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Emerson Entrepreneurs Get Ready to Make Their Pitch

Fernandez and Marsh sitting on loading dock
Lily Marsh ’22, left, and Liliana Fernandez ’22 are the founders of Boss Brunches. Courtesy photo

Each year, students in the Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship (E3) program spend eight months brainstorming, researching markets, building business plans, developing marketing strategies, and bringing their “babies” into being. At the end of it all, they pitch their ventures to a panel of entrepreneurs, who award the students with cash prizes at the annual E3 Pitch Competition.

The pitch competition, like most events, has moved online this spring due to the pandemic, but the excitement promises to translate over Zoom.

“This year has certainly challenged the best of college students,” said Lu Ann Reeb, director of entrepreneurial studies and business studies. “However, in true entrepreneurial spirit, these E3 students have embraced their collective positivity and worked extremely hard to develop creative and sustainable business ideas with passion and stamina.”

What kind of Emerson student commits to the E3 minor?

“What’s really special about this year’s E3 cohort is that nearly all of the Emerson majors are represented from the School of the Arts and the School of Communication, making this a very rich collaborative entrepreneurship journey for all the students and me!” Reeb said.

We asked a sampling of this year’s E3 cohort to tell us about their ventures. You can watch them pitch before the judges on Monday, April 26, 10:00 am-12:30 pm, via Zoom.

Bloom logo, words on lavender background
Name: Lindsay Bertram ‘21
Major: Business of Creative Enterprises

Venture: Bloom Skateboards

Venture Elevator Pitch: An inclusive skateboarding brand that puts an emphasis on queer, BIPOC, disabled individuals through decks designed by them. Bloom seeks to give back to the skating communities where it is needed most through community resources and aid, all while implementing a B Corporation business model influence.

How you got the idea: My dad worked for skateboarding publications ever since I was younger, so skateboarding has been a point of interest in my life for a while now. Since I was that young, I was always interested in the behind-the-scenes of what makes a skateboard a skateboard. I feel like skaters are kind of like artists, and the boards they use help them maneuver through their art.

It was always a dream of mine to contribute by making boards. However, I was intimidated by skateboarding because there are a lot of men in the culture, so I want to help create spaces and brands where everyone who wants to skate is included. I also want to help people or collectives looking to expand their skateboarding communities [through] skate park funds, gear resources, even just events to gain recognition in their areas. It can get expensive, or difficult, if there are not accessible resources, so I want Bloom to help uplift these communities or hardships they might have.

The hardest part of developing the idea: I think the hardest part has been maintaining confidence. I have struggled [with] feeling confident about the idea itself, or that I am best representing the idea, or if it is an idea that people would be excited to participate in.

The most useful thing you learned in E3: I think there are a lot of useful things I’ve learned in E3, things that probably don’t sound exciting, like creating a first-year financial projection and some legal aspects. I think what is amongst the most useful for me [are] the creative skills you develop in an entrepreneurial mindset. Identifying problems; looking at solutions; not dismissing, but growing the ideas that feel too big; challenging yourself to go further or look at something differently – these are all aspects I feel that have begun to sharpen since taking E3. You practice lots of creativity in entrepreneurship. I feel like with that, certain goals or approaches even just in my daily life don’t seem as unattainable. I think this creativity is important in what drives success – that, along with passion, go further than any amount of money or ‘ins or insight into an industry’ might.

Name: Jalyn Cox ‘21
Major: Marketing Communication
Venture: Raw Intention
Raw intention logo, cursive words over drawing of crystal

Venture Elevator Pitch: I started my company, Raw Intention, in the late fall of 2019. Raw Intention is a handmade crystal jewelry company that allows the wearers to align themselves with the properties within the crystals they wear.

How you got the idea: I got the idea when I was interning in Los Angeles in Summer 2019. I was already drawn to crystals, and everyone there would wear crystals around their necks with these little coils to stick the crystals in. I would always think, ‘Wow, I should make handmade fashionable crystal jewelry – people would love that. I would love that.’ A lot of crystal jewelry companies mass produce their crystals and their jewelry, and every single piece looks the same. I felt like this took away from the inherent energy in each unique piece, so I saw such an opportunity, combining my skill of handmade jewelry design and love of crystals.

