Fashion has no limits for Rebecca Deutsch-Itzkowitz.
The 23 year-old Queens woman has made a career of helping women in the Orthodox Jewish community find stylish clothes that are also modest.
“I think a lot of modest fashion in the world is dowdy but it doesn’t have to be,” said Deutsch-Itzkowitz, one of the winners of the Queens Economic Development Corporation’s StartUP! Business Plan competition.
The annual contest focuses on local entrepreneurs looking to boost their fledgling businesses. The three winners were announced last week at Resorts World Casino New York City, which helps fund the program. They each receive a $10,000 grant and support from the QEDC.
A self-described “crafty kid,” Deutsch-Itzkowitz started sewing at a young age and then took classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology before graduating from Queens College with a degree in textiles and fashion.
At first, she altered store-bought clothing for women to make sure they fit the Jewish Orthodox modesty standards, which require that collarbones, knees and elbows are covered.
“I would lengthen skirts and add sleeves,” said Deutsch-Itzkowitz, who lives in Kew Gardens Hills. “Then I started making custom fit gowns.”
In a short time, Deutsch-Itzkowitz has expanded her Impact Fashion line to boutiques in the city, upstate New York, Philadelphia and has plans to bring her work to Los Angeles and Cleveland.
And she wants to widen her clientele. Her fashion has also been a hit with women from cultures outside the Orthodox Jewish community — such as conservative Christian and Muslim women, who also want to dress modestly.
“The grant will allow me to expand my collection season,” she said. “I had ideas for 15 dresses, but I couldn’t make the samples because I didn’t have the cash upfront.”
Movitzsa Simmons, whose Smooth Pops idea won a grant, also got her inspiration at home. The Long Island City mom was wary of giving her 6-month old son fruit pops laden with sugar water and dye.
“I searched to find a product that I could give to my young son that I wouldn’t feel guilty nutritionally (about), but that he could also enjoy on his own in freezer tube form, and I couldn’t find anything of the sort!” she told amNewYork in an email.
Her Smooth Pops are made simply with filtered water, cane sugar and fresh, whole fruit.
“The (grant) will go directly into securing the kitchen space we need to start production in time for our June launch, as well as the direct cost expenses for our first couple months of business,” said Simmons. “I am so excited to go into production and see Smooth Pops on the shelves of local specialty stores, and winning the competition has allowed me to make that happen.”
Victor Hunt, a Jamaica resident who is studying at Yale University, won a grant for creating Paragon Real Estate Technologies, an online marketplace that allows building managers to post repairs and get bids from contractors online.
The winners were selected from 42 teams that submitted business plans.
Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corporation, said the winners of the StartUP! Program can inspire other entrepreneurs.
“We plant the seeds and help them grow,” Bornstein said. “But each of the winners had an idea, and they went with it.”