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Student Entrepreneurs Get Down to Business, Know How to Party

Hard work was what got the students in the Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship (E3) to the minor’s annual Expo on April 22, but it was good times that ruled the day, as Philanthro Parties and Party Parcels were named the top two student ventures by a panel of industry judges.

“The one thing that really stands out for me about this year’s crop is there were so many who were able to execute on their passion,” said Lu Ann Reeb, director of the Business and Entrepreneurship Studies Program at Emerson.

This year’s E3 Expo showcased 15 businesses, nonprofits, and apps developed over the course of the year by students in the E3 minor.

The students presented their ventures at booths lining the Bordy Theater and were judged on a range of criteria, including pitch clarity, innovation, value proposition, market and competitive analyses, go-to-market plans, and business sustainability. Guest speaker Brian Halligan, founder and CEO of inbound marketing platform HubSpot, offered entrepreneurship advice.

Alaina Belanger ’16, a Marketing Communications major, won the first-place prize of $5,000 in seed money for her service, Philanthro Parties, which would match civic-minded Boston-area residents with local nonprofits and plan events and parties that allow clients to help the community.

“On a bachelorette weekend, you get a group of girls together, you go volunteer for a few hours at an organization of your choice, and then you go to brunch,” Belanger gave as a for-instance. “I would plan it all for them, and it’s all customized, too.”

Belanger said she thought she needed $3,760 to get the idea off the ground, but with the $5,000 prize money, “I guess I can definitely start it now, which is pretty exciting.”

She said she’s still looking for a full-time job after graduation, but thinks she can keep Philanthro Parties going part-time.

Marketing Communications major Marni Musmon ’16 won $3,000 for her high-end “parties in a box,” which would sell online as Party Parcels.

Musmon said she used to work at a party supply store, so she knows consumers’ buying habits.

The idea for Party Parcels came about, she said, when she wanted to host a gathering but didn’t want to use her mismatched plates to serve people. She went to a party store to buy disposable plates, but everything was geared toward kids. She ended up buying heavyweight plastic dishes from a wholesaler, but that was not ideal.

“I was surprised there weren’t more options available,” she said. “[I thought] It’d be easier if everything came together.”

The third-place winner, with a $2,000 prize, was Harry Holmes ’16, another Marketing Communication majors and founder of Trngle, an online network that connects freelancers with creative projects quickly.

Savannah Strange ’17, a Communication Disorders major, won the Karl Baehr Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1,500 for SpeechKAT, an iPhone app that uses games and music to provide home therapy for children on the autism spectrum. Baehr was the founder of the E3 program; he died in 2013.

And Dan Halpern ’16 took home the E3 Cohort Award—his fellow students’ choice for top venture. Halpern, a Writing, Literature and Publishing major, developed, a platform that promotes open debates on political, social, and community issues, which are then rated by users.

“I think this experiential nature of…E3 is so successful,” Reeb said. “I hear this from students all the time, about ‘We learn so much because we got to do it.’ And by doing it, [they mean] throwing them into situations where they may not succeed, but they learn to pivot and iterate and think for themselves.”

This year’s E3 judges were Julianne Zimmerman, a venture capitalist with a focus on technology; Robby Bitting, director of marketing at accelerator MassChallenge; Leslie Medalie, president and founder of Leary & Co. Public Relations and an E3 mentor; and Brenda Wrigley, associate professor and chair of the Marketing Communication Department.

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