I sat on this idea all summer, and when I returned to school, I got a professional tarot reading with a medium. Without speaking on anything about myself, he told me to start making and selling jewelry and it would be a great way to propel me into my career. I couldn’t ignore this idea after that, and I left the reading and bought my first set of crystals to create into a collection.

The hardest part of developing the idea: The hardest part of developing this idea was talking about Raw Intention with people who do not have a working relationship with crystals or energy work. I am passionate about what I do, and when I feel like I have to explain why people should care, it can be hard. It makes perfect sense in my mind, but trying to put something I love into words for others to understand can be hard. I am sharing a piece of myself, a piece of my life, a piece of the way I maneuver through the world. It can be intimidating and scary.

The most useful thing you learned in E3: The most useful thing I’ve learned is how to talk about Raw Intention with anyone. It’s my baby, it’s what I want to be doing with my life. My passion is there, but sometimes it can be hard to explain what it is and what it can grow into. …

I have worked on (and am still working on) shedding that layer of fear around what others will think. I now have this level of confidence and excitement on speaking [about] Raw Intention, no matter who I am speaking to. This is a skill that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and something that will continue to carry me through the journey I have with Raw Intention.

Boss Brunches logo: drawing of founders and dog in front of food cart over lilac background
Names: Liliana Fernandez ’22 and Lily Marsh ’22
Majors: Marketing Communication (Liliana) and Business of Creative Enterprises (Lily)
Venture: Boss Brunches

Venture Elevator Pitch: Boss Brunches is the first food truck in Boston to serve brunch daily, while supporting local food purveyors, as well as Last Hope K9 Animal Rescue to save our four-legged friends. With our food truck, we say why not have brunch on a Tuesday? Ditch the long waits, loud and crammed restaurants, and grab your go-to brunch treat on the go!

How you got the idea: When registering for E3, we knew we wanted to do something relating to either fitness, fashion, or food, since those are industries that we are very interested in. Our initial idea was to offer a “Picnic in the Park,” where we served food and gave customers the option to rent or purchase a blanket, lawn chairs, and a card game. But because we are still living through COVID and people are hesitant to eat out, we wanted to offer something more appropriate, given the current situation.

We settled on a food truck, because it gives customers the option to [do] takeout, and eat when and where they feel most comfortable. We chose to do a brunch food truck because we were frustrated that brunch was primarily offered on the weekends in Boston. You would need a reservation booked weeks in advance, and it was usually going to be an expensive, hours-long event. After doing some market research, we found that nothing like this exists in Boston already, so the opportunity to start just felt right. Not only will Boss Brunches offer an affordable, seasonal, brunch menu, but we will be open five days a week! This will allow customers to satisfy their brunch cravings during the work week, in addition to when they normally get brunch on the weekends.

The hardest part of developing this idea: The hardest part about developing Boss Brunches was definitely the fact that there are so many different and intricate details in starting a business, let alone a food truck business. Whether it’s the specific lottery system in Boston, calculating food costs, or even finding local New England purveyors that we wanted to work with to get our ingredients, each step in this process required a lot of research and attention to detail. As we have learned in this year-long E3 minor, starting a business is not an easy task, but as a team, we managed to stay on top of it and get everything we needed done, while also having a blast doing it!

The most useful thing you learned in E3: The most useful thing we have learned throughout our time in E3 is obviously how to start a business from the ground up, but also, we have gained a tremendous amount of confidence in pitching ourselves and our idea. Lu Ann was our biggest hype woman, and we learned how to do our pitch on the spot, in front of classmates, food partners we were meeting with, and in front of mentors that would pop into class occasionally. We learned how to take feedback on the spot and implement it into our next draft of the business presentation.

