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On Wednesday, April 16, the Center for Women and Financial Independence held the second annual Draper Business Plan Competition, sponsored by alumna Melissa Draper ’77 and her husband Tim Draper, at the Campus Center.
They founded the program in order to encourage students of all majors to generate creative business ideas and turn them into a model. In preparation for the competition, WFI held a series of workshops to assist students convert their ideas into viable businesses. These workshops covered networking, planning, pitching and selling a business model.
Winning submissions last year received $10,000 for the grand prize, $7,500 for the second place prize, $5,000 for third prize, and $500 for the audience favorite. However, this year the judges decided to have one grand prize of $10,000 and three runner-up prizes of $5,000. Smith student Thu Do ’16 and UMass Amherst student Tung Pham ’15 won this year’s competition with their submission “Helix” – a system to streamline customer transactions with one’s fingerprints.
First runner-up Laura Lubben ’16 and Jasmine Setoodehnia ’14 presented their submission “Mother Nurture.” Said Lubben, “Mother Nurture is a monthly subscription service that allows women to explore a professionally [crafted] box of safe and organic samples customized to each month of their pregnancy.” Julia Edwards ’15 won second runner-up with “Eyeglass,” and third runner-up was Hanyu Zhang ’15 and Jinglin Huang ’14 with “Build for Africa.”
This year the program also accepted submissions from Barnard, Bay Path and Mount Holyoke Colleges in hopes of inspiring more women to take a shot at entrepreneurship.
Celine Rosak ’16, who participated in the J-term workshop series, said, “Women in entrepreneurship are a highly valuable, but untapped, resource that needs to be supported and encouraged… Before the J-term class I had not considered entrepreneurship as something that I would ever be interested in, but after taking the class and attending the prep workshops, I have become very interested in the field.”
Lubben also spoke of the benefits of competing in the Draper program: “This competition was one of the most rewarding things I have done at Smith. Competitions like this allow women to turn their idea into something tangible. I think this gives women the confidence to go after their idea and shows them that it does have value.”
Smith will continue to host the Draper Business Plan Competition in the future. Lubben voiced one concern with this year’s program, “After last year’s competition the winner got to have dinner with the judges. I was disappointed that this was not the same this year. I think that was the biggest prize, and it was unfortunately taken away.”
Still enthusiasm for the competition remained strong. Rosak commented, “There was a lot of attendance at this year’s event, which I imagine might encourage more Smith students to participate next year. This is an exciting event, and I can only imagine that it will continue to grow and expand as time goes on.”