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Kudos for Smith Entrepreneurship

Smith’s fledgling entrepreneurs will be well represented at an annual banquet of the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Initiative held at the Log Cabin in Holyoke on Tuesday, April 15.

Six Smith students and an alumna will be honored at the banquet as winners this year of Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards for their business ideas. In addition, Lilith Dornhuber deBellesiles ’08 will participate in an “elevator pitch” contest, in which she will give a 90-second presentation of her business idea in competition with students from 12 other regional schools for cash prizes.

The Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, based in Springfield, encourages entrepreneurship among young people in western Massachusetts.

Here are snapshots of the Entrepreneurship Spirit Award winners:

Crista Burke '10
Business Name:  Expressive Videography
Spirit Award:       $1,000 (Spring 2008)
For the past four years, Expressive Videography has provided low-profile, unobtrusive filming services for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other events. Through this business and with the assistance of her one employee, Crista has filmed more than 30 events in western New England and upstate New York. Building on Expressive Videography's past success and potential for future growth (the company already has multiple jobs lined up for summer 2008), Crista seeks to increase the company's capabilities and profits by purchasing the equipment they use most frequently. While the renting model has proven feasible to date, the expense of renting equipment for each job significantly cuts into profits. Once past the initial capital costs of the equipment, Expressive Videography will yield increased profits, enabling additional monies to be reinvested in the business to purchase more and better equipment.

Jennifer Connor ’AC10
Business Name:    Jennie Blue
Spirit Award:        $2,000 (Fall 2007)
Jennifer, an entrepreneur for the past two decades, ran a successful retail store in Jamaica, Vermont. Her shop offered various gifts for the home, including pillows, specialty soaps, quilts, lamps, paintings, and area rugs. Her one-of-a-kind commemorative ceramic creations comprised the heart of her business. “My pieces are all unique, commissioned works of art that capture and preserve specific life moments,” says Jennifer. When she enrolled at Smith College in September 2006, after the youngest of her five sons graduated high school, she continued to run her retail store on the weekends while painting as many ceramics as she could during the week. In 2006, Jennifer grossed $18,000 in sales of her ceramic pieces alone. Therefore, in August of 2007, Jennifer decided to close her retail store, opting instead to offer her art through another retail store in Vermont as well as on her own Web site.

Jessica Harwood ’05
Business Name:  FEAST: Farm-Fresh Environmental and Sustainable Sustenance
Concept Award:   $500 (Fall 2007)
According to Jessica’s research, many people opt for the easiest and least expensive choice when it comes to eating, sometimes at the risk of their own health and the health of the environment. The United States, in particular, is suffering from an obesity epidemic, with the rates of high cholesterol and diabetes higher than ever. Beyond the effects of American eating habits on our individual health, the average distance food travels to reach an average consumer’s plate in America is 1,500 miles. This means that for every meal we eat, we have a profound impact on the planet from the emissions and gas used to get our food to us. However, people are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of eating whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for their own health, and of buying locally grown produce for the health of the environment. Recognizing that purchasing only locally grown food can be inconvenient (many of our grocery stores simply do not carry local produce), Jessica’s solution is to enable residents in Western Massachusetts to make healthy and environmentally conscious produce purchases by delivering fresh, healthy, local food to their doors. Customers will be able to select from a variety of vegetables, meats, grains and dairy that Jessica will deliver using a biodiesel-powered truck. In addition, Jessica plans to work with an established chef whose specialty is “ecologically sensitive, whole-foods cooking” to offer prepared dinners and baked goods that will be boxed and delivered within a 50-mile radius of the FEAST kitchen.
On Thursday, March 27, Jessica competed in and won the UMass Executive Summary Competition, earning a $2,000 spirit award to help launch FEAST by June 2008.

