CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. — At Thomas More University (TMU) in Northern Kentucky, aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators explore non-traditional career paths. One student is sharing his culture and building community through food.

What You Need To Know

  • Donnie Simpson is a senior at Thomas More University in Crestview Hills

  • He was a participant in the Fifth Third Bank Fast Pitch Competition, where students pitch future business proposals

  • Simpson came in second place and received a $1,000 award

  • Simpson cooks traditional Jamaican cuisine for his friends on campus

Food connects us all to one another. When Thomas More student Donahugh “Donnie” Simpson is not in class or playing lacrosse, he’s cooking for his friends on campus. Inside Sister Margaret Stallmeyer Hall is where all the magic happens, but Simpson says he learned everything from his mom in Jamaica.

He shared, “Growing up in Jamaica, we were a family with four siblings. My mom…. And the truth is, I never used to see my mom every day, like at home, because she would be inside the restaurant.”

restaurantSpending most of his after school days in his family’s resturant was routine, but he says he never was interested in cooking until he came to the United States.

He said, “I called my mom and said, ‘Mom, hey, I need help. I need you to tell me how to make food.’”

In 2023, the Geraldine & Zembrodt Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation held the Fifth Third Bank Fast Pitch Competition. At the event, teams of undergraduate students pitched new concepts, ideas for growth potential for existing businesses, and community growth models. There were three winners. Simpson walked away with second place and received $1,000. Money he says will be used to start his dreams someday.

Jeni Al Bahrani, Director of Entrepreneurship, and Innovation at TMU was overjoyed Simpson won and found his passion through the pitch contest. 

She said, “Donnie is focusing on his passion for food and creating a community around food. So even though he doesn’t have a business and those are his dreams and aspirations, he is creating something and that’s community around food.”

Simpson added, ”The pitch competition, it really allowed me to unleash more of my personality mixed with, you know, ideas.”

Over a dozen students crowded the common area at a campus resident hall to get a taste of Simpson’s curry chicken, rice and peas dish. The students said he always makes delicious meals for everyone. 

Simpson says after graduation he hopes to open a restaurant to share his family’s recipes and increase access to Caribbean cuisine in Kentucky.

The Center for Entrepreneurship is shaping the minds of students like Simpson and reminding them they can dream bigger.