Four Students Win $1,000 Each in BMCC Blackstone LaunchPad Competition

November 1, 2023

Four Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students—Digital Marketing major Eric Salim Marlie, Business Administration major Afia Mubasshira, Business Management major Leilani Highsmith and Business Administration major Danilsa Sala—have won $1,000 each in an annual virtual competition conducted by the BMCC Blackstone LaunchPad program.

The competition opened August 15 and concluded September 30. The four winners were selected from 74 submissions, and the judges were Business Management Professor Brett Whysel, Dean of Academic Affairs for Academic Support Services Janice Zummo, Chief Librarian Kathleen Dreyer, Business Management Professor Romina DeNicola and Business Management Professor and Deputy Chairperson Shane Snipes.

Eric Salim Marlie’s winning project, which was in the General track, is Clean-n-Kick. “Clean-n-Kick is a shoe cleaning service that caters to busy individuals who lack the time to clean their shoes,” Marlie says. “With our drop-off service, customers can conveniently leave their shoes in designated lockers located in schools, colleges and offices, and retrieve them once cleaned. Our business model focuses on generating everyday sales and expanding through franchise opportunities.”

His next step, he says, is comprehensive market research to grow his idea further. He plans to transfer to Binghamton University after graduating from BMCC and earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing.

“My career goal is to establish a global business based in the country where I grew up, Indonesia,” he says.

Afia Mubasshira, Blackstone Launchpad winner
Afia Mubasshira, Blackstone Launchpad winner

Afia Mubasshira’s winning project, in the Consumer Product and Services track, is MaidInHeaven, a personal wedding assistant.

“Catering specifically to couples’ needs, the service aims to provide end-to-end solutions from dress selection, coordinating pre-wedding events like bridal showers and day-of duties such as ensuring the couple is relaxed and everything runs smoothly,” says Mubasshira, who grew up in Bangladesh. “In essence, MaidInHeaven ensures that the bridal party’s experience is as heavenly and stress-free as possible. Combining the traditional roles of a bridesmaid with the expertise of a professional wedding planner, MaidInHeaven is the ultimate bridesmaid’s assistant for the modern bride and groom.”

The next steps for developing her business idea, Mubasshira says, are market research, creating a detailed business plan, branding and promotion. She plans to transfer to the SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) or Pace University after graduating from BMCC and wants to earn a bachelor’s degree in fashion business management.

Leilani Highsmith‘s AURUM Wellness Center project, in the Health and Life Science track, envisions a synergy of advanced skincare treatments, nutritious snacks and cutting-edge recovery services, all aiming to create a “practical and holistic approach to well-being, bringing together science-backed services for optimal health,” says Highsmith.

She says the next step for her project “involves a robust marketing strategy to elevate AURUM’s brand presence, ensuring that our unique approach to wellness gains widespread recognition.”

“My career goal is to establish myself as a prominent figure at the intersection of the sports and the fashion industries,” says Highsmith, who grew up in New York and plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in business management in London. “With my background as a tennis player and model, I aspire to become a recognized figure, promoting both athletic excellence and style.”

Danilsa Sala‘s 3DPRP (3D Printers of Recycled Plastic) project, in the Social and Climate Impact track, highlights the importance of sustainability. The 3DPRP is a home-friendly machine designed to transform recycled plastic into customizable objects, reducing waste and helping to combat global plastic pollution.

“The 3D printer will melt plastic while trapping toxins inside the device and shaping the melted plastic into any object of the user’s choice,” explains Sala, who grew up in the Dominican Republic and plans to acquire her real estate license once she graduates with an associate degree in Business Administration from BMCC.

Next steps in the entrepreneurial competition circuit

The virtual Blackstone LaunchPad Network Round on October 28 enabled students to compete for $10,000 in additional prize money. There were no BMCC winners, but the opportunity to compete provides valuable experience for emerging entrepreneurs.

The annual BMCC Blackstone LaunchPad Founders Festival & Holiday Market, will be held November 29 from 2 to 6 p.m., at 199 Chambers Street, Richard Harris Terrace. This afternoon of activities will celebrate student entrepreneurship with speakers, hands-on workshops and opportunities for student entrepreneurs to network with each other.

In process now—having opened online on September 6 and extending through November 29—the KANU+BMCC Marketplace Competition invites students to set up their business on the KANU App, start interacting with customers and be considered for a prize of $1,000.

In addition, on December 8, CUNY will feature a live pitch round that allows one of the champions from the Network Round to compete for $5,000.

Student entrepreneurs who would like to learn more about the BMCC LaunchPad program can visit here. They can also contact Katerina Lewis Archer, BMCC LaunchPad Marketing Co-Director, at, or Romina DeNicola, BMCC LaunchPad Programming Co-Director, at

Students who want to learn more about the Business/Entrepreneur Club can email, or stop by Fiterman Hall, Room 701, Wednesdays from 2 to 3:50 p.m.


About BMCC Blackstone LaunchPad

BMCC Blackstone LaunchPad is a premier entrepreneurship and career program aimed at fostering innovation and talent. By providing the necessary resources, mentorship, and platforms, the initiative nurtures the next generation of change-makers.

About the Business Administration Department at BMCC

To learn more about associate degree programs offered by the BMCC Business Management Department—including Business Management, Business Administration, Digital Marketing, Financial Management, Public and Nonprofit Management and Small Business/Entrepreneurship—visit here, stop by Fiterman Hall, Room F-730A, email or call (212) 220-8205.


  • Four BMCC students—Digital Marketing major Eric Salim Marlie, Business Administration major Afia Mubasshira, Business Management major Leilani Highsmith and Business Administration major Danilsa Sala—have won $1,000 each in the annual BMCC Blackstone LaunchPad competition
  • Their entrepreneurial project ideas range from a shoe-cleaning business to 3D printer of recycled plastic
  • BMCC Blackstone LaunchPad provides resources, mentorship and platforms, enabling aspiring entrepreneurs to get their projects off the ground and develop a supportive network

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