Entrepreneurial students connect at kickoff event

Nearly 300 students flocked to eHub in Collegetown Sept. 9 for a kickoff event hosted by Entrepreneurship at Cornell, where two student teams were declared winners of the eLab pitch contest.

Agcess, a company aiming to help small farmers access precision agricultural insights, and The Poool, which seeks to create coworking spaces for fashion designers, won the night’s pitch contests. Each team won $1,000 and automatic admission into the eLab business accelerator, a yearlong program offering coursework, mentoring, coworking space, access to resources and legal services and a $5,000 investment in the business for student teams interested in developing and growing their own startups.

“I’m excited to use this opportunity to be with other student collaborators and learn from them,” said Somil Aggarwal ’22, one of the co-founders of Agcess, along with Fernando Galvan ’25 and Khusel Avirmed ’21.

Students had the opportunity to visit with each other and meet faculty and staff from 23 organizations offering resources to Cornell entrepreneurs.

“We have great ideas, but as students, we need some concrete guidance from someone who has done this before,” Avirmed said.

Jackson Kwon ’22 and Beca Boudet ’22, both fashion students in the College of Human Ecology, want to create a makerspace for young fashion designers, who are often hampered by the costs of machinery and studio space.

“Now that there are actual people to help us out, I feel like the idea to actualization process might be much more realistic,” Kwon said.

Along with the pitch contest, students at the kickoff event could visit tables staffed by various programs, clubs and organizations on campus with resources for entrepreneurs, from Students Agencies Inc. to the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship to Epsilon Nu Tau (ENT), a new entrepreneurship fraternity on campus.

Hannah Chadwick ’22, CEO of the fraternity, said she transferred to Cornell because of its entrepreneurship programs and was excited to learn about the fraternity for students who have an interest in entrepreneurship.

“A lot of our members haven’t started a venture, but they have an authentic passion about being entrepreneurial,” she said. The club helps students connect with each other to talk about their business ideas, as well as to find alumni mentors and others to help them move forward.

Chadwick was joined at the table by fraternity members Mingyang Xu ’23, who’s starting a synthetic biology company to deal with heavy metal pollution in land and water, and Martin Stoyanov ’23, a hotel school student interested in travel and tourism apps.

“Entrepreneurship is more of a mindset,” Chadwick said. “You can work in consulting and still be an entrepreneur; they’re not exclusive.”

Zachary Shulman ’87, J.D. ’90, director of Entrepreneurship at Cornell, said he was delighted by the turnout at the event and the energy of the students, who continue to create ideas and businesses despite the challenges of the pandemic.

“Each year our kickoff event is a fantastic way to start the semester,” Shulman said. “This year was particularly special given that kickoff 2020 was virtual. There is no replacing a live event when it comes to convening students full of entrepreneurial energy.”

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