Four Innovative Ideas Win Campus Round of Blackstone Launchpad Competition

(L-R) Lewis-Archer, Duran and Sukhadwala.

November 9, 2022

Five Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students—Katerina Lewis Archer, Arian Burgos, Gesy Duran, Geoffrey Mandell and Deep Sukhadwala— have won the campus round of the Fall 2022 Blackstone Launchpad Ideas competition.

The four projects will receive $1,000 and advance to the Blackstone LaunchPad Network Round to compete for $5,000 in additional prize money they can use to further develop their entrepreneurial ideas.

The Blackstone LaunchPad Ideas Competition provides BMCC students with start-up ideas the opportunity to compete for cash prizes. Participating students gain access to the BMCC Blackstone LaunchPad program, where they gain skills supporting their entrepreneurship journey. The program seeks  to remove the risk factor from entrepreneurship, improve accessibility and diversify engagement with a focus on recruiting underrepresented or under-resourced students.

Winners of the Network Round will be announced on December 6 according to Business Management Professor Roderick Shane Snipes, the Deputy Chair of BMCC’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Degree program.

“These students represent some of the brightest minds at BMCC,” said Snipes. “They have come up with truly innovative ideas that could be organizations or products,” said Snipes  “We are honored to be part of the Blackstone Foundation network of campuses offer mentoring, and shared resources and workshops. This contributed to the success of our students.”

To prepare for the upcoming Network round of the competition, the students will attend intensive workshops, participate in coaching sessions and undertake other tasks at StartUp Tree, an online platform designed to manage and scale entrepreneurship communities and innovation. BMCC students from across academic majors can participate in the challenge competition.

So far this semester, 161 students have participated in the Blackstone Launchpad program.

Four of the students shared a bit more about their ideas and goals for the future.

Katerina Lewis-Archer: “High Tides NYC”

Communications and Media major Katerina Lewis-Archer moved to New York City around 15 years ago from Prague, Czech Republic and is interested in issues surrounding sustainable development.

“I decided to go back to school when Covid-19 hit,” said Lewis-Archer, who was working as a wedding coordinator for the Norwegian and Carnival cruise ship lines.

Her idea, “High Tides NYC,” is an organization that seeks to inform the public about climate change and its effects on the city’s waterfront communities. It also seeks to cultivate preparedness among New Yorkers for extreme weather events and connect victims of natural disasters to desperately needed resources, according to Lewis-Archer.

“I’m currently on the track to graduate in Spring 2023 and would like to transfer to City College for her BA in Communication and then and Master of Arts in Branding and Integrated Communications,” said Lewis Archer. “But I’m also applying to Columbia University for a Bachelor’s in Sustainable Development.”

Arian Burgos: “Keep on Pushing”

Financial Management major Arian Burgos grew up in Manhattan while (his/her) parents grew up in the Dominican Republic.

Burgos’s idea is “Keep on Pushing,” a non-profit social service organization that seeks to help individuals facing homelessness, addiction and mental health issues.

“There are just so many people facing addiction, mental illness and homelessness here in Manhattan and people just walk past them without getting to know their story or trying to help them,” said Burgos. “Keep on Pushing” will serve those individuals by listening to their stories and helping them seek out the necessary resources to get them back on their feet.”

After graduation from BMCC, Burgos hopes to find a job related to finance and eventually begin working in finance while pursuing a higher degree.

Gesy Duran: “Wheel-Eating”

Human Services major Gesy Duran grew up in Washington Heights and now plays wheelchair basketball for CUNY.

Duran’s idea, Wheel Eating, is a portable serving tray for wheelchair users that can adapt to any table.

“There are many different types of wheelchairs and many of them, like mine, don’t fit under the table due to the legs of the table or their height,” Duran explains. “Wheel-eating is a product that can help someone feel comfortable enjoying a meal without worrying about getting dirty or losing balance.”

After graduating BMCC, Duran plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree and continue playing basketball at CUNY. 

Geoff Mandell and Deep Sukhadwala: “Volunteer Hub”

Business Administration majors Geffrey Mandell and Deep Sukhadwala’s idea is “VolunteerHub,” an application for smartphones and web browsers that will ask users to create accounts and subsequently present users with volunteer opportunities based on geographic location.

Mandell, who is originally from New York and Sukhadwala, who moved to the city from India, say the app will awards its members with gift cards, perks or discounts from their local corporate partners who envision an ethical and sustainable world.

“In essence, we plan to effectively, efficiently and ethically support companies in achieving their environmental, social and governance goals,” said Mendell.

Mandell is applying to Columbia University to study economics, where partner Sukhadwala has already been accepted and will begin classes in January.

To learn more about BMCC’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship program, click here.

  • Each project receives $1,000 and advances to the Network Round
  • Network Round winners will be named December 6
  • Blackstone LaunchPad Ideas Competition builds entrepreneurship skills

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