The Office of Innovation Commercialization

Student Entrepreneur Award

Jerry McGuire award

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The Jerry McGuire Student Entrepreneur Award is an annual $1,000 award going to UNCG’s most entrepreneurial student or student team. This fund was established in honor of Jerry’s retirement in 2014.

The submission deadline for 2019 is Feb. 24, 2019!

Jerry McGuire has over 30 years of experience in technology commercialization with both industrial and university technologies. He established UNCG’s Office of Technology Transfer in April, 2002 and served as its first director. Under his leadership, this operation has dramatically increased commercialization activities on-going research and innovation at UNCG. He was promoted to Associate Vice Chancellor for Economic Development in 2009.

The Jerry McGuire Student Entrepreneur Award will be administered as an endowed fund under the following guidelines:

  • An award will be made annually to a student (or student team) who has exhibited exceptional entrepreneurial experience. Recipients will be selected by a panel of judges appointed by the Director of the NC Entrepreneurship Center including, but not limited to, UNCG faculty and staff, alumni, business owners, and/or others knowledgeable about entrepreneurship.
  •  Students may self-nominate or be nominated by others. Nominees may be any full-time undergraduate or graduate students enrolled at UNCG graduating no sooner than the semester in which the award is made and may include students who have started businesses, social entrepreneurship ventures, on-campus programming, new clubs and organizations, as well as community service. Individual students or teams of students may be nominated. In the event the winner is a team, the scholarship will be divided equally among team members.

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2018 Jerry McGuire UNCG Student Entrepreneur of the Year

Carlena Neely

Carlena Neely registered for a mobile application hackathon through The mobile application concept that my team and I came up with was SharpAI. After I pitched SharpAI to a panel of judges, it ended up taking 1st place in a state wide hackathon and being recognized as the best mobile application concept for the future of shopping. I served as the Project manager, head of design as well as the head of research. During the month of November, I participated in the Triad Startup Weekend where I worked alongside a team in creating another business. Fortunately, the idea I pitched was chosen to work on for that weekend in which I got the opportunity to build a team in which I served as the Head of Marketing, Research and Business development in another mobile application tech-startup company. My most current project is called #Aberrant. Aberrant is a campus originated movement and a clothing brand. Aberrant is defined as departing from the accepted standard. The purpose of aberrant is to create a platform for individuals to make their own path and diverge from the norms of society, as well as support and encourage their peers to do the same. Although Aberrant is new, apparel has already been sold, and aberrant’s first showcase had over 70 students come out! Be aberrant! and check out aberrant’s social media pages at as well as Moving forward aberrant hopes to launch a new spring collection of apparel, as well as the movements website! Aberrant will also be having more major events that will aim to enhance every college students experience. Speaking of enhancing every college students experience, I am also working on another mobile application that seeks to do just that. Connex will be a mobile application that makes it effortless for students to connect with peers, organizations, and affinity groups. Through my market validation of 60 students , 100% claimed that it would contribute to their social skills as well as growth in their skills. 91% claimed that they want to see a different platform than Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Connex will offer a comparative advantage that has the potential to gain major traction.

2017 Jerry McGuire UNCG Student Entrepreneur of the Year

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Tyler Freeman

Tyler Freeman is a Senior majoring in Business Administration. After five years and three deployments with the Marines, Tyler joined Ameriprise Financial in 2014, only two days after completing his active duty. After 2 successful years at Ameriprise, In June of 2016, he and his business partner launched their own firm called Barn Ridge Financial Partners, as an Ameriprise Financial franchise. Since then, his firm has engaged 200 clients, 575 individual accounts and grown their assets under management to $62.5 million.

Also in 2016, Tyler ran for and was elected as, the President of the Student Veterans Association. In just 5 months, Tyler rebranded the organization and dramatically increased its impact helping veterans and military-affiliated student communities. He partnered with Peacehaven Farms, Habitat for Humanity and the Greensboro Bar Association on a number of new programs. Tyler is also a Charter Member of the UNCG Warrior Poet Society, a group where veterans come together to discuss and write poetry relating to war and their experiences in the military. He’s done all of this while maintaining a 3.8 GPA with plans to earn his MBA and law degree after graduating.

This year, Tyler was selected as a Summer District Office Intern for Congressman Mark Walker to assist with veteran’s issues and outreach and he was also honored as one of the Triad Business Journal 40 Leaders Under Forty for 2017.