Our Story

We're a nonprofit providing support for impact entrepreneurs and startups all over the world.

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The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs

Our mission

Stardust Startups provides financial support for the innovative work of emerging entrepreneurs and early-stage startups making positive social and environmental impact in the areas of sustainability, health, and learning.

Stardust is an impact first organization, which means that the social and environmental impact aspects of a project in our Impact Portfolio come before financial profitability. The projects and startups we fund are carefully selected after review by subject matter specialists and approval by our Advisory Board. They quickly launch for local, tangible solutions, and become catalysts for a more forward-looking, accessible, and conscious world.

Stardust Startups recognizes the importance of microgrants, microinvesting, and using the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a framework in all aspects of the work we do. We are an Entrepreneurial Support Organization and a Donor-Advised fund working at a human-scale and striving to make positive social and environmental change.

Funding comes in the form of individual
or team grants of $2,000 (USD) for
selected projects.

Financial support from Stardust is intended for early-stage startups, meaning that it is not intended to fund extensive, multi-year endeavors. Microgrants provide pre-seed funding for a project that will get you on your way to realizing a long-awaited goal, whether that means funding an airplane ticket for important travel, a patent application and business fees, buying important supplies, or enough rent to cover two months rent for your new office.

We know that as an entrepreneur just getting started these small things can add up and cost you time that you could be spending improving your project! We believe that creative, active energy is vital, and we want to make sure yours is prioritized.

In our 2021 study, impact entrepreneurs indicated that receiving a microgrant is a positive, helpful experience, especially when accompanied by a supportive organization like Stardust Startups. The microgrant program is a helpful and easily manageable way to make progress towards impact and business objectives, by paying for necessary early-stage needs of the project, and is a way to instil feelings of certainty, confidence, and relief within entrepreneurs, motivating them to move forward with the business and apply for further funding. 🚀

Here’s what we value most.

Relevant work

The people and projects we support intend to make positive social and/or environmental impact within the core Stardust focus areas.

Active participation

We strongly value sharing ideas and knowledge for a more collaborative environment and ever-growing network of open-minded thinkers.

Diverse community

We embrace the variety of people, backgrounds, and ideas that make up Stardust’s energizing, supportive, and nurturing environment.

Genuine curiosity

We know that retaining a sense of wonder and awe of the world helps us to stay aware and make positive, impactful decisions.

Opportunities for all

We believe in providing an open, accessible, and transparent organization for all: applicants, donors, partners, staff, and all Stardust supporters.

Inspiring & enabling

We want our portfolio and vision to continue to inspire and enable first-timers and experienced entrepreneurs alike to explore new ideas and apply.

Stardust Startups is helping reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

We recognize the interconnectedness of all 17 goals and are inspired by the ways they are trying to attain solutions to pressing problems. Though we accept projects fitting within any of the UN’s categories, these 8 most closely reflect Stardust’s goals:

Achieving the goals […] will require heroic and imaginative effort, determination to learn about what works, and agility to adapt to new information and changing trends.

United Nations

The Stardust team

Meet our amazing group of hard-working co-creators, Board of Directors, Advisory Board, staff, interns and volunteers that make Stardust happen.

Chair of the Board of Directors

Laura Jean Palmer-Moloney, Ph.D

Jean is one of the original co-founders of Stardust Startups. Day-to-day, she is the Managing Director and the Board Chair.

Laura Jean Palmer-Moloney brings 30 years of experience and expertise in problem-based learning, sustainability and systems assessment (water-food-energy), and holistic health to Stardust Startups. She also brings her fascination with the stars. She runs her own consulting business, Visual Teaching Technologies, as well as the digital marketing company ABEM Digital Creations (Angus Moloney's internet-based business). Jean and her husband Jim live in Morehead City, North Carolina, with their three cats, two dogs, and two birds.
Board of Directors

Fran Pigott Harding

Fran brings an extensive marketing and public relations background to Stardust's Board of Directors.

A native of Carteret County, Fran’s corporate career in Marketing Communication/Public Relations in financial services, Insurance and education took her from California and Texas to New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. Returning to NC, she purchased a home in Beaufort in 2013. Today she resides in Morehead City. Fran is also busy promoting the NC Coastal Lifestyle with her business as a NC Real Estate Broker. She loves the beach; Diesel, the perfect dog; keeping in touch with family in New Jersey, Texas, Florida, and Beaufort, of course; and networking with friends around the world.
Advisory Board

Sashka Avanyan

A social entrepreneur herself, Sashka brings an esteemed international perspective to the Advisory Board.

