Four McCloskey New Venture Teams Embody What the Competition Stands For

Author: Olivia Poole


McCloskey New Venture Competition is here. The competition started with 140 teams. Through two rounds, the teams were evaluated by nearly 300 judges and guided by individual mentors. The 30 semi-finalists will pitch live to a panel of judges on Thursday, April 21. By the end of the day, those teams moving to the finals will be announced. Then, those teams will compete LIVE on Friday, April 22, pitching to our final round of judges.
I spoke with four team leaders from McCloskey that I thought had a good grasp on the competition. Each team has a diverse background from being in the South Bend community, different colleges, races and overall ideas. 
Good luck to all the competing teams.

Team one: Beauty Around

Beauty Around is a web/mobile application platform that connects black people to hair stylists who can actually do their hair. The app compares all available nearby hair stylist that specializes in protective styles such as braids, wigs and locs to protect the hair from breakage. Through the app users have the ability to explore different hairstyle inspirations, try them on using a filter and easily book an appointment for the style they desire. The app also allows users to filter by their desired service, price and distance. In addition, it offers discounts, deals and notifications for last-minute availability.

Beauty Around is composed of six ESTEEM graduated students: Ange Agasso, Raymond Okyere-Forso, Patience Gihozo, Munachimso Anacheb, Ambrose Kamya and Teayanna Leytham. They will all graduate this spring. I spoke with team lead Ange Agasaro.

Why did you and your team join McCloskey?

McCloskey was a good opportunity to develop our idea into a venture through the guidance and financial support it provides.

What resources has the IDEA Center provided during your McCloskey journey?

The IDEA Center has provided mentors, pitch coaches and information sessions on important factors of building a business.

Have you and your team had any mentors along the way?

Yes, Ben Bulgrien, Kyle O'Connor, Gerald Beechum and Ellen Dutton.

What has been your biggest takeaway from McCloskey?

Building traction is an important factor in growing a start-up.

What are the future plans for Beauty Around?

In the immediate future, the main plan of action is to do a beta launch of the platform and onboard the first set of hairstylists along with a sizable customer base. The next plan is to officially launch and roll out features over time such as an in-platform store that will allow customers to buy hair and hair care products they need as they book to save them time.

What is a fun fact about you and your team?

We all love dancing!

Team two: Farm Trades

Farm Trades is a non-profit, triple-bottom-line, sustainable venture.  It combines rural environmental cleanup with a regional farming and trade school model, utilizing donated obsolete farm equipment as the teaching platform for skill development for future farmers and tradespeople to learn essential skills. They learn basic mechanics, welding, painting, earn advanced skills and nationally-recognized certifications and credentials.

Farm Trade is composed of two people. Team leader Ben Dougherty 2006 and 2011 graduated from Notre Dame and Haley Meister class of 2025.

Why did you and your team join McCloskey?

We were confident we had a great idea but we needed a little nudge to get to work on it (seeing as everyone has day jobs) and we also needed seed money to get things underway, particularly since our model is a triple-bottom-line non-profit social enterprise.

What resources has the IDEA Center provided?

The IDEA Center provided access to resources, training and coaching.

Have you and your team had any mentors along the way?

We're looking forward to connecting with our mentor this week.

What has been your biggest takeaway from McCloskey?

It's a great way to gain access to resources as well as new team members and insights into a business idea.

What are you and your team members' future plans? 

I'm confident that some of us will carry the Farm Trades business plan forward to push for a successful launch, expansion and nationwide success!

What is a fun fact about you and your team?

An environmentalist, a teacher and a farmer teamed up to create a social enterprise that's focused on cleaning up the environment and teaching people to be farmers!

Team three: VicPigs

VicPigs is a commercial scale modern pig farm employing superior genetics and modern farming techniques to provide a consistent supply of high quality pork in Uganda.

VicPigs was created by Trevor Lwere from the college of arts and letters. He will graduate this spring.

Why did you and your team join McCloskey?

I joined for an opportunity to incubate our idea.

What resources has the IDEA Center provided?

We have benefited from advice from our team coach. We also received $1000 from Friday pitches to validate our idea.

Have you had any mentors along the way?

Yes, Jacob Jadlot.

What has been your biggest takeaway from McCloskey?

Having a great idea is not enough. It must be validated.

What are your future plans?

To launch VicPigs this summer.

What is a fun fact about you and your team?

I have lost three teeth to the dentist.

Team four: Winnow

Winnow is a medical software company and service provider that aims to help rare disease research through the summarization of patient medical records. Rare disease patients will often accrue thousands of pages of medical records throughout their medical journey and this information goes widely unused in treatment or research. Patients also struggle with communicating their medical journey. Winnow hopes to create impact in the rare disease community by producing actionable data from these medical records.

Winnow is composed of four ESTEEM students: Terri Tan, Collin Bordeaux, Ashley Guduza and Morgan Belting. All will graduate this spring. I spoke with team leader Terri Tan.

Why did you and your team join McCloskey?

We entered McCloskey because we wanted to build an impact driven, patient centered technology company. 

What resources has the IDEA Center provided?

Aside from answering our questions and helping us along the way, we did receive $1000 from the Pit Road Fund to work on our branding and begin working on our software. We are excited to have the opportunity to participate in the Idea Center's Road 2 Revenue this summer. 

Have you and  your team had any mentors along the way?

Yes, Professor Barbara Calhoun and John Henry.

What has been your biggest takeaway from McCloskey?

Having a dedicated and passionate team is so important! There are so many milestones and deliverables you have to meet as you go through McCloskey that it can seem daunting, but having a great team makes it seem and feel doable. 

What are your and your team members' future plans?

Morgan and Collin will be entering the corporate road, while Ashley and I are on a road to either go full-time or part-time. 

What is a fun fact about you and your team?

A fun fact for us, we have 75% female representation in our company! 


About McCloskey:

The McCloskey New Venture Competition is a signature event in the innovation ecosystem at Notre Dame. It serves as an opportunity to test the validity of ideas and innovations and allows students to develop skills directly transferable to the commercial market. The competition is open to all current students from Notre Dame and Saint Mary's, as well as faculty and staff, alumni, and local community leaders. Participants are encouraged as entrepreneurs to create presentation and pitch decks, receive mentorship, serve as team leaders, and compete for prizes that include resources and funding. The competition is designed to strengthen startup skills by providing participants with insight from mentors and judges that includes a mix of angel investors, venture capitalists, successful entrepreneurs, and other startup experts. Teams are provided with proven strategies and a process to build a solid foundation to launch ventures.