By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Hidden Talent: Underground Stone’s Industry Mixer

By Lakeya Callaway

On Saturday May 4, 2019, the Founder and Designer of Underground Stone (a clothing brand), Lakeya Callaway, held an event called Hidden Talent: Underground Stone’s Industry Mixer.

The goal for the event was to allow entrepreneurs to be seen and to raise awareness about their business, network with likeminded individuals, and receive great advice from David Mammano, an adjunct professor at the University of Rochester and serial entrepreneur who has started seven businesses.

Six businesses were represented at this event: Underground Stone (Lakeya Callaway), DC Premium & Don Carvajal Cafe (Hector Castillo Carvajal), Rochester Artist Collaborative (Adam Eaton & Walta Leake), Una Business Cards (Shelley Chen), and Southside Studios (Eugene Nichols). In addition to that, there were over 30 people in attendance that were interested in learning about the businesses listed above. The feedback given about this event ensures that the goals were met. Here’s what a few of the entrepreneurs had to say:

Eugene Nichols, founder of Southside Studios, was one of the featured entrepreneurs. Southside Studios aims to enhance community through artistic expression in the South Side of Chicago. Following the event, Eugene said, “Lakeya’s event was extremely inspiring! She managed to provide an opportunity for other entrepreneurs to build their brands, all while providing us with the opportunity to connect with David Mammano. The event flow was extremely smooth and I’m looking forward to seeing this event continue!”

“I like the crowd. People are genuinely interested in learning more about startups and business – this was a great event that allows students to learn about startups on campus,” noted Shelley Chen. Shelley is the founder of Una Business Cards, a graphic design company that helps university students and business owners create personalized business card designs and logos.

Hector Castillo Carvajal utilized the showcase to feature Don Carvajal Cafe, his specialty coffee brand with a social entrepreneurship focus. He said, “the Hidden Talent event was successful. It was very helpful for my small business to gain exposure, and bringing the right form of exposure that student businesses and startups need.”

Overall, Lakeya was extremely satisfied knowing that Hidden Talent: Underground Stone’s Industry Mixer created a space where entrepreneurs could talk to students about their businesses, network and have a good time. Moving forward, she is considering making Hidden Talent an annual event.

Lakeya Callaway ’21 is a rising Junior from Washington DC. She had an entrepreneurial spirit since she can remember. She started her entrepreneurial journey as a middle school student selling handmade Waist Beads, Headbands and Snacks & Beverages. From that, she learned valuable skills that she still uses today! Her passion for entrepreneurship is something that she takes pride in.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

2019 Swarm Starter Competition

By Ain Center Staff

Are you ready to celebrate Meliora Weekend with the Ain Center? We’re hosting our first-ever Swarm Starter Competition on Saturday, October 5! This challenge will have the setup of ABC’s Shark Tank, with quick pitches and Q&A with our panel of distinguished judges.

The best part, though? The audience gets to decide who takes home the $20,000 cash prize! We’ll be sharing the voting info in real-time during the event, which you’ll also be able to watch via livestream video on our Facebook page.

Interested in learning more about the competition? Visit our Swarm Starter webpage – we’ll post the winner following the event!

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Summer 2019 at StartFast

By Akshay Rajput

StartFast is a mentorship-driven startup accelerator. Each year they invest in 5-7 software, mobile, or IoT companies & host a 3-month program. StartFast’s program is a highly selective, accepting just 0.25% of applicants; smaller cohorts allow them to tailor the program to the needs of each individual team. They invest $25,000 upfront, with up-to $100,000 in follow-up funding. Teams are plugged into a network of world-class entrepreneurs, investors, corporate executives, and subject matter experts to help take their company to the next level.

StartFast’s leadership team has founded multiple companies, raised more than $350 MM in capital, had $250 MM exits, & $1 B IPO. StartFast uses their network of over 100+ world-class mentors to help entrepreneurs get in front of the right people to accelerate the growth of the company.

This summer, StartFast mentored and invested in the following early stage companies:

As a StartFast summer associate, I had the opportunity to help develop a promising group of startup companies that moved to Syracuse for the summer from across North America. I not only assisted with the daily operations of the StartFast program but also aided the companies in areas of need. I used my specialized skills in marketing and strategy, expanded my knowledge to help the startups design and develop applications, perform market research, prepare due diligence materials, understand markets, channels and competition, formulate strategy/financial pro-formas and other tasks from time to time. In assisting with the program’s daily operations, I prepared for and organized events, assisted with marketing, and provided content for social media.

