VenturePointe helps kickstart alumnae’s purposeful startup
This article is part of a series celebrating the five-year anniversary of Invent Penn State’s LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network. Learn more here.
Ali Izzo and Holly Masters co-founded Purpose The Therapeutic Subscription Box, LLC as students at Penn State Shenango in June 2018, working out of VenturePointe at the eCenter @ LindenPointe innovation hub. At its roots, Purpose Therapy Box keeps families connected and reminds older loved ones they are not forgotten. Its gift boxes, which are curated with therapeutic themes, uplift the spirits of nursing home residents. Both Izzo and Masters graduated with associate degrees in occupational therapy in 2017. They both then earned their bachelor’s degrees in human development and family studies in 2018.
The company started as a subscription service for older adults, allowing family and friends to subscribe to send boxes to their loved ones. Boxes are curated with therapeutic themes, such as fine motor and cognition, have enlarged font, and respect dietary restrictions. Family and friends can add photos and messages into the package as well. The company also features its Sponsor a Senior Program, in which anyone can purchase or sponsor a box to be delivered to seniors in need at nursing homes who do not have family or regular visitors. Purpose Therapy Box partners with nursing homes to obtain a list of each resident’s needs, and boxes can be filled with items from clothing to blankets.
“At the beginning stages, it was critical that we used VenturePointe’s help,” Masters said. “Making sure we have a solid and structured business plan and solid structure legally. When we first moved in, we were able to share our office with another Penn State business. We liked that because we had constant interactions with other entrepreneurs, bouncing ideas off each other and hearing their process.”
Purpose Therapy Box has expanded and plans to ship gift boxes into eight different states, in addition to Pennsylvania, this holiday season and has 168 nursing homes on its waitlist for its Sponsor a Senior Program, which sends boxes to seniors in need. With the company’s recent growth, the co-CEOs now work from their own building in Hermitage, Pennsylvania and are prepping to send subscription box orders to older loved ones across the country.
“When moving into the new building, Penn State Shenango and the city of Hermitage have been great with us and helped us along the way with different grants and opportunities for us to speak and spread the word about our business,” Izzo said. “When they learned we’d be graduating from the innovation hub and looking for a place, all the people in the city that we’ve connected with were trying to help us find a place. That was a really great transition.”
When the company originally worked out of VenturePointe, one of 21 innovation spaces in the Invent Penn State LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network, Masters and Izzo leveraged its no-cost services and resources to help the company grow. This included taking advantage of networking opportunities, expert speaker sessions and the Penn State Law Clinic, which helped them set up an LLC.
“I recognized from the onset the passion that Ali and Holly had as they began to formulate their business ideas for Purpose Therapy Box,” VenturePointe Coordinator Georgia Macris said. “I served as a liaison and facilitator for them to set up shop in our Penn State Shenango VenturePointe innovation hub suite, and it was here they worked for several years to utilize Invent Penn State resources. We are very proud at Penn State Shenango for their continual efforts and growth.”
In addition to resources at VenturePointe, Purpose Therapy Box utilized the Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network, a formalized collaborative agreement among Penn State Behrend and Innovation Commons, nearby universities, and the Erie County Public Library that provides an expanded range of free services for entrepreneurs and businesses. This network helped Purpose Therapy Box with its logo, website, and other marketing needs.
Purpose Therapy Box also benefitted from additional Penn State entrepreneurial ecosystem resources, including the Inc.U Competition. The business won $15,000 in funding in 2019 through the Shark Tank-style pitch competition. This marked the competition’s first-ever winner from a Penn State Commonwealth campus.
At the 2019 Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference, Izzo presented the business in front of industry advisors and venture capitalists from across the country. The business was awarded $2,000 to help move it forward.
“As soon as you’re in the VenturePointe system, it’s a huge network,” Masters said. “If we ever had a question, we could reach out and somebody would be able to help us. There’s always people willing to help and listen to what we’re trying to accomplish.”
About Invent Penn State
Invent Penn State is a Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success.
The Invent Penn State LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network is made up of 21 innovation spaces embedded in Penn State campus communities offering no-cost co-working space, makerspace, accelerator programs, pitch competitions, speaker series, access to experts and mentors, and legal and IP advice through Penn State Law clinics. Five years since opening, the Invent Penn State LaunchBox & Innovation Hub Network has supported 3,325 community entrepreneurs, created 194.5 jobs, and helped to launch 164 new Pennsylvania companies. Gifts to support the network, as well as select economic development initiatives across the commonwealth, are a priority of the University’s current fundraising campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.”
To learn more about how to make a gift and secure a match before the campaign concludes on June 30, 2022, please contact Heather Winfield at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about the campaign is available at greaterpennstate.psu.edu.
To find a location near you, visit invent.psu.edu/programs/pa-innovation-hubs.
To view more Penn State-affiliated startups, visit StartupNavigator.psu.edu. Entrepreneurs seeking resources can visit ResourceNavigator.psu.edu.