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Steven Dorfman, seated, poses with winners of the 2023 Dorfman Incubator Grants. From left are James Werbe, Andrea Brimmer, Emma Sweeney, Brian Malchow and Zach Dunn.

Dorfman Incubator Grants Support Local Businesses and Community

Cal Lutheran School of Management awards $155,000 to local businesses

Five early-stage Ventura County-area companies were awarded Dorfman Incubator Grants totaling $155,000.

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIF., Jan. 18, 2023 — Five early-stage Ventura County-area companies were awarded Dorfman Incubator Grants through the California Lutheran University School of Management. The grants totaled $155,000 and were made possible through a significant gift by Steve Dorfman of the Steven Dorfman Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a Cal Lutheran School of Management Dean’s Executive Council member.

“The Dorfman Incubator Grants are an important way for Cal Lutheran to support the local business community,” said Dr. Gerhard Apfelthaler, dean of the School of Management at Cal Lutheran. “By providing economic data and analysis to area companies, we help create a strong foundation from which they can grow. Their success provides long-term economic vitality for the region.”

All the applications for the second-annual grant, launched to strengthen business development and growth, were evaluated by members of the advisory council for the Dorfman Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The selection was based on educational value, opportunity, business model, evidence and traction, team, metrics and capital, among other factors. An affiliation with Cal Lutheran was not a determinant in the selection process.

The following grant recipients were announced in late 2023 and will submit a report on the progress of their milestones in the spring.

  • HortiTech: HortiTech is located in Camarillo and developing a water filter for farmers that is designed to remove ammonia, a common fertilizer ingredient, so water can be re-used in the fields. Founders Andrea Brimmer and Caroline Brook met at the European Innovation Academy, where they developed the idea based on a NASA patent. They formed a founding team, secured the IP rights from NASA and won a prize at Cal Lutheran’s 2023 New Venture Fair. The Dorfman Incubator Grant will fund the development of a prototype filter.

Three of the four founders are Cal Lutheran graduates: Brimmer, née Villaseñor, has a degree in business administration with a finance emphasis; Zaria Opara, exercise science; and Emma Sweeney, who has a bachelor’s in business administration with a marketing emphasis and is pursuing an MBA. Brook has a degree in biology from the University of Alabama.

  • Wayside EnergyWayside Energy makes a utility-scale battery storage chassis. The Woodland Hills-based company has participated in the prestigious L.A. CleanTech Incubator, won a prize at the Cal Lutheran 2023 New Venture Fair and completed a seed funding round. The grant will fund pilot testing of the company’s prototype and the hiring of a student intern. Co-founder James Werbe graduated from Cal Lutheran in May 2023 with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.
  • InvoCure: Located in Calabasas, InvoCure is a repeat grant recipient from last year. Founder Brian Malchow has made great progress with the first grant and is pleased with the Cal Lutheran intern he hired. This grant funds his hiring of up to four additional interns to help with operations and marketing. InvoCure is a platform for ordering medical supplies. Malchow received his MBA with an emphasis in information technology at Cal Lutheran.
  • Environmental Market Services (EMS): EMS focuses on establishing groundwater exchanges as a way to address increasing water shortages throughout the United States. The Santa Rosa Valley-based company does so based on a market-priced exchange mechanism. EMS was started by Matthew Fienup, a School of Management faculty member. The grant will fund EMS’s sales and marketing activity.
  • PlotSign: PlotSign developed a system that makes it easier for commercial property renters and buyers to connect with brokers. Located in Westlake Village, the company has a working app and recently acquired its first customer. Founder Zach Dunn graduated from Cal Lutheran in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing communications and a minor in entrepreneurship.

“The entrepreneurial startups that received this year’s grants impressed the judges with their forward thinking and real-world problem solving,” said Dorfman. “As a former executive of one of the nation’s largest companies, it’s rewarding for me to help these startups become established, both for the company’s sake and the community’s,” said the former head of Hughes Space and Communications Co., Hughes Telecommunications and Space and Hughes Communications.

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About California Lutheran University: Founded in 1959 and formally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution since 2016, California Lutheran University is home to over 2,300 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students. Our students come from 59 countries and represent a wide spectrum of faiths and spirituality. Our dedicated, accomplished faculty teach in small classes, guiding our students as they grow into open-minded leaders who are strong in character and judgment, confident in identity andvocation, and committed to service and justice. Everyone at Cal Lutheran is committed to helping each student pursue their passions, discover their purpose and transform their community. Learn more at

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Dorfman Incubator Grant Event Photos: Link