For multiple companies at StartFast, I strategized and led the execution of lifecycle-based email marketing programs and lead-generation campaigns. Additionally, I led the development and implementation of multi-touch, multi-channel marketing programs inclusive of inbound and outbound tactics, utilized HubSpot to create, deploy and track campaigns, and update key metrics report to stakeholders.

This summer I was able to substantially grow my personal and professional network by connecting with a wide variety of experienced mentors, entrepreneurs and investors. From participating in mentor meetings to attending many community-wide social events, as a StartFast summer associate, I gained a unique perspective on the entrepreneurial ecosystem and beyond.

I believe that this experience at StartFast complements the formal education provided through the Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM) program and is a must-have exposure for budding entrepreneurs. I am grateful and appreciate all the efforts taken by the staff at the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship in providing me with this unique internship opportunity.

Akshay Rajput ’19 (MS) has been working with multinational companies since his graduation. He holds expertise in field of business development, marketing, and resource management. Akshay’s latest experience stems from being a digital media & business development manager for a branding firm. He is currently a Masters candidate in the Technical Entrepreneurship and Management program, with a concentration in Energy & the Environment.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Leap of Faith

By Pooja Bansal

Pursuing a stable and growing career with a big management consulting firm in Mumbai, India, it was a difficult yet necessary choice to do a Master’s program. I always was very keen on pursuing higher studies and enhancing my skill set. When the learning curve started plateauing at work, I started investing my evenings in GRE preparation and grad school research. Learning of my admission to the University of Rochester was a very memorable day for me; I had received admits from a few other schools as well, but after extensive deliberation, I was convinced that the MS in TEAM Program at UR was the most aligned with my career goals. 

Two months later – with all the visa processing and packing done – I took my first ever international flight to the States, with eyes shining bright with so many dreams. Before joining the school, I completed a summer program in Strategic Management at Stanford, where learned about utilization of Global Strategic Thinking (GST) tools and published an article on the utilization of GST tools in the supply chain industry.

Pooja Bansal and her team placed third in the Fall 2018 UR Next Gen Challenge powered by TEAM. From left: Hanyia Ahmed ’22, Akhilesh Vithal Malge ’19, Cole Sonett ’19, Pooja Bansal ’18, and Dr. Duncan Moore.

I started school at the University of Rochester in the Fall of 2017. On my first day, I met the MS TEAM program advisor, Andrea Barrett, with whom I had been in constant touch during the admission phase. She is, and has been, an extremely supportive and helpful advisor one could ever ask for. I had my first very entertaining plus informative week with an amazingly diverse group of classmates and an illustrious faculty.

At UR, I pursued the 3-semester curriculum with the summer internship track. The overall program was very well structured. With a perfect blend of both entrepreneurial sessions and technical classes, I found the program to be very conducive to my growth objectives. MS in TEAM not only helped me gain knowledge in the entrepreneurship and the technical domain (my technical concentration was Data Science), but it also gave me necessary exposure to the right group of people within industry and academia. I also got a chance to take part and represent the school for multiple business competitions during my course duration of 18 months.

Pooja with her diploma following her graduation ceremony.

Right from the beginning, I got a great deal of support and guidance from the staff throughout my MS journey. Kathy Driscoll, who works with students in the TEAM program on career placement, played a crucial role assisting me in designing my approach to network in the industry.

MS TEAM certainly has been a great conversation starter for me in any out-of-school setting. Even during the interviews, recruiters had always been curious to know more about this program and were left impressed by its offering. In short, this program helped me gain a very unique skill set in a well-designed way.

Today, I’m working in a reputed management consulting company as an Analytics Consultant. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue the MS TEAM program, and I’ll forever be a happy TEAM alumna!

Pooja Bansal ’18 (MS) is an Analytics Consultant at Mu Sigma based in Atlanta, GA. She works with the Decision Analytics team for the world’s largest home improvement retailer. Just a few of her many responsibilities are to perform data analytics, obtain findings, and present insights to leadership. She graduated with an MS degree from the University of Rochester in Technical Entrepreneurship and Management in December 2018. While maintaining a great academic record, she also represented UR at various business and analytics competitions.

