Emory Entrepreneurship Summit provides business insights, keys to success

By Patty Pohuski | Emory Business | April 26, 2018

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Doris Mukang with Johari Africa Enterprise provided business insights during a micro-entrepreneurship panel at the fourth annual Emory Entrepreneurship Summit.

Students, faculty, staff and the Atlanta community had the opportunity to dive into the world of entrepreneurship as Goizueta Business School, in conjunction with Emory Entrepreneurship Ecosystem (E-Cubed), hosted the fourth annual Emory Entrepreneurship Summit earlier this month.

Attendees learned from keynote speaker Jim Lanzone 98JD/MBA, chief digital officer of CBS Corporation and chief executive officer of CBS Interactive, and had the opportunity to get advice from other Emory alumni who have found success as entrepreneurs. Students also showcased their ideas through the Pitch the Summit competition.

One highlight from the summit was the micro-entrepreneurship panel presented by Emory Impact Investing Group (EIIG), featuring four local entrepreneurs:

  • Nicole Massiah of Krumbz Bakery, a bakery in Atlanta dedicated to providing desserts, including custom cakes and cake truffles;
  • Eden Fesshazion of Eden Fesshazion, LLC, a law firm that specializes in immigration, family law and personal injury;
  • Doris Mukang of Johari Africa Enterprise, a company that employs African refugee women to produce traditional African clothing and accessories, which are sold primarily through markets and tradeshows;
  • Akissi Stokes of WUNDERgrubs, a sustainable food revolution by using protein-rich mealworms as a primary ingredient in its cookies and baked treat.

Starting, growing and maintaining a business is no easy task, and each of the four entrepreneurs talked about the challenges they have faced and lessons they have learned through the process.

One of Massiah’s keys to success was knowing the full picture, something she didn’t understand until she dove into the inner workings of the business. What started out as a simple process of cataloging all of her products quickly turned into a multi-day project of trying to organize more than 2,000 products.

“For me with the food business, it was not only the policies and some of the laws and regulations because you’re dealing with selling food that’s going to be consumed by the public, but you’re dealing with all of the inventory,” Massiah said. “You think about baking cakes, cupcakes and cake truffles, and it sounds so simplistic. But those little details made it much more complex than I ever thought.”

Sometimes it’s not always working with a variety of products but more so working with a variety of people. Mukang said one of her biggest challenges is working with women from Bhutan, Burma, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia — all of whom come from different cultural backgrounds.

“You are trying to address all these cultural nuances, and then not to forget that they’re from a background of torture and trauma,” Mukang said. “We’re thinking of all of those things and trying to accommodate that and still encourage these women.”

One of the biggest factors in starting a business is having community support from the very beginning. With the help of farmer’s markets, repeat customers, EIIG and cohorts, Stokes has been able to build vital community support for her business.

“The community has been surprisingly supportive,” Stokes said. “I definitely consider myself a social entrepreneur. It’s community support, and mine’s been more business-based than anything.”

Organizations like EIIG and Social Enterprise @ Goizueta’s Start:ME program have helped many local entrepreneurs succeed in starting a business, including Fesshazion.

“We have a lot of the interns come in from the community, and it’s been really nice,” Fesshazion said. “We’ve helped the interns, and they’ve helped us. Our business is maybe a little bit different, but through EIIG and Start:ME, the continued mentorship program has been priceless.”

Massiah echoed the sentiment, stating that it’s important to have a passion to get the business started, but it takes more to make it successful.

“You can come in with passion, but passion isn’t enough,” Massiah said. “You have to have determination. You have to have discipline. And sometimes, to be frank, you don’t really feel so much. But to have a pseudo-partner, and I think EIIG functions very much as one, gives you that extra push sometimes when you may need. It makes it so much easier and makes the process so much smoother.”

Alumni Spotlight Session

The summit also featured a variety of entrepreneurial alumni who presented during the Alumni Spotlight Session. This year’s spotlights were all BBA graduates, returning to campus to share their stories and words of advice with eager students looking to potentially start their own entrepreneurial journeys.

They included:

  • Andrew Berman 07BBA, founder and former COO and board member of Nanit
  • Brandon Fishman 03BBA, CEO of Internet Marketing Inc. and CEO of Vitacup
  • David Gaspar 02BBA, managing director at DDG
  • David Mandelbaum 07BBA and Jessica Lloyd 07BBA, co-founders of Panatea
  • Nathan Meeks 07BBA, co-founder and CEO at Gigzolo
  • Joshua Sigel 02BBA, COO of Innit

Read more about these alumni and their advice to others who want to succeed as entrepreneurs.

Pitch the Summit competition

Undergraduate students also had the opportunity to sign up for the Pitch the Summit competition, where they learn how to effectively pitch an idea for a new venture.

Individuals crafted an elevator pitch that verbally outlines an entrepreneurial concept or idea in a short period of time. Students then had to pitch their idea to a panel of judges with the most successful pitches advancing through three rounds of competition.

This year’s winning team was Vimband, with Kieren Helmn 19BBA leading the team. Helmn’s team will receive guidance, financial support and in-kind contributions in order to move the venture forward.