ideas with each other and a panel of experts who can provide advice and suggestions that they may not be able to get in another environment.”

The fall competition was created for Ole Miss students before CIE became a BMC Global partner in 2015. BMC Global suspended its competitions due to the pandemic, and starting in 2021 the center rebranded the competition to include students from across the US

“I am pleased to see that the business model competition continues to attract not only Ole Miss student entrepreneurs, but also top teams from SEC schools as well as other regional schools,” said Tong Meng, CIE Director of Programs.

“We are very pleased that CIE is able to provide these wonderful networking and funding opportunities for young entrepreneurs, and we are grateful for the generous support from our judges and donors.”

Twenty-two contestants participated in this year’s competition. The six finalists represented UM, the universities of Alabama and Georgia, and Auburn University.

“BMC is an amazing opportunity to get feedback and network for your business,” said Tanner McCraney, co-founder of Rumie App and a BMC finalist from Ole Miss. “You get real feedback from judges who can take your idea, startup or functional business to the next level.”

The finalists were judged by a jury of five judges:

  • Steve Grantham, president of J&R Restaurant Group, which operates in Mississippi and western Tennessee
  • Matt Mossberg, managing partner at West Group, a consumer brands and manufacturing firm in North Mississippi
  • Reid Barrett, co-founder of CampusOptics, based in Houston, Texas
  • Jeff McManus, UM director of landscape services, Ole Miss Golf Course and airport operations
  • Donna Barksdale, founder and owner of Mississippi River Trading Co. in Jackson

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