A supportive note from mom and dad inside a box, the TLC for College logo, and a box containing snacks and special cookies. Photos and logo property of TLC for College. Used with permission.

When three of Marina Scheiner’s nieces were away at college, Scheiner wanted to send them boxes of goodies to ensure they felt supported, appreciated and encouraged.

But even with good intentions, “it was so hard to get it done,” Scheiner said. “Getting the materials, finding the box, and making it look good, you know, kind of fun.”

That conundrum sparked an idea, and about seven years ago, Scheiner reserved the web domain She envisioned a business that gathered the materials, found the boxes, filled them with goodies, made them look nice, and shipped them to college students for busy people like her.

In the meantime, life went on, but she retained the domain.

In July 2019, Scheiner, now owner of the startup TLC for College in Sedalia, Missouri, was fully retired from Sedalia School District 200, and it was time for something new. So, Scheiner headed to the Missouri Small Business Development Center (SBDC) with a business idea — but not the one you think.

TLC for College was not the company Scheiner had in mind starting when she first contacted us, said Kelly Asbury, director of the Missouri SBDC at State Fair Community College (SFCC).

“Marina has quite the background in grant writing,” Asbury said. “And that was going to be her business.”

“I love grant writing,” Scheiner said. “After I retired, it had been my plan all along to be a grant consultant.”

Through coaching and conversation with Asbury, however, Scheiner figured out that assembling care packages for students was her passion.

Marina Scheiner. Photo property of TLC for College. Used with permission.Scheiner, who had worked at SFCC for the first half of her career and in secondary school for the second half and now has a son in college, has a soft spot for high-schoolers and college students.

Wanting to test whether TLC for College was a viable business idea before committing to it, though, Scheiner participated in the spring 2020 LaunchU program offered by the Missouri SBDC at SFCC.

“The LaunchU class was very valuable,” Scheiner said. “It walked me through the steps and it helped me examine all aspects of this business and really made me pause and think. And it was a lot of work.”

LaunchU helps aspiring entrepreneurs and new business owners gain knowledge and information to put their businesses on solid footing. Participants complete a U.S. Small Business Administration–approved business feasibility plan, perfect their business pitch, and come out of the program knowing whether their business concept is workable.

“I love LivePlan,” Scheiner said of one aspect of LaunchU. “That was an extremely valuable tool for me, because it helped me look at the numbers and see exactly where we were.”

After completing the class, giving what she’d learned “time to marinate,” and talking it over with her husband, Scheiner decided “it was time,” time to make TLC for College a reality.

“Her intention was to launch last fall,” Asbury said. “And then COVID happened. It set her back, and she had to reevaluate.”

The new coronavirus that started spreading in late 2019 and led to a pandemic in 2020 affected small businesses at all stages of development and growth. But although some entrepreneurs put their new business plans on hold, startups actually rose in 2020 because many out-of-work Americans started businesses in an attempt to generate income.

For Scheiner, “there were lots of things to consider,” not the least being the affect the pandemic had on college and university studies.

Instead of fall 2020, it was April 2021, just before finals at many colleges and universities, when the TLC for College website opened for orders — briefly. Then Scheiner noticed the site needed changes. But before she shut down the site for a few minutes to revise it, she got her first order.

“One of my oldest and dearest friends, who has a niece in college, happened to hop on,” Scheiner said. “And she purchased the first box.”

When the TLC for College website launched, Scheiner intentionally debuted a limited number of boxes. The first Finals Finale boxes sold out in 10 days!

What’s in the boxes? “There’s always going to be snacks,” Scheiner said.A young woman holding a box decorated iced cookies with the rest of the snack-filled box in the background. Photo property of TLC for College. Used with permission.

Those snacks include chips, candies and some specifically created iced and decorated cookies that go along with the theme of the box. The cookies designed for this year’s Finals Finale box include one shaped like a to-go coffee cup with “Finals fuel” spelled out on the cozy; a paper airplane–shaped cookie iced to look like notebook paper; a star that says, “You got this;” and a poster-shaped cookie that exhorts the student to “Keep calm and study on.”

Other themed boxes include Semester Kick-Off and Mid-Term Madness. Birthday, SOS and Local Mojo boxes are also in the works. Local Mojo, currently only available for Sedalia, will include products and information about local businesses that students might need or like to know about, ranging from car repair services to frozen yogurt shops: “Places that the locals know about … that are unique about Sedalia … also reputable business,” Scheiner said.

Getting here “has been kind of a journey,” Scheiner said. “[The SBDC] has been very, very helpful. I cannot speak highly enough about Kelly Asbury. She just was such a wonderful resource.”

By launching the Finals Finale box this spring, Scheiner was able to test the company’s processes. They are taking orders now for fall. Semester Kick-Off boxes full of happiness — and support and encouragement — will be on their way to college students across the country on Sept. 1.