Name: Kayla Fontalvo ‘23
Major: Journalism

Venture: Paper Gems
selfie of Kayla Fontalvo in black blazer
Kayla Fontalvo ’23. Courtesy photo

Venture Elevator Pitch: Paper Gems is a digital media company that focuses on producing credible K-pop news content from a Western perspective. To get a better picture of it, I like to describe it as the professional Buzzfeed of K-pop. On Paper Gems, viewers will be able to watch videos, interviews, and read essays, photo essays, and more. The digital company is focused on in-depth research on K-pop artists and everything related to their industry.

How you got the idea: I got the idea of Paper Gems after seeing how Western journalists report on K-pop. It started with BTS rising to fame in the West and grabbing the attention of journalists, but many K-pop fans were disappointed with the blatant ignorance and racism displayed in the media. What helped me solidify my thoughts on the creation of Paper Gems was witnessing a K-pop fan tweet, “I want to take journalism in college to fix this problem.”

The hardest part of developing this idea: The hardest part was finally focusing on K-pop content. I first bounced idea around, but nothing came from my heart. When I spoke to experts about my venture, I realized I only contacted K-pop writers. This is the moment I knew creating K-pop content was the journey I was most willing to take. I should’ve listened to my intuition in the beginning of the year, when I thought about starting Paper Gems.

The most useful thing you learned in E3: Obviously, the business part was very important, since I have no background [in] it. I learned how to create a proper business plan and a 5-minute pitch. Being able to build a foundation of business skills, but at the same time incorporate my creative skills, has been useful as well.

Personally, one of the most important things I have learned is that I shouldn’t be afraid to fail. I am going to fail at some point, possibly even multiple times, but that shouldn’t matter. Failing only means I have to get up and try harder or find a better way. It’s better to live in the moment doing what I love and fail than to be stuck doing something I have no passion for.

Name: Omar Mardini ‘21
Major: BFA Theatre
Venture: The Lola Shuffle
Omar Mardini ’21. File photo/Derek Palmer

Venture Elevator Pitch: The Lola Shuffle is a free ad-based or premium subscription-based online and remote music gaming app designed for everybody, connecting you to one another in a unique and creative way by sharing each other’s music taste and trying to win a prize.

How you got the idea: I got the idea over quarantine last summer, when my friends and I were looking for something new to do. We ended up creating this game that involved random songs we queued on our dinner playlist, and all of a sudden, The Lola Shuffle was becoming a real venture I took with me to the program.

The hardest part of developing this idea: The hardest part about developing this business was finding the right ‘path’ for me to go down. Every venture in the E3 cohort this year is so differentiated from each other, and that includes our business models or the way we’ve decided to structure our business. When I came into the program, I thought every business had a one-and-done checklist of what needs to happen for you to start a successful business and that all businesses were the same, but I soon realized that every business is unique in that way, and have their own circumstances to create and launch these really cool ventures.

The most useful thing you learned in E3: The power of collaboration and listening to your peers. Something I realized this year is that no one knows more about my business than me. That being said, there are always gonna be things I [overlook] or don’t think about in a certain way because my mind is elsewhere in the business, and it was nice to lean on my cohort, as well as all of the guest entrepreneurs we had visit class, to provide me with insight and feedback about my business that I would have never thought of. It’s the reason my venture was able to grow the way it has. Truly thankful for everyone who has helped me build The Lola Shuffle over the last year.

Our Journey logo: black text inside circle of multi-colored hands
Name: Alannys Milano ‘21
Major: Writing, Literature and Publishing
Venture: Our Journey

Venture Elevator Pitch: Our Journey is a multicultural, diverse, and open platform dedicated to empowering and supporting international students during their college years and beyond. Our main goal is to become the #1 media community for international college students across the globe.

How you got the idea: Studying in the U.S. is a blessing, and I’m grateful for Emerson giving me the chance to pursue my career. Yet, as a dual citizen from Venezuela who moved to the States four years ago, adapting to Emerson hasn’t been easy. I first heard of microaggressions from one of my international friends during my freshman year. My friends and I connected through those experiences: of not being understood, of the lack of inclusivity, even how we have to prove ourselves constantly that we are deserving of this education as anyone else. I don’t want international students feeling as if they can’t belong to their school community. College, after all, it’s more than just education; it’s the experience, and we should all enjoy a quality, inclusive college experience.