Sashka is a filmmaker and entrepreneur living in Vanadzor, Armenia, where she is the co-founder of Creopia Productions, a social impact video editing company. She has had her films screened at multiple small festivals in Montreal and works for McGill University as a videographer and editor in addition to doing freelance work. Sashka’s interest lies in using film to explore cross-cultural dynamics. Sashka was raised in Moscow, Russia until the age of 15, and lived in Canada until her move to Armenia in 2016.
Writer

Saffanah Zaini

Saffanah brings a fresh outlook to the Stardust Startups blog.

Saffanah Zaini is an M.A. student in International Security at George Mason University (GMU). Saffanah received her Bachelor’s degree in 2018 from GMU in Government and International Relations with a minor in Middle East Studies. Saffanah worked as a freelance journalist for Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper for a year in Washington D.C, where she covered and translated American news to Arabic. Saffanah’s most recent job experience was at the National Democratic Institute, where she assisted with drafting assessments for programs in West Bank and Gaza. Saffanah is a Saudi national; her aspiration for a more environmentally sustainable future in her region brought her to Stardust.
Funding & Outreach

Clara Koulmann

Clara's passions for sustainability and businesses make her the ideal F&O intern.

Clara is a McGill Student pursuing a major in Managing for Sustainability in the Desautels faculty. This is her first experience within an organization, and she is excited to discover the Funding Acquisition and Outreach team at Stardust. She is genuinely interested in sustainability issues, in particular food waste, food insecurity and social gender inequalities. She is an Event Coordinator for Mealcare McGill, an association whose goal is to redistribute surplus food to communities in need, and a member of the Operation Committee of Think Pink club, which fights against breast cancer by raising funds and increasing awareness. During her free time, she likes to play sports and read books.
Senior Director of Operations

Camille Babington

Camille is also one of the original co-founders of Stardust Startups. She manages general operations and communication, as well as being Advisory Board Chair.

Camille Babington lives in Lyon, France as a young entrepreneur. She has a Master's in Urban Planning & Design and currently works with Stardust and as an independent graphic designer. She loves spending time in nature, especially while camping, kayaking, and hiking. She is always working on a creative project, especially in the areas of photography, design, film-making, and music.
Director of Funding and Partnerships

Kristina Wolff

Kristina brings a passion for social entrepreneurship and finance to our brand new funding director position.

Kristina is a fourth year student at McGill University. She is completing an Honours major in International Development Studies, along with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies. In addition to competing as a student-athlete for the Varsity Alpine Ski Team, Kristina has served as Co-President of MealCare McGill, a student group dedicated to diverting on-campus food waste to community organizations. In her free time, Kristina enjoys knitting, eating croissants, and spending time in the outdoors.
Advisory Board

John Barry

John brings numerous qualities to the Advisory Board, such as his professional expertise and unending optimism.

A son, a brother, a father, a husband, a coach. A lover of life, a student of earth and beyond. A joker, moderately philosophical, fisherman/loves music/poor dancer. A sloppy chef, an optimist, a dreamer, not the best plumber. A self-proclaimed businessman. An old diver. Usually an “over-comer,” through failure and grit. And a believer (in keeping things positive), until it is time to get dirty. John has been the diving coach at American University for 12+ years and coaches several divers competing at the national level under the Dominion Dive Club in Fairfax, VA.
Writer

Colin Ward

Colin's well-rounded intellect and sharp wit are a winning combination for Stardust's blog.

Colin is studying Celtic Shamanism and Spirituality in Westport, Ireland. A reformed economist and ex-defense researcher, he traded a research cubicle for Irish coasts and studies consciousness and alternative therapies for mental health recovery. Sometimes he writes about finance and economics but tries not to dwell on it. As best he can, Colin tries to live with mindful and heart-centered purpose and discovering what that means exactly. He loves to escape into science fiction and vegetarian cooking. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina.
Funding & Outreach

Valerie d'Anjou

Valerie is a volunteer joining the F&O team for the summer!

If you’re interested in joining the team
as a volunteer, staff, or member of the
Board of Directors, please contact us at [email protected].

Board of Directors

Edward T. Cope

Ted is a valued member of the Board of Directors, bringing his expertise in global issues and problem-solving.

Ted brings his passion, vision, energy, intellect, and network to Stardust. Retiring after 42+ years of government. service, Ted is learning new ways to put a dent in the status quo mindset from the private sector perspective. He inspires those he works with to challenge conventional wisdom and strives to help those he works with to imagine, explore, innovate, and ultimately execute what others thought impossible. He is currently a consultant for Thermopylae Sciences + Technology.
Advisory Board

Jim Moloney

Jim is also a co-founder of Stardust Startups and valued Advisory Board member.