Originally from a town called Chandigarh in India, she completed her undergraduate studies in Electronics and Communications Engineering in 2013 and worked for 4.5 years as a management consultant before coming to the States. Pooja’s enthusiasm and structured approach to things has always helped her find her way. She is a lover of sushi, road trips and theater, and holds causes like climate change and UNICEF close to her heart. You can reach Pooja at and/or connect with her on LinkedIn.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Fall 2019 Events Calendar

By Ain Center Staff

Welcome to Fall 2019! The summer was spent refreshing programs and planning new projects for our growing community of innovators. Our events calendar (below) is now coded by audience, so you can find exactly what programs you need and want to attend.

If you have any questions about the Ain Center’s fall programming (or if you’d like to get a preview of spring 2020), don’t hesitate to reach out! You can find us in 1-211 Carol Simon Hall or via email at

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

Ready to be an Entrepreneurial Leader?

By Ain Center Staff

Being an entrepreneur means being a leader. It requires steering a group of people toward a certain vision while navigating inevitable pitfalls. It entails an understanding of and ability to implement frameworks to transform an idea into reality. It necessitates a rise to challenges, as well as the determination to learn from failure. Being an entrepreneur is more than monitoring profit and loss; the experience is about becoming a better version of the self.

This is why the Ain Center is excited to debut its new partnership with the Office of the Dean of Students’ Medallion Program. The Medallion Program is an initiative that “aims to educate student leaders by providing opportunities for intentional learning, self-reflection, and skill development.” Bolstered by a variety of training sessions, this is a professional development program that focuses on a student’s leadership skills. The Ain Center has collaborated with ODOS to create a new Entrepreneurship Track within the program to offer students a structured, entrepreneurial leadership experience.

The Entrepreneurship Track is designed for innovative-minded students who aim to deepen their leadership skills while assembling their entrepreneurial “toolkit.” The blend of leadership and entrepreneurship workshops – plus the culminating experiential project – will immerse students in what it means to be an entrepreneurial leader.

Fully integrated into the basic requirements of the Medallion Program, the Entrepreneurship Track provides opportunities at each of the program’s three levels. This starts with six entrepreneurship-focused workshops that fold into the required leadership workshops of Levels 1 and 2. These workshops cover some essential topics:

  • Team Building
  • Voice of the Customer
  • Learning from Failure
  • Business Planning
  • Startup Finances
  • Pitching and Storytelling

Ultimately, the Track culminates in a Level 3 entrepreneurship-focused experiential learning opportunity. This is shaped by the student and guided by the Ain Center. A sort of capstone, this is a chance for students to test out the skills they gain through Levels 1 and 2, and to actually create something of their own. This could be a range of things, such as making measurable progress on an entrepreneurial project or venture, or developing and delivering a workshop to support the entrepreneurial activities of the Ain Center. The flexibility of the Level 3 project will let students dive deep into what they’re passionate about. And, once the program is complete, participants will have a solid foundation to build upon as they continue to grow as an innovative leader.

Ready to learn more about the Track and get started on the program? Contact Matthew Spielmann, Senior Program Manager at the Ain Center, to sign up! 

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

We Made it Through

Spring 2019! [Part II]

By Ain Center Staff

The mark of a great semester? We had to split up our review post! (You can find Part I here.) We are so grateful to have engaged students, faculty, staff, and community members who aim for constant innovation. We started the semester off with fantastic events and kept that momentum throughout the second half.

e5 Capstone Presentations & Poster Session

In April, we celebrated another year of the e5 Program, a tuition-free fifth year for select students to pursue an entrepreneurial project. Four students completed their e5 year and shared their findings at a presentation session. Here is a summary of their projects:

  • Alexander Abrams ’19 – Working with Mira Agneshwar, Alexander developed UR Next Step, a website to help students prepare for the next step after their senior year.
  • Max Berlin ’19 and Grant O’Brien ’19 – Max and Grant spent their e5 year working on Empire Film and Media Ensemble, a nonprofit designed to perform and record a film music repertoire.
  • John Uchal ’19 – John dedicated his fifth year to analyzing the practices and methods of musical instrument design, and brainstorming ways to leverage technology to improve the creation of these instruments.

Money Matters Workshop

Financials are a fundamental aspect of an entrepreneurial venture. UR alumnus Jack Greco shared tips on how to get started. 

Storytelling Workshop

The ability to share your venture depends greatly on building relationships. EIR and VC Kate Cartini offered advice on how to start.

