Skip to main content

NKU Student Wins Regional Entrepreneurship


October 16, 2019— Northern Kentucky University student Isaiah Kelly has won the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneurship Award (GSEA) Cincinnati Regional Competition, the premier competition for students who have started their own business. Kelly is the first NKU student to win and now heads to the national competition in Silicon Valley.

To qualify for the GSEA, students must own or operate a business that has generated at least $500 of revenue. Kelly founded Smoove Creations in 2018 through NKU’s INKUBATOR, the internationally ranked 12-week business accelerator open to all current NKU students and alumni. Smoove Creations is a customization-based service for shoes that cleans, restores or customizes the style. In addition to attending the GSEA Finals, Kelly also received $1,000 in prize money, and an additional $10,000 in business services from winning the competition.

“This all started because I loved shoes and painting. When my shoes received more recognition, I realized it was time to go all in on a business plan,” said Kelly. “Studying informatics, I didn't understand how to start and sustain my own business. Surrounding myself around people who did is what I needed to succeed. INKUBATOR’s support turned this hobby into a profitable business.”

Housed in the Haile/US Bank College of Business, the INKUBATOR’s staff and mentors provide guidance, team building, access to capital, connections and a flexible office space to support startups. To date, INKUBATOR graduates have raised more than $6.9 million in outside funding and launched 23 businesses. 

“Verifying that you truly can make money off a concept is one of the biggest tests for a startup. Smooth Creations has passed this test and also proven that they are a stand-out student-run business.,” said Zac Strobl, INKUBATOR program director. “Isaiah's work ethic, coachability and overall character are why he is successful so far. He has the desire and drive to improve himself and his business. 

“The INKUBATOR provides support and resources to help budding entrepreneurs, like Isaiah, develop their business. These success stories demonstrate the great work happening in the College of Business through the INKUBATOR and other programs,” said Dean Hassan HassabElnaby, the Haile/US Bank College of Business. 

In addition to starting a successful business, Kelly is very involved on campus as a Resident Advisor and a part of the Black Men's Organization. He will graduate NKU in 2020 with a degree in Media Informatics with minors in Computer Science and Honors. Kelly also has a part time position as a Web Designer at a marketing agency and plans to continue competing in business pitch competitions. To learn more about Smoove Creations, visit Kelly’s website.

About the Entrepreneurs’ Organization: The EO is a global, peer-to-peer network of 12,000+ influential business owners with 160 chapters in 50 countries. Founded in 1987, EO is the catalyst that enables leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow, leading to greater success in business and beyond. 

About NKU: Founded in 1968, we are a growing metropolitan university of more than 14,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus near Cincinnati. Located in the quiet suburb of Highland Heights, Kentucky—just seven miles southeast of Cincinnati—we have become a leader in Greater Cincinnati and Kentucky by providing a private school education for a fraction of the cost. While we are one of the fastest growing universities in Kentucky, our professors still know our students' names. For more information, visit