The hardest part of developing this idea: I knew where my inspiration came from, but focusing on one path and maintaining it was definitely challenging. By that, I don’t mean that a venture can’t grow in creative ways. Still, the essence is what might get lost, and I had a hard time discovering mine.

The most useful thing you learned in E3: In E3, I have met the most amazing people. I didn’t only create lasting connections, but I got to discover how passionate I am about entrepreneurship. My E3 cohort helped me navigate my vision of Our Journey. We are all supportive of each other, and being surrounded by such creative, incredible, and entrepreneurial-spirited people is so inspiring. Being part of E3 gave me the strength and support to believe and continue working with my venture.

Name: Gabriel Simao ’23
Major: Visual and Media Arts
Venture: S.A.M.: The Real Estate Assistant
Gabriel Simao outdoors
Gabriel Simao ’23. Courtesy photo

Venture Elevator Pitch: The real estate industry is huge, but incredibly difficult to navigate as a residential agent. Whereas the computer software market for real estate is oversaturated, there aren’t any revolutionary apps that you can access on your phone – the most important hardware an agent has. There isn’t a way to have an app automatically organize and post your social media house ads to several platforms with filters and geotags. There isn’t a way to connect all of your clients and properties into a single folder with built-in communication tools. There isn’t a way to access all of this while driving by communicating with Siri. But with S.A.M.: The Real Estate Assistant, there is now a way to do just that.

How you got the idea: I’ve worked in this field for several years now, first as an office administrator and photographer, and for the past year as a licensed Realtor. I’m quite tech-savvy, but pulling out my laptop in the car right before or after an appointment is a struggle. Needing to transfer all my data into my computer, then importing it to several different software [programs] is needlessly complicated. And knowing that there are millions of Realtors who are less tech-savvy than me struggling with this to an even higher extent, I see the residential leasing and sales market to be a perfect fit for this app. In theory, an app like this could work for many different fields, but I felt comfortable and compelled to start with an industry whose language I speak.

The hardest part of developing the idea: The real estate industry is massive and there is no one single market for it. Learning about the other sectors of real estate, outside of residential rental and sales, was probably the most time-consuming, but a vital part to define the market within the real estate industry that I am targeting.

The most useful thing you learned in E3: Entrepreneurship comes in many different forms. It can be an invention, or an innovation. At the end of the day, it’s about how much you feel for the product or service you are generating because you may need to exhaust all of your resources to make it work.  

Name: Olivia Strauss ‘21
Major: Marketing Communication
Venture: Liv Sweetly
Liv Sweetly logo: black text with drawing of oven mitt and chocolate-covered spatula

Venture Elevator Pitch: Did you know 63 percent of the 40 million Americans who suffer from anxiety disorders are unable to find a treatment that works for them? Liv Sweetly is the first subscription baking kit service that teaches adults how to reduce stress and improve health through baking. This new business was founded by long-time stress baker Olivia Strauss in 2020, and plans to launch in May 2022. The goal of Liv Sweetly is to help people discover baking is a resource they can use to manage their daily lives and reduce personal stress and anxiety.

How you got the idea: From a very young age, I taught myself to use baking as a resource to help me manage my anxiety and depression. I love to bake and do it as often as possible. I even attend Emerson part-time so I can keep my job as a baker and cake decorator at a popular bakery near my home. Going into the E3 program, I knew baking would need to be an aspect of my business because I am so passionate about it, but I didn’t want to create a normal bakery. After months of brainstorming and really diving deep into why I love to bake, I came up with Liv Sweetly.

Stress baking, the process of using baking as an outlet for relieving stress and anxiety, is on the rise. Current research supports the healthy benefits of baking, but no one has seized this opportunity. In the market, there are baking kits available for beginners and kits that are convenient and fast, but nothing that teaches the customer about the link between mental health and baking. Liv Sweetly isn’t about giving people a quick and easy way to bake a new recipe, it supports healthy living through the baking process. The goal of Liv Sweetly is to teach customers about stress baking and show them that baking is a resource they can use when managing their stress, depression, and anxiety.

