Industrial and Systems Engineering graduating senior, Johnny Davis, found out this week that he will be hanging around campus for a while longer after graduation. He was recently named a Miller Fellow for the Dr. Thomas Kenan Miller III Fellows Program for the 2020 – 2021 cohort. For the next six months, Johnny and five other fellows will receive a monthly stipend to support these graduates in their startup ventures.
“Johnny has shown entrepreneurial passion and drive in building his company, Acorn Climbing, and we see that same entrepreneurial enthusiasm in him as he builds his next venture, Stellar Farms. We were thrilled to invite him into the 2020 Miller Fellows cohort”, said Jennifer Capps, Director of Student Learning and Faculty Development for NC State Entrepreneurship.
The Miller Fellows Program supports recent NC State graduates as they develop into stronger entrepreneurial thinkers while building their entrepreneurial ventures in a supportive and engaging peer environment. Capps said, “Johnny will be a great addition to this amazing group due to his ability to challenge himself and others to solve problems creatively and to have a positive impact on the world around them.”
To learn more about Johnny and his experiences with NC State Entrepreneurship, we asked him these questions.
Johnny, what is your hometown and where did you grow up?
I was born in Richmond, Virginia and grew up here in Raleigh.
Do you have a job lined up after graduation?
Just working on Acorn and Stellar! (my startups).
Tell us about yourself. Who are you, what interests you and what do you hope to achieve?
I’m a total climbing and sustainability nerd! I feel that both have bettered me as a person and continue to push me out of my comfort zone. I also love playing hockey and racquetball with my friends, traveling, and meeting new people!
What does entrepreneurship mean to you and what experience have you had related to it?
Entrepreneurship has fostered so much confidence in myself and helped create many great friendships and connections. I’m so grateful to have been part of the community at State and hear other’s stories.
Tell us about your involvement in NC State entrepreneurship programs.
I discovered the Entrepreneurship Garage in 2017 when I began to develop Acorn Climbing during my sophomore year. I spent many nights and weekends in the old space cutting out hangboards and learning from Garage Manager, David Cardarelli (DC), how to operate the CNC milling machine.
Having received so much from the program, I wanted to give back the things I’ve learned and help grow the space. I currently work at the new Entrepreneurship Garage under Eren Hebert where I lead trainings on the CNC and assist entrepreneurs in turning their ideas into a reality.
How have you had to pivot or think differently about your educational experience during the current pandemic?
With classes going online, I’ve been able to keep the CNC mill running in my production facility to cut out hangboards for Acorn, while simultaneously listening to lectures on the computer. This has been a huge plus given the recent surge in hangboard sales. With everyone stuck indoors, climbers are eager to get their hands on a hangboard. We’ve been challenged with meeting demand prior to the virus, and with the help of my industrial engineering studies, I’ve been applying some process planning strategies to increase throughput to help meet demand.
Congratulations on being named a Miller Fellow! How do you plan to spend your time during your fellowship and what do you hope to get out of the program?
I’ll be very focused on both Acorn and my new startup, Stellar Farms, throughout the fellowship. Scaling Acorn to meet new demand needs, and testing the market with Stellar will be my short term goals, then I hope to use the fellowship for guidance on how to scale Stellar and maintain Acorn. I’m also hoping to create new friendships and connections from the fellowship!
What advice would you give an incoming freshman? How would you encourage them to make an impact?
In my personal experience, I’ve found college to be a time to establish who you want to be and make incredible memories. My advice would just be to get to know as many people as possible. I’ve met so many incredible and supportive people at State who helped shape who I am today. Whether it be a club, sport, hobby, or job; get involved with a community. Everyone is growing together and learning from each other. It’s such a great place to get yourself out there.
What are some of your favorite activities to do on campus?
One of my favorite evenings consists of climbing at the traverse wall after finishing studies for the day then hanging out with my friends at the Rockwall in Carmichael followed by a trip to get Howling Cow at the Talley Market. Cookies and Cream is the move. Nothing will change my mind. We top off the day with a dice game called Farkle.
To learn more about NC State’s Miller Fellowship, click here.