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The 2023 Startup Competition Awards $5,000 in Prizes

The Economics Program’s Shark Tank-style event invites entrepreneurs to judge the inventive ideas of students from all majors.

Isabelle Levy '24

The Competition is Real

On Wednesday, December 6, students took the Humanities Theatre stage to pitch their business ideas to entrepreneurs and investors in a startup pitching competition, the Purchase version of the popular ABC show Shark Tank.

Judges and audience members chose the best in three categories, with prizes totaling $5,000 provided by the Dr. E. Lawrence Deckinger Family Foundation.

Grand Prize

This year’s grand prize for the best new business idea of $2,500 went to Priya Tejpal (Communications), Diogo Diallo (Arts Management), and Steven Reyes (Photography) for  iTextbook, their idea for a new online textbook company to save students money and make it easier to access much needed course materials.

Community Enhancement

Anabela Taveira (Biology) won the Community Enhancement award of $1,500  for her popular service, Fairy Sweet-Cakes On Campus, which makes and delivers special occasion cakes to her classmates.

Read More About Anabela Taveira

Audience Favorite

The Audience Favorite Prize of $1,000 went to Acting majors Tachynel Merveille and Destiny Barbour for Bev N’Tings, their already thriving on-campus catering company.

“Shark Tank offers Purchase students incredible opportunities. We have contestants who are already running their small businesses, and the competition provides them with the chance to contemplate scaling up and dreaming big,” says Assistant Professor of Economics Iuliia Chikish, who spearheaded the competition.

“Additionally, we have students who only have their big idea, and Shark Tank assists them in formalizing it into a doable business plan. The Microeconomics I and Entrepreneurship courses provided by the Economics department are invaluable for comprehending the costs and benefits of a business, as well as understanding how to integrate it into both local and global markets.” 

The Sharks

The “sharks” were a diverse group of entrepreneurs who provided invaluable feedback after each student presentation. They included:

Zoe Gadsden ’15

A proud graduate of Purchase College, Zoe Gadsden double majored in economics and arts management. She is currently the COO of Matter Labs, the company behind zkSync, whose mission is to break financial barriers and enhance people’s freedom by enabling the mass adoption of public blockchains.

Matter Labs recently raised an impressive $200 million. A founding member of the creative collective Female Narratives, Gadsen is on the 2022 Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe/Finance list.

Alicia Grande

Alicia Grande founded Grande Cosmetics in 2008 with a revolutionary lash serum. Now nearly 15 years later, Grande is the CEO at the helm of America’s top lash and brow serum brand, which has accumulated 100+ industry awards and sold over 10 million bottles.

Passionate about helping others, she created the philanthropy initiative, Grande Gives Back, to raise over $800,000 for those in need. Employing over 95% women of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and ages, she empowers each employee to flourish within a positive environment.

Nick Ohnell

Entrepreneur Nick Ohnell is founder, former CEO, and owner of Communications Supply Corporation; CEO of Ohnell Capital; President of the Ohnell Family Foundation; and trustee of Manhattan Institute.

Nick Read

Nick Read has had an extensive corporate career, most notably with the advertising group Deloitte and WPP. More recently Read has ventured out on his own, providing advice to young, independent entrepreneurs in the services sectors. He also acts as CFO to the not-for-profit International Center of Photography, located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

David Settanni ’09

After graduating cum laude from the economics program at Purchase, David Settanni worked at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as a Field Economist. In 2018, he founded a Registered Investment Advisory firm, Settanni Financial. Currently, he is Chief Financial Officer of Luxie Club, a luxury e-commerce business.