Product development next chapter for 2023 top Dolphin Pitch Davis College winner

February 16, 2024

Emmy James, a Jacksonville University senior majoring in marketing in the Davis College of Business and Technology, is thrilled at the prospect of developing an actual product from her entrepreneurial idea that landed her first prize in the 2023 Dolphin Pitch, an annual contest on campus for any JU student, faculty, staff or alumni to explore their entrepreneurial spirit by creating new ideas or envisioning innovative products and services.

Her product idea is an undergarment for all active women that reduces the recurrence of vaginal infections while working out. The undergarments available currently for females who are active are made from synthetic materials, which leads to infections that can be debilitating.

Emmy playing basketballJames is also on the JU Women’s Basketball team, experiencing firsthand the discomfort from athletic wear. She says vaginal discomfort can be the difference between an exceptional and an average performance. 

“Women perform every day, whether it’s the single mom going for a walk while her kids are at school, the older woman doing yoga during her retirement or the adolescent soccer player. It affects all of their daily performances,” said James, founder and CEO of her company RHES.

Her product idea is to develop an active wear undergarment that has natural properties, moisture-wicking and provides ventilation. James plans to use the biology labs on the JU campus this semester to test the material, pre-selling her athletic wear through crowdfunding.

Since last year, James has been collaborating with a team JU’s connections have helped her build. This business team is comprised of Raghu Misra, Link founder; Jodi Lee Thomas, Shway Partners Apparel Group founder; Kim Jones, Tropical Vibes founder; and Dr. Christine Sapienza, JU executive vice president of partnerships and development. 

Sapienza’s experience in health care development of products and mentorship is why she’s a part of the RHES business team. “Emmy is a creative and motivated entrepreneur. I recognized her talent and drive early on during Dolphin Pitch,” stated Sapienza. “As part of her team, I will work with her and the team she has created to work on a health-care solution for athletic undergarments.” 

Additionally, James has had an internship with Southside-based PS27 Ventures, under Jim Stallings, founder and CEO, to expand her startup acumen. Her product idea has also gained quite a bit of local traction, winning the Best Presentation at the JVC Showdown Pitch Competition, sponsored by the Jacksonville Business Journal, and winning Crowd Favorite at The Link EnterCircle Summit Pitch.

To help her along the way, James has had an entrepreneurship champion on campus in her corner since winning last year’s Dolphin Pitch competition. Dr. James Simak, director of JU’s Center for Organizational Research and Executive Education, is also an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship. He brings more than 25 years of experience in software ventures, business development and product development. He knew James was on to something.

“Emmy’s pitch stood out due to a combination of factors. She demonstrated a sound understanding of her business concept, conveyed a clear value proposition and communicated the passion behind her entrepreneurial vision,” said Simak. 

As the leader of Dolphin Pitch, Simak’s role is to provide guidance and support to students throughout their entrepreneurial journey. He says James worked collaboratively to refine her pitch, ensuring clarity, impact and a compelling story. Dolphin Pitch faculty sponsors and coaches offered James additional insights for effective communication, pitch techniques and overall presentation skills.

James enthusiastically exclaims having Simak as her mentor has possibly been the most significant takeaway from being at JU. “He provided me with a door into a world I wasn’t aware of at the time. There aren’t many people who genuinely have the heart that he has. Simak has believed in me from Day One!”

The 22 year old says her marketing classes at the University have also been helpful in her entrepreneurial journey over the last year. “JU’s marketing classes have helped me develop a firm foundation of business concepts and terminology as well as understanding the many factors that are required for a business to be successful in today’s economy,” she explained. “The intimate classroom setting has also allowed me to be comfortable enough to ask intricate questions in this startup process.”

According to James, she felt anxiety leading up to last year’s Dolphin Pitch competition. “I had never done everything outside of athletics, and it felt like an out-of-body experience,” she recalled. “In addition to the new environment, being an African American woman, I experienced imposter syndrome, causing me to feel like I wasn’t deserving of the opportunity.”

With this year’s Dolphin Pitch just around the corner, James has some advice for budding entrepreneurs who are interested in pitching an idea: “When they say success is on the other side of hard, believe them. It may feel hard or uncomfortable to present a concept you believe in because you fear rejection, but the only way you lose is if you never try. You might as well take a chance on yourself; the experience is priceless.”

“Emmy’s success highlights the experiential culture we've cultivated at the Davis College of Business and Technology, encouraging students to explore their ideas, take risks and pursue their dreams,” Simak stated. “Emmy’s success is a proud moment for all of us at Jacksonville University. It reflects our commitment to fostering entrepreneurship and empowering students to transform their ideas into impactful business opportunities."

This year’s Dolphin Pich will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, in the Davis College of Business and Technology main conference rooms. Registration to participate is open until 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23. Register here.


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