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Blanco Wins E3 Expo with Anxiety Relief Kit

hand holding smartphone with ARK app open

Anxiety Relief Kit (ARK), a customizable mental health box founded by Business of Creative Enterprises major Ashley Blanco ’22, took first place and a $5,000 prize at this year’s E3 (Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship) Pitch Competition.

“The win was … personal, because it signified growth,” Blanco said in an email. “As a creative, I am glad I could take my challenge of battling anxiety and turn it into creating a meaningful and innovative product, helping others along the way.”

ARK topped the field of 18 ventures, created by 19 students in the E3 minor, which puts students through the paces of conceiving, developing, and marketing a business or nonprofit venture. This year’s judges were Trish Cotter, director of entrepreneurship at MIT; Donna Levin ’12, CEO at Arthur M. Blank School for Entrepreneurship Leadership at Babson College ; Sara Morgan ’06, MA ’10, senior product manager at Dell and member of the Emerson Board of Advisors Executive Committee; and Stephen Francis ’09, SVP at Roc Nation’s venture fund Arrive, founded by Jay-Z.

Ashley Blanco head shot
Ashley Blanco ’22

“This course is one of my favorites, because students take a look at all different business angles and work inside each one in their venture,” Blanco said. “The knowledge, creativity, and passion from [E3 Director] Lu Ann [Reeb] and my peers was what I looked forward to … every day.”

Read: Emerson Entrepreneurs Get Ready to Make Their Pitch

This year’s cohort included students in nearly every major and produced ventures representing a wide range of industries, including music, fashion, real estate, PR, luxury services, and — like ARK and second-place winner Liv Sweetly — mental health.

Liv Sweetly, a subscription-based home baking kit that helps customers alleviate stress and anxiety through baking, was created by Marketing Communication major Olivia Strauss ’21, who received a $3,000 check toward developing her business.

“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,” said Strauss, who works part-time as a baker and cake decorator at a bakery near her home.

The $2,000, third-place winner was Our Journey, created by Writing, Literature and Publishing major Alannys Milano ’21, a multicultural platform that supports international students during their college years and beyond.

The E3 Scholarship Award went to Communication Studies major Magenta Thomas ’21, whose venture Igi is an online service that prepares houseplant arrangements. Juanma Suarez Teissonniere ’23, a Theatre Design and Technology major, won the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for Divino, an online tool that connects users to luxury services such as personal chefs, masseuses, and aestheticians.

“They’re all winners in my book!” Reeb said of the class.

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