KiraKira Founder Wins UVA Darden’s Inaugural Kathryne Carr Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence
By Joyce Smaragdis
The W.L. Lyons Brown III i.Lab at UVA, an initiative of the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, is pleased to announce the inaugural winner of the Kathryne Carr Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence. Suz Somersall, founder of KiraKira, received the award in recognition of her commitment and service to the larger community in developing an online platform for engaging girls in engineering and design.
The award, which includes a grant of at least $25,000, was created last year in memory of Kathryne “Kathy” Carr — the first director of the i.Lab Incubator program — and is presented annually to the i.Lab founder who best represents Kathy’s commitment to community and entrepreneurial excellence, as well as Kathy’s inspired generosity, passion, perseverance and moxie.
“The Kathryne Carr award was developed to inspire and financially support entrepreneurial leaders to build their ventures,” said Jason Brewster, i.Lab incubator director. “We’re pleased to recognize Suz for this award, and we look forward to honoring i.Lab entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their industries and communities in years to come.”
“Kathy invested deeply in people and the founders she mentored continue to benefit from her wisdom, counsel and generosity,” said MJ Toms, director of education and experiential learning at the Batten Institute. “Suz took Kathy’s counsel and ran with it, and she is now building a venture aimed at inspiring more girls to pursue STEM-related interests and fields. Suz continues to pay forward her commitment to the community by working with many students from UVA and local schools while taking her venture to a national and global stage.”
Somersall said she was deeply honored to receive the award. “Since starting at the i.Lab a few years ago, I have worked hard to follow in Kathy’s footsteps and to make her proud,” she said. “Kathy’s integrity, compassion and drive to give back have set an incredible standard for me and all of the lives she touched.”
Somersall hatched the idea for KiraKira — to teach 3-D modeling to girls using jewelry design — while she was at the i.Lab working on another venture.
“For a while, it was this very nebulous idea, and Kathy was just very encouraging,” Somersall recalled. “That culture of experimentation was something Kathy embraced and helped others to embrace. She encouraged us to be strong in spite of the uncertainty inherent in startups.”
Today, KiraKira is an online community that provides girls with free training to create their own products using 3-D modeling. The company recently joined the Intel Capital Portfolio with Intel as a strategic investor in their seed round. Additionally, KiraKira is expanding through partnerships with school districts as well as companies like Autodesk.
Somersall says the award will help KiraKira continue to scale and reach a greater number of students. And she’s eager to accept the award’s challenge to help future entrepreneurs at the i.Lab.
“In so many ways, KiraKira is all about mentorship and being a female role model,” she said. “That’s something I want to continue by giving back to the Charlottesville, Darden and UVA communities. KiraKira and our whole team are deeply honored to be receiving this recognition.”
About the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
The Batten Institute at the Darden School of Business improves the world through entrepreneurship and innovation. The institute’s research initiative advances knowledge that addresses real-world challenges and shapes Darden’s curriculum, and its educational offerings are ranked top 10 in the world. The Batten Institute was established with gifts now totaling over $125 million from UVA alumnus Frank Batten Sr., a media pioneer, visionary and founder of The Weather Channel.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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