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Entrepreneurship and You: RedHawk Ventures’ influence on Miami and beyond

Jack Marks is co-managing director for RedHawk Ventures and said a pitching process is used to decide who gets the grants.
Jack Marks is co-managing director for RedHawk Ventures and said a pitching process is used to decide who gets the grants.

RedHawk Ventures, founded in 1997,  is one of the most involved clubs on Miami University’s campus, acting as a venture capital fund for both students and entrepreneurial alumni. The venture fund itself began as a $500,000 grant from Procter & Gamble, and the resources of the club have been used every year since in helping both current and former students to fund their companies and build connections. 

Faculty adviser for RedHawk Ventures, Tim Holcomb, said the club’s members get to experience “real money, real companies, real decisions and real consequences.”

Holcomb said the program is interdisciplinary and immerses students in learning opportunities.

“They get to see the full lifecycle of investment deals, from evaluating the deal and conducting due diligence to making a decision on investment,” Holcomb said.

Apart from what RedHawk Ventures can offer on campus, its main goal is to provide entrepreneurial alumni and current students the chance they need to start their businesses. Co-managing director Jack Marks said the pitching process RedHawk Ventures employs decides who gets the grants, which are typically $25,000.

“Usually, the pitching process begins with the initial call from the firm that wants to pitch us their business,” Marks said. “We talk that over, then we send out a formal diligence team to decide more about the business depending on things such as the market for their product and other things, and from there, we decide if they get the funding or not.” 

The most important qualities of a good pitch are dedication to a cause and a strong solution for a problem, Marks said. He added that the evaluation of such pitches benefits student members by giving them face-to-face experience with real businesses.

Michael Markesbery, CEO of OROS Apparel, was one of the recipients of a grant in 2015. OROS apparel is a materials science company specializing in fabric that caters mainly to the military. As an alum, Markesbery is grateful for Redhawk Ventures’ aid.

“I feel that being an alumni was greatly helpful in getting the money from the fund, just the support from the alma mater,” Markesbery said. “I also think that our business team was able to talk with RedHawk Ventures and really impress them with the significance and passion of what we were doing.”

RedHawk Ventures continues raising money for other venture funds under its name. Only $25,000 remains of the original grant from P&G, and while no other corporate sponsors have donated, co-managing director Katherine McIntosh said the organization is trying to get funding from other sources.

“Miami alumni are definitely great resources to have and people like that will give us that money as a basis to continue our student experiential learning opportunity,” McIntosh said. “We’re also looking at other venture fund grant opportunities.”

Besides high net-worth alumni, RedHawk Ventures also hopes to gain support and possibly another major corporation like P&G.

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Redhawk Ventures hopes to raise $250,000 annually, and possibly increase the grant amount to $50,000, a doubling of the original amount.