Martin Babinec Lunch & Lecture

This spring we welcomed Martin Babinec to deliver the Spring 2019 Ain Center Lecture. Martin founded TriNet in 1988, serving as CEO for 20 years and now continues as board director. TriNet’s cloud-based HR services cover 17,000+ clients and generate $4B+ annual revenue. Martin is a champion for entrepreneurship and economic development in upstate New York, where he serves as Managing Director of UpVentures Capital, Founder/Chairman of Upstate Venture Connect, and Co-Founder/Chairman of StartFast Venture Accelerator. Martin’s background garnered excitement on and off-campus – more than 70 individuals attended his talk.

In addition to the traditional lecture, Martin and his colleague Phil Levinson (VP and Head of Marketing for EdCast) also spoke during an informal networking lunch. Members of the entrepreneurship faculty, the Simon School Venture Capital Fund, Simon Entrepreneurs Association, the Ain Team, and other guests joined Martin and Phil t0 discuss the nature of investing and entrepreneurship.

New York Business Plan Competition

Hosted on the UR River Campus, the New York Business Plan Competition Finger Lakes Regional Contest was held on April 10. Twenty-six student teams represented seven universities to vie for spots in the statewide finals. Three University of Rochester teams advanced to the Albany round and two of those took home top prizes on April 26. Our advancing teams were:

  • First Place in MedTech & Well-Being ($10,000 Cash Prize): Successful Heart Solutions – Vincent Costantino ’19S (MBA), Joseph Geiger ’19S (MBA), Yangyang Shao ’19 (MS) and Jonathan Yakubov ’19 (MS)
  • Second Place in MedTech & Well-Being ($2,500 Cash Prize): StrongBrain – Max Sims ’16 (BA and BS), ’19S (MBA)
  • Finalist in Technology & Entertainment: MyStohos – Arjun Arora ’19S (MBA), Steven Chew ’19S (MBA) and Michael Gounalakis ’18S (MS)
2019 Forbes Entrepreneurial Competition

A record-breaking 14 teams applied to the 2019 Charles and Janet Forbes Entrepreneurial Competition, designed to encourage undergrad engineering students to consider commercializing their research. This year, the five top teams were able to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, including Ann Forbes ’75, Teddy Bradford, John Diehl, Annette Dunn, and Dean Faklis. Our 2019 winners are:

  • First Place ($5,000 Cash Prize): EZ Water – Afnan Ahmed ’21, Sara Anis ’20, Syed Muhammad Miqdad ’19, Claude Mulindi ’22, and Derrick Murekezi ’19
  • Second Place ($2,500 Cash Prize): WetWare Systems – Nicholas Drogo ’19, Andrew Kaseman ’21, Scott McKinney ’21, Oliver Ostriker ’19, and Bradley Smith ’20
  • Third Place ($1,000 Cash Prize): HORN Empowers – Terrikia Benjamin ’20, Emmanuel Gweamee ’20, and Aime Laurent Twizerimana ’20
2019 Mark Ain Business Plan Competition

Like the Forbes Competition, the 2019 Mark Ain Business Model Competition also received a record number of applicants. Out of 33 teams from across the University, just 10 were chosen to pitch during the semi-final round on May 2. Judges Annie Fitzpatrick Post ’06S (MBA), Jan Kamish, and Mike Kamish ’86 (MS) selected five teams to compete in the final round.

On May 15, those final five were given 10 minutes to share their idea with our distinguished judges, Mark Ain ’67S (MBA), Al Chesonis, Debora LaBudde ’92, ’93S (MBA), and Brennan Mulcahey ’09, ’11S (MBA).

  • First Place ($10,000 Cash Prize and Student Incubator Spot): Successful Heart Solutions – Vinny Costantino ’19 (MBA), Joe Geiger ’19 (MBA), Yangyang Shao ’19 (MS), and Jonathan Yakubov ’19 (MS)
  • Second Place ($2,500 Cash Prize): StrongBrain – Max Sims ’16 (BA and BS), ’19 (MBA)
  • Third Place ($1,000 Cash Prize): MyStohos – Arjun Arora ’19 (MBA) and Steven Chew ’19 (MBA)

We won’t be posting eLaunch content over the summer months, but we’ll be back with more stories, recaps, and student experiences in fall 2019. For now, we’re off to strike up new connections and strive for entrepreneurship programming ever better.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

We Made it Through

Spring 2019!