Jim Moloney works with active duty Marines and Sailors at Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, NC as a Substance Abuse Counselor. Jim's contribution to the Advisory Board is multifaceted. He is a regular TM Meditator and interested in the holistic approach to mental and physical health and wellness. He love the outdoors and is a DIY learner. Jim plays guitar, rides motorcycles and gets regular exercise riding his bicycle at the beach.
Advisory Board

Larissa Miller

Larissa brings valued holistic health and education expertise to the Advisory Board.

Larissa hails from Oneonta, NY, a former stomping ground of Angus’s, which came to light as a friendship was developed through shared appreciation for experiential learning, adaptive technology, & integrative healing methodologies as classmates at the N. VA School of Therapeutic Massage. Larissa went on to pursue manual therapy specializing in spinal reflex therapy, and founded Dynamic Integrations Wellness. In addition to a background in environmental policy and urban sociology, Larissa was a special educator in high-need public and charter schools in NYC and New Orleans. Currently, she is a 6th Grade General Education Teacher and 5th Grade Special Education Teacher.
IT Coordinator

Mosiur Imraan Rahman

Imraan is the technical support lead for Stardust Startups.

Imraan is the technical support lead for Stardust. He is quick to develop innovative and creative solutions to problems and enjoys the dedication IT work demands. Imraan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and Engineering from the State University of Bangladesh.
Writer

Emma Leyland

Emma's commitment to social justice and grassroots change brings a fresh perspective to the blog.

Emma is a recent graduate of McGill University, majoring in International Development Studies while minoring in History and Philosophy. As someone with a strong commitment to social justice and a keen interest in politics, she believes in the value of grassroots organizing as a means to making the world a better place. Emma currently resides in the suburbs of Philadelphia where she enjoys going to the beach, reading, listening to podcasts, and spending time with friends.

Stardust Leverage Point Team

Don Piper

Brenda Searle

Fran Pigott-Harding

Entrepreneur in Residence, Co-Managing Director

Officer Manager

Public Relations Lead

Angus Moloney

Thinker, adventurer, entrepreneur

Angus was spontaneous and always in motion.

Angus’s modus operandi was climbing rocks and trees, jumping on his trampoline, doing gymnastics flips, parkour, spring board and platform diving, or walking on his slack line.

Angus’s mind was as agile as his body. His physical prowess reflected his supple and nimble mind—always leaping and diving towards big ideas. At only 22-years-old, he was well on his way to making substantive contributions to environmental and social justice issues. Opening his own internet business in 2014, Angus was in the process of building a web presence that promoted emerging entrepreneurs in the areas of sustainability, mental and physical health, and learning.

Among others, startups he supported included a massage therapy practice, a job assistance center to help US veterans, and an experiential learning program.

In contrast to Angus’s physical perpetual motion, he had a profoundly calm and centered spirit, connected to his purpose. He was determined to change the world, to make it a better place, and to energize people with fresh and positive ideas.

Angus was insatiably curious and passionate about making and eating vegan food, physical health and mind-body connections, energy fields and quantum physics, renewable and free energy sources, the human brain, and consciousness.

Angus could see the goodness in all around him. His infectious smile brightened every room and lifted the spirits of all those he met.  It is hard to imagine a happier, more sincere, loving, eager, and optimistic young man. Many have learned from him and been impacted greatly by his bright and shining life.

Angus Britton Emmett Moloney was born on Friday, August 13th, 1993, in Salida, Colorado. His love of nature and his creative work-around approach to life were built on life with his family in Colorado, living in the mountains above 10,000 feet, where he could look up at the night sky and see the Milky Way.

Angus passed away on September 26th, 2015, as a result of injuries sustained in a fall when hiking in Gregory Canyon in Boulder, Colorado.

Though he was an avid rock climber, his death was not the result of a radical free solo attempt, equipment failure, or falling rock but rather a missed foot placement while scrambling a few feet from the beaten Saddle Rock Trail.

In honor of his bright and beautiful spirit, Angus’s parents (Jean and Jim) and his girlfriend (Camille) began The Stardust-Startup Factory, a 501(c)(3) to maintain and grow his contribution to the world.

Prolong Angus's legacy ∞

See your money propel conscious growth and innovation by supporting emerging entrepreneurs with projects in the areas of health, sustainability, and learning.