Every one of the 14 business ideas pitched by Smith student entrepreneurs in the final round of the Draper Business Plan Competition on April 15 has the potential for breakout success.
Cash prizes totaling $20,000 were awarded to four of the presenters, including $5,000 second and third prizes, and $500 for an audience favorite.
First prize, won by Melody Setoodehnia ’14, was a $10,000 check, plus free tuition to the Draper University of Heroes, a school for young entrepreneurs and an entrepreneurial risk-taker’s paradise. Setoodehnia won the competition with her business idea, Your Market Match, an online matching service for real estate agents and home and property buyers and sellers. She responded to questions about the Draper Competition experience.
Gate: What is Your Market Match?
Melody Setoodehnia ’14: Your Market Match is a website that connects homebuyers and sellers to agents who best match their real estate needs by personalizing the search criteria. As the Match.com of the realty world, Your Market Match allows homebuyers and sellers to connect with their ideal realtors through a finely tuned search process, where they are matched with agents who are experts in their desired price range, neighborhood, and more.
Gate: How did you get the idea for this business?
MS: Both of my parents are realtors and growing up with them it was interesting to notice how hard realtors have to work to find clients. I also spent a summer working at a mortgage bank so again I was exposed to the real estate business. I figured if there was a website that could filter through realtors and help homebuyers and sellers find their ideal agent then that would be optimal for both sides.
Gate: Describe your experience as a participant in the Draper Business Plan Competition.
MS: It has been a long journey, from formulating the idea to persuading others to believe in the solution. And I grew every step of the way. Though I’m confident in my own abilities, I could not have done it without the help of Kate Hammond, Paul Silva, my family, and a group of close friends who kept me company late at night by throwing around ideas. Winning this competition has been surreal, but it’s just the first step so look out for me!
Gate: What are your next steps with Your Market Match?
MS: My next step for Your Market Match is to get as many people as I can to fill out the survey I have put together. The results will help me understand the relationship between buyers and sellers and their agents, what they expect, and how they evaluate them. Once I collect enough market research to gauge the interest of clients and realtors, I plan on building a comprehensive database.
Gate: What were your strengths as a Draper Competition finalist?
MS: I was definitely competing against a group of extremely motivated and bright young women. Each idea was unique in it’s own way but mine was different in a sense that I have been exposed to this industry for almost 10 years. As the daughter of two realtors, I am very familiar with the target market and was able to address the questions of the judges with ease. That’s why I would recommend any young entrepreneur searching for the next big idea to find an industry or sector that they’re very familiar with and passionate about and search to address the pain/need.
Gate: How will you put the Draper funds to use?
MS: For the time being I plan to save every penny until I have a plan. My hope is to make this money grow and use it to bring my business to life (although a shopping splurge sounds tempting). But the real prize is the scholarship to Draper University, which I am so excited to participate in next summer.
Gate: Is this your first business idea?
MS: This was the first idea I pursued and wrote down. Although once you learn to put on the entrepreneurial glasses, it’s hard to take them off and suddenly many things need new solutions!