For the first time ever, a Medgar Evers College student has won the CUNY SmartPitch Competition. Ashley Warmington, a Business major, won $10,000 at the May 20, competition for pitching her business idea, â€œCozy Oasis.â€ Itâ€™s a home sublet concierge company that aims for five-star service for everyone involved in subletting â€“ tenants, guests, landlords.
In the 15-year history of the CUNY competition and its predecessor, Medgar Evers had never even placed, said Dr. JoAnn Rolle, Dean of the School of Business. But all those records were shattered this year, as 12 students from Medgar Evers entered the competition. Besides Ms. Warmingtonâ€™s winning idea, Nathalie Breary, an Environmental Science major, made it to the final phase of SmartPitch with Byte-Sized Scientist, an app which teaches students aged 5-13 environmental science and ways to protect our environment. The app will also be a game with tools to fight problems like pollution.
SmartPitch is open to all enrolled CUNY students and challenges them to develop and pitch a business idea through a three phase program, workshops, and a network of mentors. The students pitch their idea in 60 seconds on YouTube, crowdsource their idea, and develop a pitch deck.
â€œI didnâ€™t think I was going to win!â€ said Ms. Warmington, 26, who has a B.A. in Psychology from Brooklyn College. â€œMy focus was: I just hope whatever the judges ask me itâ€™ll make my business better.â€
Ms. Warmington has grand ambitions to grow her company in New York and then take on nearby states. She came up with the idea for â€œCozy Oasisâ€ after working with an Airbnb host with multiple listings. â€œIâ€™m thinking big because of Dean Rolle,â€ she said.
In a story posted on her LinkedIn account, Dean Rolle said of Ms. Warmington: â€œThis young women had never seen financials two years prior to the competition, yet when questioned by the judges she defended her forecast, net revenues, and labor costs. Ashleyâ€™s presentation of Cozy Oasis is a true testament that Medgar Ever College students can develop sustainable businesses if given support and opportunity.â€
MEC students were supported by a team that included Dean Rolle, Dr. Iris Billy, the Director of Entrepreneurship & Experiential Learning (EEL) at the School of Business, Christian Washington, Entrepreneur in Residence at the School of Business, and the other EEL students.
Ms. Warmington started preparing two years ago, according to Dean Rolleâ€™s account. She trained with a group of MEC student entrepreneurs during winter break in a week-long Fullbridge boot camp and competed in MEC’s Shark Tank and won first place. After the Shark Tank win, she scraped her existing business, stopped taking classes and developed a strategy to launch Cozy Oasis, Dr. Rolle writes.
In January 2016, the (EEL) team encouraged Ms. Warmington to return to MEC and she did. She completed her second week of the boot camp, won the first place student competition for $1000, and used the money to pay tuition.
Later in January, she accompanied the Dean and two other women student entrepreneurs to share their entrepreneurial stories at the StartUpAfrica Women Entrepreneurship Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. In Kenya, Ms. Warmington investigated developing an app for her business and options to take the business global.
Through EEL, she also received a $5,000 loan from the Womenâ€™s Enterprise Action Loan. â€œIt opened my eyes,â€ Ms. Warmington said of the Kenya trip.
Once again, she competed in the MEC 2016 Shark Tank and won the first place prize, $10,000, which was funded by a Medgar Eversâ€™ EEL program donor. Following the Shark Tank win, she competed in the Regional New York State Business Plan Competition and earned the right to compete with five other Medgar teams in Albany at the finals in April.