By Ain Center Staff

Spring 2019 had a recurring theme: no one can build anything alone. Entrepreneurs need a solid team behind them every step of the way, as evidenced throughout our workshops, lectures, and competitions. In case you missed anything, below is a summary of some events we hosted or co-hosted this semester.

Monthly Faculty & Staff Luncheons

Each month, the Ain Center hosts a luncheon open to faculty and staff from throughout the University. These lunches provide insight into the Rochester entrepreneurial ecosystem and allow everyone with an interest in innovation to meet up on a regular basis. This spring we learned about Eastman offerings in music entrepreneurship, the importance of work space and the future of co-working via the Evelo Agency, resources available through Upstate Venture Connect, and RIT’s Accelerator program, where two of our student teams will be in residence this summer. We’d also like to thank our speakers: James Doser, Rachel Roberts, Joseph VanderStel, Christopher Cooley, Nasir Ali, Anthony Testa, Rupa Thind, and Evan Vershay.


Problem Solving Workshop

The first workshop of 2019 was co-hosted with Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership and the Barbara J. Burger iZone – here’s our recap!

Business Plan Workshop

Business plan writing isn’t always easy, but speaker David Mammano summed up the process in a few manageable steps.

Students 2 Startups

This semester brought Students 2 Startups back to the River Campus. On February 15, the Ain Center and the Gwen Greene Center hosted 16 regional startups who pitched their venture to members of the University community. Over 70 attendees were able to learn about innovative work happening in Rochester. The Ain Center’s Senior Program Manager, Matt Spielmann, shared his excitement about the connections made during the event – local entrepreneurs offered valuable internship opportunities and advice to student innovators.

Buzz Lab Boot Camp

In February, we welcomed our second cohort of entrepreneurs to the Buzz Lab Boot Camp, made possible by an EDA University Center grant through the US Department of Commerce. Open to all, this four-week training program covered topics from Idea Filtering to Business Structure and Tax Law. 35 attendees (innovators from the greater Rochester area, including a few UR students) worked with 12 professionals to build their business acumen.

Business Strategy Panel Event

On March 28, Meliora LaunchPad, the Greene Center, and the Ain Center hosted three panelists for a lunch event on business strategy in the tech world. Aditya Agashe (Product Manager, Microsoft), Parth Detroja (Product Manager, Facebook), and Neel Mehta (Product Manager, Google) discussed when and how to enter a new market, as well as their recent book, Swipe to Unlock. Their talk was immensely popular with our students, undergraduate and grad, and the speakers even offered discounted copies of their book.

Upon writing, we realized that we did too many things (yay entrepreneurship events!) to contain it all in one post. You can find Part II here.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

UB Case Competition

By Xueying “Shelley” Chen (with Carolina Lion He and Shengyang “Shawn” Wu)

In April, Team Calorie Surplus participated in the University at Buffalo Case Competition, where each team was given a business case to solve. The assigned case – whether or not a Chinese-born entrepreneur, Jane, should enter the pearl market in Canada – required analysis and a presentation to a panel of judges. During the semi-final round of the competition, these presentations were twenty-minutes long, followed by a ten-minute Q&A session. The team, made up of Shengyang “Shawn” Wu, Xueying “Shelley” Chen, and Carolina Lion He, said it was an intellectually stimulating experience because every minute they were challenged to come up with solutions, supported by valid evidence.

Team Calorie Surplus during the University at Buffalo’s Case Competition.

We booked a bus to Buffalo and checked into the hotel. The first day was hosted at the Buffalo Club, a private club with a long history (we heard it was once connected to the White House when President Reagan was in the office). The welcome event was a great networking opportunity where we connected with professionals who work at Bank of America, Citibank, and Deloitte. We also spoke to MBA students who had ample work experience.

While we did not advance to the final competition, we learned plenty of lessons from people we were fortunate to meet at the competition. Below, we will tell you some key takeaways from our experiences and participation in this competition.

The team in Buffalo (from left to right): Xueying “Shelley” Chen ’19, Carolina Lion He ’21, and Shengyang “Shawn” Wu ’21.

Networking in a Formal Business Setting

We built genuine relationships at the reception, where we connected with other participants as well as professionals (and later through LinkedIn). One of the lessons we learned from a Vice President in a large financial firm is to always follow up with someone on Linkedin. She told us of a student who would repeatedly message her on Linkedin until he asked – and received – a referral for a position.

