The Bill Bordy Theater was bursting with innovation on April 24 as 18 students pitched their business startup ideas during the annual Emerson Entrepreneurial Expo, also known as the E3 Expo.
Now in its 10th year, the E3 Expo allows students to present their business ideas and compete for seed money to get their ventures started.
This year’s first-place winner was HerLaunch, by Marketing Communication major Manisha Tolani ’16, who is from Turks and Caicos. HerLaunch is a unique consulting firm providing premier entrepreneurial education and access to business resources exclusively to low-income women entrepreneurs.
Manisha Tolani '16 accepts the first-place award at the E3 Expo from Lu Ann Reeb, director of business and entrepreneurial studies at Emerson, on April 24 in the Bordy Theater. (Courtesy Photo)
The second-place winner was Greeks That Speak, a program to engage fraternities and sororities in conversations around consent, by Christian Bergen-Aragon ’15 and Chris Dobens ’16. Dobens is one of the students who created the iconic “Boston Strong” T-shirts following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
Christian Bergen-Aragon '15 and Chris Dobens '16 accept the second-place E3 Expo award from Lu Ann Reeb. (Courtesy Photo)
The third-place winner was PupPlay, a mobile application for dog owners, by Danny Dranoff ’15, a Marketing Communication major from Pinecrest, Florida.
Students presented their business ideas throughout the afternoon and heard from local business leaders. This year’s keynote speaker was serial entrepreneur Andy Miller, who serves as chief innovation architect at Constant Contact, the popular email marketing company based in Waltham.
Dranoff’s PupPlay social mobile application would connect dogs and their owners to other dogs and owners from around their neighborhoods. It’s being called “Tinder for pups to play.”
“I wanted something simple, easy, and fun,” Dranoff said. “I thought, let me connect dog parents to each other with a little swipe motion kind of action. I really think it’s proving to be a cool concept.”
Danny Dranoff '15 accepts the third-place E3 Expo award from Lu Ann Reeb. (Courtesy Photo)
The Entrepreneurial Studies Program at Emerson consists of two classes over two semesters focused solely on creating a start-up business.
Danielle Powell ’15, founder of raw, local almond milk purveyor Savasana, said the skills she learned will go beyond her current business venture.
Danielle Powell '15 presented her business venture Savasana, a form of almond milk, at the E3 Expo. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)
“The E3 Program has helped us develop skills even if we don’t do this venture,” she said. “The skills are great to have as an entrepreneur.”
Powell’s business name, Savasana, comes from the name of a yoga pose.
“It’s when you just lie there on the ground, and it’s totally restorative and just bliss,” she said. “I wanted the brand to capture all of those things and also tap into the yoga community.”
Second-place winners Dobens and Bergen-Aragon said getting Greek organizations to talk more about sexual assault is an important goal for them in their Greeks That Speak venture.
“We’re frat guys and sorority sisters. We’re not talking at, but talking to, people of our community and saying there’s an issue,” said Bergen-Aragon, a Journalism major from Glenwood Springs, Colorado. “Let’s all stand up, let’s pick up the torch, and be the Greeks That Speak.”
Dobens, a Marketing Communication major from Lowell, said he will try to apply his experience with the highly successful Boston Strong campaign to growing Greeks That Speak.
“With Boston Strong, it kind of took off and was this big thing at first. With this, it’s starting small and working our way up, which I feel is so valuable because I want to learn the different steps and be a better business and marketing person,” Dobens said.
For some students, this has been their first dive into the world of marketing, business, and entrepreneurship.
Alexia Halsey ’16, a Writing, Literature and Publishing major, is pitching a business that attempts to transfer the success of her family’s New York seafood restaurant to a food truck in Boston. She says the E3 Program has been a valuable learning experience.
“I didn’t know much at all about business coming in. I’m a writing major, so I didn’t really focus on business at all,” Halsey said. “I have gone from knowing next to nothing to actually feeling like I definitely have the know-how to get a business started.”
More than 150 ventures have been created since the E3 Expo began a decade ago. Founded by late faculty member Karl Baehr, it is now overseen by Lu Ann Reeb, director of the Business and Entrepreneurial Studies Program at Emerson.