Rachel Imhof ‘10
Business Name:  410 BC, Clothing Company
Spirit Award:       $1,000 (Spring 2008)
In the summer of 2007, Rachel successfully started an online clothing company,, with her business partner Nicole Giambalvo ’10, a Mount Holyoke College student ($1,000 was also awarded to Nicole this Spring). 410BC offers one of a kind hand screen-printed, limited edition t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts. In addition to their artistic flair, Rachel and Nicole are committed to taking an environmentally friendly approach to producing their clothing: all designs are printed on 100 percent organic cotton, sweatshop-free, American Apparel shirts. According to these owners, “410 BC is a strong, recognizable brand. We believe in paying attention to every small detail…by personalizing each sale, we are able to build memorable experiences for our customers,” which keeps them coming back. A growing percentage of the company’s sales are to repeat customers who have begun collecting the limited edition designs. Launched in August of 2007, their Web site initially attracted a mere 40 unique visitors a month. Traffic has steadily increased and since February 2008 continues to capture over 7,000 unique visitors per month. Though 410 BC clothing is sold primarily online, select items are also available in boutiques in Northampton and San Francisco.

Ellen Kreitmeier 'AC08
Business Name:  I & I International Farmers
Spirit Award:      $1,000 (Spring 2008)
Ellen began I & I International Farmers as a landscape design business on Cape Cod in 1988.  The business has been successful, both with profits and with recognition: one of its client's gardens received the Wakefield Award Gold Medal from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in 2003. In 1998, Ellen noticed an untapped niche in the cut flower industry and, desiring to enhance her business, developed a new business plan to shift the focus of the business to cut flowers, while retaining long-term garden design clients. By 1999 she began growing and selling ornamental grasses to the Boston wholesale flower market. The grasses produced abundantly and were well received at the market. Almost completed with her degree from Smith, Ellen plans to revitalize I & I International Farmers after graduation, expanding its direction yet again, this time to grains. Her next steps for the business include hiring an excavation contractor to increase the amount of cultivatable land on her property and then planting this land with fast growing and hardy heirloom grains. Based on her recent market research, Ellen has determined that the flower merchants are looking for plants that are abundant and unusual, with rich texture and good durability. To meet this demand, she plans to plant ancient grains such as kamut, spelt, millet, barley, and rye; she will choose heirloom varieties of seed to ensure a unique product.

Jennifer Sheria Little '10
Business Name:  Dorm Designs
Concept Award:  $500
The focus of Jennifer's business concept is decorating and organizing college students' rooms, in addition to decorating themed parties. Based on her experience at Smith, Jennifer notes, “Dorm rooms at Smith come in all shapes and sizes and many students don’t know how to use the space they have in the best way possible. Moreover, many Smithies have a hard time decorating their dorm rooms in a way that represents their personalities while still conforming to the regulations of Physical Plant. Dorm Designs provides dorm room designs that reflect a student’s personal style, while keeping the room functional, organized, and compliant with College policy.” Jennifer brings a natural eye for interior decorating and significant experience decorating her own room and those of her friends. She has suggestions for how to make rooms brighter, more inviting, and more conducive to studying and/or relaxing. Building on her familiarity with Smith College students and policies, Jennifer plans to start her business at Smith College, but hopes to expand to the Five Colleges or even throughout the Pioneer Valley once her business grows.  With 2,500 students at Smith alone, housed in more than 35 different campus houses, Jennifer clearly has a large initial market, and can easily expand from there. Longer term, she plans to launch a Web site to show examples of her work, especially highlighted in before/after photos.

Judith Shumway 'AC09
Business Name:  Vintage Revival
Spirit Award:      $1,000
Since 2002, Judith has owned and operated a vintage clothing business in Newport, Rhode Island. She purchases unique pieces of clothing and accessories (jewelry, pocketbooks, shoes, etc.) from private sellers and public venues, predominantly charitable organizations. After buying the product, she refurbishes the items for resale; this includes alterations for an up-to-date look, washing, mending, and pressing. She sells fashions ranging from the 1930s through the 1980s. The store is a popular costume shop for local high schools and non-profit agencies that produce fashion shows and theatricals. For such groups, she often lends clothing or charges only a small rental fee. Most of her advertising to date has come from these types of productions. She has also done fundraising fashion shows for autism and breast cancer. Environmentally conscious, her business is built upon recycling and reuse. Vintage Revival has proven a successful business to date; last year's gross income was $26,000, netting $12,000 for the business. Jennifer has been fortunate to sell items to costume designers from the major motion picture Evening the HBO movie Empire Falls and the HBO series The Brotherhood.

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