The strongest communities not only support the long-standing businesses that have been faithful to their customers, but also the up-and-coming innovators who want to make an impact.
From the campus of Grace College
in Winona Lake, four emerging student entrepreneurs have already begun their businesses. They started as ideas in the classroom, but through the dedication of students and the guidance of professors, they have grown into functioning, competitive businesses that are already expanding and strategizing for the future.
Whether you find one of these businesses online or in the Northeast Indiana area, you’ll find that their owners aren’t just dreaming. These young business owners have worked hard and poured their hearts into their startups.
In fact, they’re each winners of Grace College’s ninth annual business plan competition, earning funds to jumpstart their projects.
Here are four student entrepreneurs to watch in Northeast Indiana.
1. Mitchell BowenMajor: Visual Communication Design
Graduation year: 2021
From Golden, Colorado
Business: Recollection Project
Mitchell Bowen, center, Founder of Recollection Project.
Originally “Travel Posters by Bowen,” these high-detail art posters and postcards have already charmed multiple communities across the U.S.
Mitchell Bowen begins by visiting a city, taking photos of the most treasured areas, and turning them into art for travelers and locals alike to enjoy.
Bowen got the idea when he visited Pagosa Springs, CO, with his family and couldn’t find a suitable postcard to add to his own collection. He started thinking about traveling to different cities, getting to know the area, and making personalized postcards for local shops to sell. After beginning his idea in an art class at Grace College, he launched Recollection Project as a business, and it quickly became successful, selling out of postcards and posters at retailers.
“The art brings a lot of pride to the communities,” Bowen says. “They remind people of their roots, and they help you recollect memories from certain areas.”
Mitchell Bowen designed a set of postcards and posters that have sold out at Winona Lake.
This summer, Bowen plans to expand his business and travel to new cities, starting new collections of posters and postcards. Learn more about his work on the Recollection Project website
2. Mackenzie Rae DeLongMajor: Entrepreneurial Management and Marketing
Graduation year: 2023
From Vasser, Michigan
Business: A Rae of Beauty and Rae Thrift Boutique
Mackenzie Rae DeLong, center, Founder of A Rae of Beauty and Rae Thrift Boutique.
“There’s so much this business can do that is an array of beauty,” says Mackenzie Rae DeLong.
What started as a full-service salon from her dorm room has become a salon and boutique that DeLong plans to run after graduating from Grace. But she couldn’t wait until she was out of school to start. She runs both the salon and boutique from
“My hope is to bring women together on campus at Grace,” DeLong says. “Different dorms can connect and try on clothes together, and offering affordable haircuts blesses people. In the future, I’m hoping to make it a one-stop shop. Come in; get your hair done; then, while your color is processing, go pick out an outfit. I hope women want to come in and have a good time.”
DeLong has credentials behind her dreams. She earned her cosmetology license in high school, and is getting her double major and master’s in business administration
from Grace in just four years. This education and training on top of firsthand experience prepared her to win Grace’s business plan competition.
“I’m excited to have a thumbprint on somebody’s life,” DeLong says. “So many times, you see an item, but don’t see the deeper purpose behind it. Clothing is more than just clothing. That coat will keep you warm all winter, and those dress pants help you get that interview. It’s so much more than just clothing and hair. There are memories and life-changing things that can happen through them.”
To learn more about DeLong’s business, check out her instagram page: @a_rae_of_beauty.
3. Melissa MucciMajor: Entrepreneurial Management
Graduation year: 2022
From Chicago, Illinois
Business: Methods by Melrose
Melissa Mucci, center, Founder of Methods by Melrose.
Melissa Mucci’s business has roots in her childhood.
“Growing up, I always liked helping my friends organize their rooms and staying up late to rearrange furniture at sleepovers,” she says. “As I got older and was exploring career opportunities, I knew I didn’t want to work a nine-to-five, and eventually landed on professional organizing. That allowed me to combine my passion for organizing with serving others. There’s a need for people with organizing issues and busy schedules, so being able to help them is one of my main goals.”
This summer, Mucci plans to build her clientbase for her organizational services and develop a brand for her business. Her vision is to help people create solutions for their cluttered homes and businesses so they can become more successful and efficient. Her education at Grace has built up a strong foundation for her business.
“When I was in a business plan class at Grace, they walked me step-by step-through each portion of my business plan and provided me with mentors that solidified my plans,” says Mucci. “The competition was an opportunity I never thought I would have.”
4. Kiersten MartinMajor: Elementary Education
Graduation year: 2023
From Plainfield, Indiana
Business: Minds in Motion
Kiersten Martin, center, Founder of Minds in Motion.
As an elementary education major at Grace, Kiersten Martin has a passion for developing the minds of young students.
“My business is Minds in Motion Summer Camp,” Martin says. “This is a camp that helps strengthen a student’s vestibular system, which allows them to better process information while they are learning. Eventually, I would like to open my own school with Minds in Motion as a part of it.”
Martin hopes to help students learn more efficiently in school and give them better opportunities for success.
“I am excited about all the ways Minds in Motion Summer Camp could help students reach their full potential in the future. I have already seen Minds in Motion change several students’ lives, so I know it’s effective.”
For more information about the business plan competition, read about it on Grace College’s website.