(l-r) Gwen Pokalo, director of the Center for Women & Enterprise Vermont; Scott Gale, founding member and vice president of Engineering of Fluency; Kyle Loveland ‘20, and Bonnie Reese, business development consultant and doctoral candidate at University of Vermont. Pokalo, Gale, and Reese served as LaunchVT judges.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Why should kids have all the fun? This is the philosophy of entrepreneur Kyle Loveland ’20, the founder of Loveland Foam Armaments, a business that designs and sells foam dart blasters for adults. The judges of the LaunchVT Collegiate competition saw the strong appeal of Loveland’s product and awarded his start-up with second place and a $1,000 prize on February 22, 2019.

“Modifying Nerf guns has been a passion of mine since the age of 12,” said Loveland. “Thanks to the resources that Middlebury offers through the Center for Creativity, Innovation, and Social Entrepreneurship, I was able to run a Kickstarter campaign to support my first proprietary design and continue to grow my start-up.”

“I hope to be able to bring high-skilled jobs to the state of Vermont in the future,” he added.

Loveland, who started the company in February 2018, says that his product is for older players who want more performance than Nerf guns have to offer.

LaunchVT Collegiate is an annual statewide competition for student entrepreneurs. Loveland is the fourth Middlebury student to earn second place—a winning streak that began when the contest started four years ago. This year students participated from four schools—Middlebury College, Saint Michael’s College, University of Vermont, and Champlain College. Students can compete in teams or as individuals. To qualify, they each must first win a contest at their respective schools. In Loveland’s case that meant taking first place at the annual Middlebury Entrepreneurs competition on January 31—the culminating event of the January term course MiddVentures.

Heather Neuwirth, program director for the Center for Creativity, Innovation, and Social Entrepreneurship—also known as the Innovation Hub—said that Loveland worked hard to refine his pitch with the center’s staff and with student speaking coaches from Oratory Now, Middlebury’s public speaking organization.

The LaunchVT contest is the second that Loveland has won for his new company—last year he came in first in the 2018 MiddChallenge Business Idea Pitch Competition. He received $3,000 in funding to pursue his business concept over the summer as well as mentoring from Innovation Hub staff. In June 2018, his successful Kickstarter campaign raised $4,400.