A Trifecta of Triumphs for Queensborough’s Student Entrepreneurs at the CUNY & Capital One Community College Innovation Challenge Semi-Finals

Published: January 20, 2017

Queensborough’s students wowed judges with their business acumen at the CUNY & Capital One Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC) Semi-Finals held at the CUNY Graduate Center on January 11.  A total of five Queensborough students, including one team of three, each received a $500 seed grant and IPad and will advance to the final phase of the challenge in April for an additional sum of money to start their businesses.  There were over 25 applications from each of the CUNY community colleges to compete in the CCIC and 18 teams were selected to compete in the semi-finals.

Sophia Worrell presented her business plan, Gifted Child Project, after her volunteer work at a domestic violence shelter opened her eyes to the dire needs of its children. Over time, she witnessed the trauma and neglect that perpetuated a vicious cycle of failure in school and abusive behavior as they got older. These harsh realities inspired Sophia to reach out to middle school age children to help them realize the indirect value of staying in school.

Ms. Worrell sees her own education as a way to reach out to the community and make a difference in the lives of others, particularly those who need help the most. “I have always been driven to break down barriers for homeless children. Queensborough gave me the support and skills to pursue my ideas and ultimately compete in this event.”

Business Administration students Timothy Hines, Razieh Arabi and Lewis O’Maar explained the cost effective benefits of their business model and app, Adulting, designed specifically to assist young adults to effectively manage their finances. Another Queensborough student semi-finalist, Engineering Technology major Sergio Averez, discussed his vision for small business owners to develop winning marketing strategies.

The event began with a Fireside Chat featuring NBC’s Harry Smith and Steve Blank, a well-known entrepreneur and graduate of Van Buren high school. Blank was a resident of Queens before moving to Silicon Valley.  

A special appearance was made by Queensborough student Kelvin Henry, who received national press attention last year for his business idea, KMATIKZ. Kelvin is paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a gunshot wound in his back. His disability inspired him to create a line of fashion-forward apparel for the mobility impaired that he sketches, designs and sews on his own industrial sewing machine. Kelvin, who served as a mentor to this year’s student entrepreneurs, presented an award and spoke about his opportunity to turn his dreams and challenges into a viable business.   

The CCIC program was led by Dr. Christine Mooney, Associate Professor in the Business department at Queensborough Community College and the principal investigator of the grant, supported from Capital One Bank.  The grant is in partnership with Philip Loew, Associate Director, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, NYC Regional Innovation Node Office, CUNY.

“It is thrilling to witness the successes of our students, knowing how hard they’ve worked to bring together all of the skills necessary to present a winning business plan,” said Dr. Mooney. “It takes an enormous amount of creativity and commitment to bring an idea to life and effectively communicate that idea to an audience of peers and judges.”

About CCIC

This is the third year for the CUNY & Capital One CUNY-wide Entrepreneurship Challenge program on a university wide level. The program operated for two years prior to that on the Queensborough campus.  

The year-long program provides community college students the opportunity to explore, engage and develop their business hypothesis.  The program operates in two phases.  Phase one focuses on the development of a value proposition and initial customer discovery.  Phase two focuses on the completion of additional customer discovery and the completion of the right side of the Business Model Canvas. Students also receive a seed grant in Phase two. The grant enables them to further develop an aspect of their business concept.  

Additionally, the program is supported by both mentorship and financial support from Capital One Bank.  This is the fifth year they have provided program support.  In addition, this year, the program now has a permanent home at the New York City Regional Innovation Node, and is being supported as well by the NSF I-Corps program.  

About Capital One 

Capital One Financial Corporation (www.capitalone.com) is a financial holding company whose subsidiaries, which include Capital One, N.A., and Capital One Bank (USA), N. A., had $205.9 billion in deposits and $298.3 billion in total assets as of June 30, 2014. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Capital One offers a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients through a variety of channels. Capital One, N.A. has approximately 900 branch locations primarily in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. A Fortune 500 company, Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "COF" and is included in the S&P 100 index.

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