Ita Wins $25,000 Design Entrepreneurs NYC Grand Prize


Design Entrepreneurs NYC. It's the "mini-MBA" program for select New York-based fashion designers with two cash awards for top-notch business plans. Handbag label Ita developed by Bita and Rouzita Vahhabaghai took home the grand prize of $25,000. In second place, Rebecca Szymczak of Bex NYC, an intimates brand won $10,000. Both awards were funded by G-III Apparel Group.

The Vahhabaghai sisters noted that "being a part of DENYC has helped us focus deeper on all the different facets of our business. Analyzing our business at this level of detail, we came away with a better understanding of areas we need to put more or less focus as well as really separating our short and long term goals. Our mentors guided us through tough questions about the direction we are taking with our brand to enable us to be even more strategic and further strengthen the core of our business."

The program wasn't just about creating a plan for them. "Getting to know the other entrepreneurs in our program has been one of the best parts about this experience. It has been an amazing source of support and inspiration to be with a group of talented designers who are all facing and taking on the same challenges."

Szymczak also reaped benefits from the curriculum and program constituents. "I am so thrilled to have been a part of the DENYC 2014 class. With the help of the professors and particularly the mentorship of David Colby, Jeanette Nostra, Yolanda Wardowki and Sandra Holtzman, I was able to drastically grow my retail and online presence over the summer. The courses and preparation of my business plan made me so much more confident in the financial and operations aspects of my business and helped me to secure licensees and co-brands."

The pitch night gave 12 business the opportunity to present their plans to a panel of judges which included: Pamela Baxter, President/CEO Perfumes and Cosmetics of LVMH and President of Christian Dior Couture; Timothy Baxter, Executive Vice President, GMM RTW, Macy’s; Robin Burns-McNeill, Chairman, Co-Founder, Batallure Beauty, LLC; Marshall Cheek, Vice President Global Licensing and New Business for Kate Spade; Morris Goldfarb, CEO of G-III Apparel Group; Renee Hunter, Founder and President of Sequoyah; Laurence Leeds, Chairman of Buckingham Capital Management; Deirdre Quinn, CEO of Lafayette 148; Ellen Rodriguez, CEO of Lela Rose; and Michael Stanley, Managing Director and Head of Factoring Division for Rosenthal & Rosenthal Inc.

Now its third year, the program developed by the NYCEDC and FIT has taken over 100 New York-based fashion businesses and given them the skills and resources to grow their business. Each class consists of 35 New York-based fashion companies that are immersed into a four month program with a curriculum that includes weekend intensive programming on marketing, operations and financials by industry professionals and instructors. Designers are paired with a mentor and also have access to FIT resources, classes and workshops.

Learn more about the program at Design Entrepreneurs NYC. 

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