Analyzing Business Problems and Searching for Solutions

Because this was our first experience of analyzing a business case, it was quite overwhelming for us to delve into the details at the beginning. Both the background of the case and the business question behind it were challenging for us. We read though the case over and over again, talked through our questions, and conducted market research to back up our conclusions, leading us to really grasp the right way of critically analyzing a business conundrum. At the end of the competition, we left Buffalo with more confidence and skills to solve problems with an analytical and fact-based mindset.

Initiating Conversations and Finding Common Ground

How do you start a conversation with others (professionals or participants) in a formal business reception? Ask them, “do you know K-pop?” and follow up with, “do you know BTS (a South-Korean boy band)?”

Just kidding! The takeaway from this is to not talk with the sole purpose of benefiting from others – they will notice and that will not be a positive experience for either one of you. For example, a graduate admissions person sat down at our table and started a conversation with us. He asked us to tell him about “trends,” because he likes to learn from younger people. I asked whether he meant any types of trends because when I think of trends, I mostly think of pop music. This exchange led us to an interesting conversation that touched on pop music, psychology, and university admissions. The one thing to keep in mind is to speak as your true self; do not try to talk about some economic theories just because you think it would make you look cooler or more intelligent. How you deliver your thoughts is often more important than the topic that you are talking about.

Xueying “Shelley” Chen ’19 is a researcher, activist and writer of social entrepreneurship and a believer of impact-driven businesses. She thinks business is a vehicle to deliver profitable, sustainable and socially responsible returns. Shelley puts human-centered impact in the core of her daily business practice. Additionally, Shelley is an active member of the UR entrepreneurial community and she is a member of the Ain Team – a group of elite student ambassadors chosen to promote and increase the visibility of the department and the MS in TEAM program.

By | Innovation, People, Rochester

5 Storytelling Tips

By Ain CFE Staff

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell,” writes Seth Godin. A fantastic idea can’t sell itself – it needs a powerful narrative to grow and take on a life of its own. Whether trying to attain funding or recruit new team members, a well-structured story can make all the difference.

On March 25, Kathryn Cartini (Partner, Chloe Capital; COO, Upstate Venture Connect; Founder, Peacock Media) spoke to students about building relationship capital and how that factors into storytelling. This was the third and final session in the 2019 Mark Ain Business Model Workshops. Held to help prepare students for our upcoming business plan competitions, the Mark Ain Workshops build on the more soft-skill-focused Foundry Forums held during the fall semester. Below are 5 key points drawn from the event.

Show Up

Make an effort to meet as many people as you can. Attend events and get out in the community - quantity is important, especially before you narrow your focus. As you talk to more people, you can get a sense of what individuals are looking for and how they think. This will help form a foundation for your story.

Identify Your Audience

Who are you talking to? What do they care about? Do extensive research, as this will help tailor the content and tone used in your pitch. Kate also encourages entrepreneurs to keep everything organized via a CRM (or even on Google Sheets!). Imagining a specific person may also help when designing your presentation, so be sure to keep detailed notes of your interactions.

Be Respectful

Relationships are built on a foundation of trust and respect. While you want to get your point across and make the most of each conversation, be passionate but not pushy. Pay attention to how much of people's time you are taking up and recognize that not every interaction will be immediately beneficial. According to Kate, "relationships will build your business" - don't mar the bonds you create by bulldozing over the people you want to work with.

Get Creative and Give First

Before talking with someone, consider what you bring to the table. Do you have any skills that they could benefit from? Kate urges entrepreneurs to "give first," a tactic that goes against the traditional ask. By sharing something of yourself, you open the relationship on a positive note and ingratiate yourself to people who may be key contacts in the future.

Find the Common Thread

Once you have started to grow these relationships, you have to assemble all of your pieces. Think about how your individual background melds with your venture - everything should fit together. Why are you the one that has to make this a reality? If things are a bit hazy, try to create a visual map or timeline to help form a narrative. In any case, consult with advisors and peers who may see links that you have missed. Share from a place of experience, speak with confidence, and be humble - listen to your audience and continually adjust your story to reflect your growth.

If you have any questions about pitching or learning more about any of the topics discussed during the workshop, please contact the Ain Center at or meet with one of our Experts-in-Residence.