LaGuardia Students Win Seed Money for Business Ideas, Through Partnership with NACCE’s Everyday Entrepreneur Program

LaGuardia Students Win Seed Money for Business Ideas, Through Partnership with NACCE’s Everyday Entrepreneur Program

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (May 29, 2024) — Three LaGuardia Community College/CUNY students have been awarded seed money to help them get their entrepreneurial ideas off the ground. The students were participants in the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) Everyday Entrepreneur Program (EEP), through a partnership between NACCE and LaGuardia’s Continuing Education Division. They are Bruno Pinto, Accounting, Destineé Barnett, Business Administration, and Skye Gill, 23, Nursing (see below for more detail on each student and their business ideas).

“We are grateful to the NACCE for their partnership, which allowed us to bring the Everyday Entrepreneur Program to our students,” said Assuanta Howard, Assistant Dean of Business Services, Continuing Education Division, LaGuardia Community College. “This initiative provided valuable education and training opportunities for students and reinforced our commitment to nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship among our students.”

The NACCE Everyday Entrepreneur Program (EEP) provides community colleges with access to entrepreneurial education and funding for students to build their ideas into thriving businesses. A $5,000 NACCE grant enabled 15 students to participate in a 5-week bootcamp during the Spring 2024 term, where the students received entrepreneurial education and support services that enabled them to develop business plans for their unique ideas. Participants were selected through an application process that included meeting qualifications, e.g., matriculated in a degree program, being a business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur with an innovative business idea.

At the culmination of the program, a funding pitch competition was held on April 24 where students presented their ideas before a panel of judges from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program at LaGuardia, who provided invaluable insights and guidance to the students. The three students awarded financial backing to make their business ideas into successful ventures include:

First Prize: Bruno Pinto, 29, Accounting major, won $2,000 for his business model focused on importing and hosting wine education events to promote small Chilean vineyards in the U.S. market. Bruno is an international student from Chile.

“As a Chilean, I wanted to create a commercial link between the U.S. and my home country. I’m originally from a winemaking valley, and I love enology,” said Bruno. “Also, I see the need to build a community of wine lovers that emphasizes sustainable wine with biodynamic and organic wines. Its primary diffusion source will be podcasting, social media engagement, and wine-tasting events. I plan to put my seed funds towards the legal fees associated with opening my business, import fees for obtaining wine from Chilean vineyards, and hosting my first wine-tasting event.”

Bruno will graduate from LaGuardia next month. He plans to do a year-long optional practical training (OPT), a year-long internship for international students. In the fall of 2025, he’ll begin pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Baruch or City College.

“My career goal is to open multiple businesses,” said Bruno. “I like the idea of diversifying my source of income by working for myself and promoting the economy in our communities, either by creating a product or providing a service.”

Second Prize: Destineé Barnett, 26, Business Administration major, won $1,500 for her proposed venture aimed at improving hair care education and services.

“My mission is to educate, build community and empower women through the art of haircare. I’ve worked as a hairstylist for years, and my experience in the beauty industry is my inspiration,” said Destineé. “The seed money will enable me to expand my business, BlessentialsNYC by building a professional website, digital marketing, and investing in inventory.”

Destineé, who lives in Jamaica, Queens, credits her immigrant background—she’s a first-generation American, born to two Jamaican immigrants—for her entrepreneurial spirit. She expects to graduate from LaGuardia after the Fall 2024 semester, and then transfer to Baruch College to pursue her bachelor’s.

“I loved the Everyday Entrepreneur Program because it allowed me to change my perspective and better my confidence in communicating my vision,” said Destineé. “It taught me how to navigate my everyday life as a student and employee while building a business. Although the program was challenging, I believe it prepared me to manage my business right away. It will help me achieve my goal of becoming a salon owner and marketing director helping other beauty industry businesses to build their brands.”

Third Prize: Skye Gill, 23, Nursing major, was awarded $750 for her concept of an innovative handheld device for hair strand testing to tailor hair care solutions. Skye plans to put her winnings towards product development. “My idea requires cutting-edge technology, extensive product testing, patent protection, and other elements to bring my vision to life.”

Before enrolling at LaGuardia, she became a Licensed Cosmetologist. “Through my experience in haircare, I recognized the challenges of maintaining hair growth amidst constant bodily changes fueled my drive to find a solution.”

Skye, a Queens-resident, describes having a “passion for beauty. My parents moved from the beautiful twin islands of Trinidad & Tobago in the early 70’s. Growing up, my parents instilled in my older brother and I the value of education and self-development, and as my mom always said, ‘Learning is a lifelong experience.’”

Currently, Skye is considering how to manage a nursing career with her business aspirations. “My goal is to have multiple businesses in the beauty industry, including the launch of my product idea. I aspire to impact people globally, aiding them in feeling and looking their best. My focus is sharing love, enhancing beauty, and enriching the lives of others through my businesses and philanthropic ventures.”

The LaGuardia NACCE Everyday Entrepreneur Program was led by Erika Correa, Business Services Department Director, and Hector Molina-Casillas, 10KSB Business Advisor, who are both dedicated adjunct lecturers in the Business & Technology Department.

Pitch competition judges included Paisley Demby, 10KSB’s Director of Outreach and Partnerships; Demica Durr, 10KSB Business Advisor; Jenniffer Moreno, Business Banker; and AnnMarie D’Erasmo, a recent 10KSB Alum and owner of Posh Pretzels.

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LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), a Hispanic-Serving Institution, located in Long Island City, Queens offers more than 50 degrees and certificates, and more than 65 continuing education programs to educate New Yorkers seeking new skills and careers. As an institution of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his advocacy of underserved populations. Since 1971, LaGuardia’s academic programs and support services have advanced the socioeconomic mobility of students while providing them with access to a high quality, affordable college education.

The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) is a leading organization dedicated to advancing entrepreneurship through community colleges nationwide. It supports a network of over 340 community and technical colleges and universities, serving more than three million students.

The Everyday Entrepreneur Program (EEP) and Fund was founded by successful entrepreneurs who understand the difficulties of starting and growing a business. Through EEP, community colleges obtain the support needed to provide access to entrepreneurial education and funding for their students to take their businesses from an idea to a thriving enterprise. With its focus on diversity, sustainability and social responsibility, the EE program and fund is paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable future for entrepreneurship.


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