The hardest part of developing the idea: I want Liv Sweetly to be so many things (a brick-and-mortar bakery, a product line of baking tools, live classes that teach about health and wellness), so narrowing down my idea and sticking with it has been very challenging.

The most useful thing you learned in E3: Everything! E3 is the best class I’ve ever taken. Lu Ann is an amazing and invested professor, and my whole class gets along very well. I think anybody at Emerson who is even a little bit interested in entrepreneurship should take this course. So many of the lessons I learned in this class will help me with whatever I choose to do after college.   

Name: Juanma Suárez Teissonniere ‘23
Major: Theatre Design and Technology
Venture: Divino
Divino logo: yellow text

Venture Elevator Pitch: Seeing my mom have a hard time finding people she could trust to come into our home for specialty services, like a home chef for her 25th wedding anniversary, I came up with Divino. Divino is a commissioned-based online network connecting members to luxurious experiences like personal chefs, masseuses, and aestheticians that you would use for those special occasions. The mobile app makes it easy to search and find pre-vetted service providers in your area.

How you got the idea: I got the idea from seeing my mom trying to find services, like those [that] Divino would offer, and having a hard time finding good and reliable ones. She could go through 20 providers before finding one she liked and trusted. Once she found one she liked, it was a hassle to schedule with them a time that worked. Divino would cut all that work out, as we would find the best of the best and handle scheduling through our app (or website).

The hardest part of developing this idea: Definitely trying to figure out the logistical aspects, like background checking our service providers and defining our customer profile to better reach the target market.

The most useful thing you learned in E3: Besides the deep dive into what it takes to build and launch my venture, it’s a collaborative experience where you will fail at times and learn from it – but it’s all about how you get back up and succeed. Life is full of challenges, might as well embrace them.

More 2020-2021 E3 Ventures:

Ashley Blanco ’22 (Business of Creative Enterprises)
Venture: ARK (Anxiety Relief Kit)

For anxiety sufferers who want to relieve anxiety naturally, quickly, and effectively, Anxiety Relief Kit is a customizable mental health subscription box curated to your body’s anxiety symptoms.

Kristen Cawog ’22 (Business of Creative Enterprises)
Venture: Stay Afloat Records

Stay Afloat Records is dedicated to changing the record label industry by turning the transactions inside out, with the label taking a smaller percentage to better support rising music artists.

Adrianna Delgado ’23 (Business of Creative Enterprises)
Venture: LOCALí

LOCALí is a marketing/PR agency based in Puerto Rico, aiming to help local startup shops so they can succeed and stay on the island.

Ben Healey ’21 (Visual and Media Arts)
Venture: The Regular Channel

The Regular Channel is a California production company serving rappers with high-quality, aesthetically unique music video production.

Lexi Leap ’21 (Business of Creative Enterprises)
Venture: Wasabi Denim

Wasabi Denim is a custom canvas and denim company creating one-of-a-kind, affordable, hand-painted clothing and bags made by fashion-inspired artists.

Calloway Myers ’22 (Business of Creative Enterprises)
Venture: The 427 Group

The 427 Group is a legal and financial online services group catering to the startup needs of rising hip-hop artists.

Grace Rispoli ’23 (Journalism)
Venture: Break Down Book

Break Down Book is a uniquely designed life organizer book making work or tasks simpler and better than any online task organizer tool. 

Bellamy Suter ’23 (Business of Creative Enterprises)
Venture: Tabella

Tabella is a high-end, all-natural, roll-on tanning oil for all body types made from safe ingredients and eco-friendly packaging to bring ‘on-the-go.’

Magenta Thomas ’21 (Communication Studies)
Venture: Igi

Igi is an online service that prepares tailor-made houseplant arrangements for the budding plant parent. Igi is empowering small, local, nurseries and farms while connecting plant lovers.

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