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Project Entrepreneur has female-led companies competing in weekend Intensive

It’s crunch time for seven female-led New York City small businesses.

The entrepreneurs are finalists in this year’s Project Entrepreneur competition, launched in September from a partnership between a foundation established by the NYC-based apparel company Rent the Runway and the Swiss finance firm UBS.

On Saturday, more than 200 owners of 150 women-led businesses from 26 U.S. states — chosen from the competition — will gather at the Conrad Hotel in Battery Park City for an NYC Weekend Intensive, which will feature networking events and seminars led by notable female entrepreneurs like Bethenny Frankel, the TV personality and founder of Skinnygirl Cocktails, and fashion-industry giant Rebecca Minkoff.

The next day, the competition’s 12 finalist companies, seven of which are based in NYC and two of which will be announced during the Weekend Intensive, will pitch their concepts to a panel of experts.

The panel will select three winners to receive $10,000 and an invitation to a five-week business incubator program at the Rent the Runway offices.

According to Jenny Fleiss, Rent the Runway’s co-founder, the company teamed with UBS to give resources to female entrepreneurs to diversify the face of small business in America, which has traditionally been associated with men.

“I think there’s so many opportunities to unlock amazing ideas from demographics that aren’t represented in the current makeup of entrepreneurs,” she told amNewYork. “We need more women out there starting ideas, getting funding and going after their dreams and their visions.”

The companies attending the event are in stages from beta to launched but still small, as they needed to have received less than $100,000 in institutional investment to qualify.

We chatted with founders from the seven local companies about their businesses, all of which are in the beta stage, and what they expect from their big weekend.

Fon Powell, Founder, Sodium Analyte Level Test (S.A.L.T.)

What is the premise of your business?
Photo Credit: Courtesy of S.A.L.T.

What is the premise of your business?

S.A.L.T. is empowering the 78 million Americans to manage hypertension at home with the first device on the market to measure daily salt intake. Our smartphone-based device consists of a disposable stick and mobile app, which measures daily salt from a single urine test.

How did you prepare for the Weekend Intensive?

I prepared for the Weekend Intensive by focusing the majority of my time on the pitch competition. I wanted to make sure my pitch told a clear, compelling story.

What do you hope to gain from the experience? I hope to grow my network of like-minded young, entrepreneurial women and learn from their journeys.

Kristine Pachuta, Co-founder, CortexMD

What is the premise of your business?
Photo Credit: Marisa Erin Photography

What is the premise of your business?

CortexMD is a radiology clinical decision support software tool aimed at reducing radiology costs and unnecessary radiological testing throughout our health care system. Up to 29% of all radiology tests performed in the U.S. annually are medically unnecessary or probably unnecessary. Beginning in 2017, tools like ours will be required under ACA regulations. By providing physicians with recommendations of which radiology test to run first, we can help lower costs from unnecessary tests.

How did you prepare for the Weekend Intensive?

I will prepare for the Weekend Intensive by researching the speakers and workshops and preparing questions relevant to challenges we are facing in our business.

What do you hope to gain from the experience?

It is always inspiring to spend time with other female entrepreneurs and I look forward to the sessions I hope to get some valuable insights on how to be learning more about other businesses. By talking with the other attendees and attending our current approach to sales and marketing.

Misha Laskin and Marta Jamrozik, Co-founders, Claire

What is the premise of your business?
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Claire

What is the premise of your business?

Misha: Claire is a data company for fashion. We help fashion brands and retailers figure out what to sell next, and how to price it.

How did you or will you prepare for the Weekend Intensive?

Marta: We're preparing for the pitch -- we're taking this [time] to think about exactly what we want to say, and how we can make the most of those five minutes!

What do you hope to gain from the experience?

Marta: We're so excited for the line-up of phenomenal speakers. It was hard to choose which sessions to attend, since they're all really good. Misha and I ended up selecting different sessions to take full advantage of the program. We're also really excited to meet other awesome entrepreneurs within the community.

Stephanie Benedetto, Founder, NYC-based Queen of Raw

What is the premise of your business?
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Queen of Raw

What is the premise of your business?

The textile industry is second only to agriculture as the biggest polluter of clean water globally; the dyeing, rinsing and treatment of textiles release toxic chemicals into our water supply that cannot be filtered or removed. Queen of Raw's digital platform connects independent designers to suppliers of innovative and sustainable raw materials.

How did you prepare for the Weekend Intensive?

I reached out to some of the women participating in Project Entrepreneur to connect and start to share resources, answer each other's questions and provide support. I also refined my pitch deck and practiced my presentation for the live pitch competition.

What do you hope to gain from the experience?

I'm excited to be able to share my journey with other female entrepreneurs, investors and executives, while growing my community of strong, powerful women that I can learn from. Together we can change the world!

Atima Lui and Nancy Madrid, Co-founders, Mia Pielle

What is the premise of your business?
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mia Pielle

What is the premise of your business?

Atima: We have set out to redefine the color nude in fashion. The fashion industry labels products nude that are not, in fact, nude for everyone. Women come in a wide range of beautiful skin tones, and they all deserve products that match their unique hue and meet their needs. Mia Pielle is a #TrueNude platform that curates lingerie, clothing and accessories in six different shades of nude from a variety of online retailers and brands.

How did you prepare for the Weekend Intensive?

Nancy: Our goal was to launch a version of our product before the Weekend Intensive. We launched Mia Pielle Alpha \[the second phase afer Beta\] on March 31st to 300 \[testers\]. We want to come to the weekend intensive ready to showcase our platform and ready to prove that this unmet need in the fashion world, that women do want to find the perfect shoes or the perfect bra in their #TrueNude.

What do you hope to gain from the experience?

Nancy: We hope to learn from successful female entrepreneurs how to grow our business, but most importantly, we want to get feedback. Feedback from entrepreneurs and potential users has enabled us to refine our idea and turn Mia Pielle into a customer-centered platform. We are also looking for advice on how to scale in a field in which the majority of both entrepreneurs and investors are male. This is the true value of the weekend intensive.

Christine and Caroline Strzalka, Co-founders, itsbyu

What is the premise of your business?
Photo Credit: Courtesy of itsbyu

What is the premise of your business?

Christine : Itsbyu is a DIY wedding flower company. We provide kits with all the fresh flowers, tools, and accessories you need, along with an easy online streaming video that teaches you how to make the flower design of your choice. You can do your own bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces, and more.

How did you prepare for the Weekend Intensive?

Caroline: We're refining our investor pitch and putting finishing touches on our website before we relaunch in a few weeks.

What do you hope to gain from the experience?

Caroline: We're really looking forward to networking with other female entrepreneurs and investors. We're also hoping to connect with new mentors and advisors in the fashion, bridal, and e-commerce spaces.

Mita Carriman, Founder, Adventurely

What is the premise of your business?
Photo Credit: Deneka Peniston

What is the premise of your business?

Adventurely is kind of like Yelp meets Tinder but not necessarily for dating. It's an app for finding activity partners for things like museums, restaurants, cafe co-working sessions, and running or biking in Central or Prospect Park. Browse and add activity listings you want to do to your Adventurely itinerary, and we connect you to other users with matching itineraries so that you can coordinate going together.

How did you prepare for the Weekend Intensive?

To be honest, with the grind of being a tech founder, I feel that you always have to be prepared and cognizant of your numbers, research, user feedback, and advisory feedback.

What do you hope to gain from the experience?

Gaining vital, priceless insight from some of the most brilliant and impressive women leaders in business will be pretty amazing. Also, connecting and building meaningful relationships and community with the 200 other female founders that are attending. I'm beyond excited for it all, and can't wait!

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