The student creators behind a fashion app strutted off with the $10,000 first prize at this year’s Jeff Marine Bull Ring Competition— the Nazarian College of Business and Economics’ version of the popular show “Shark Tank,” at the USU Grand Salon on April 20, 2023.
The app, called “Steal the Look,” was presented as a social media app with an easier way to shop curated looks– one that goes beyond “shoppable” social media posts.
Instead of searching multiple websites, the app combines ways to browse ideas for outfits, the ability to make purchases and create online communities of like-minded fashion fans. The app’s founder Talin Aivazian explains a key aspect of the tool that allows users to shop outfits that other people have put together. “The mission of the app is to help others who need a little extra help styling themselves,” Aivazian said.
To cater to individuals’ tastes and needs in clothing, the app provides a detailed filter for particular styles and aesthetics — like gender neutral clothing; sizes — think tall or petite; and coverage — such as modest clothing. Minette Coye, a junior studying Management-Business Administration, presented the start-up plan to the panel of three judges.
“When users are able to filter and search for aesthetics such as these, they can connect with people who share their values on anything from sustainable fashion to inclusive sizes,” she explained.
Coye said the 4-member team behind “Steal the Look” formed in an entrepreneurship class, uniting behind the idea created by Aivazian. They were introduced as the “most interdisciplinary team” in the competition, including undergraduate students from both the business and the engineering schools.
Coye was thrilled that the team took the first prize.
“It’s surreal, seeing everybody else that was up here, you know? When we made it into the top 20, we were so thankful and felt blessed, and then the top five and now we are blown away,” she said.
The Jeff Marine Bull Ring New Venture Competition is a highly anticipated annual event– this is its eighth year. But there’s a lot of work and preparation involved before the exciting final competition. It’s an entire program devoted to helping students— from any department — develop their business ideas. In the months leading up to the event, teams are encouraged to take part in the training that includes pitch coaching, one-on-one mentoring, and workshops. The original field of competitors was first whittled down to 20, then down to the final 5 contestants.
This year’s battle of the start-ups brought a wide variety of business idea pitches, including a waterproof “smart” bracelet to help people take medication on time (DuraPill Bracelets); a next-generation exoskeleton with artificial muscles for use by military and firefighters (FromNature Engineering Solutions); an online platform for students and clubs to find and share events (NOC. Network on Campus); and a mobile app that offers independent music artists a menu of services to help build their audiences (Rebels).
Each team was given seven minutes to present their venture to the judges, who in turn, were given five minutes to ask questions of each team. The event was a decidedly Matador-family affair: the three finals’ judges included Jang Lee ’97 (Accounting), Steven Sarfati ’84 (Engineering), MS ’91 (Electrical Engineering) and Tim Gaspar ’06 (Finance). Bill Griffeth ’80 (Journalism) served as Master of Ceremonies and kept the program moving and running on time. Paul Jennings ’85 (Marketing), Hon.D. ’22 gave the keynote address while the judges deliberated and chose the winners.
Lee said having this type of experience puts these students ahead of others who are starting out in their careers.
“The students are learning the groundwork of how to raise money, how to build a business plan, how to do the financials and pitch to a group of people to be able to raise money,” Lee said. He explained that he has served as the Chief Financial Officer for a number of different startup companies. His roles with these companies involve pitching to venture capitalists. “To have this type of experience, this early on in their lives is invaluable,” he said.
Dean Chandra Subramaniam of the Nazarian College of Business and Economics echoed Lee’s sentiment and noted that experiential learning is at the heart of CSUN programs.
“We want every student to graduate and say, ‘I’m going to graduate with the skills that I need to be able to move up the ladder when I get a job,'” he said.
The other winners of the competition are as follows:
Second Place: NOC. Network on Campus $5,000.
Third Place: DuraPill $2,500.
In addition, $2,500 cash awards were given in each of the following categories:
The Audience Choice Award: NOC Network on Campus
Best Use of Tech Award: FromNature
Social Impact Award: The Cafecito Journal (This team made it to the semi-finals with its pitch for a space to give people an opportunity to up-cycle unwanted items.)
The top three finishers also receive in-kind legal services and in-kind marketing services and priority entry into the Nazarian College of Business and Economics Summer Accelerator program, a 10-week course for developing start-up ventures.