2016 SEP Pitch Competition Profile - Second Place
What if the way we run errands could benefit our communities and protect resources? Mona Amin, a sophomore at East Carolina University, sees her company, Freshspire, as a potential tool for change.
“Freshspire is a mobile app that allows customers to see grocery markdowns in real time,” says Amin. “We’re seeing a push to reduce food waste, and that’s one of our biggest missions. We want to do what we can to make sure less food is ending up in landfills. We could possibly even reach people who don’t have access to nutritious foods.”
Amin and the other Freshspire co-founders have been working from different universities to move the company forward. Amin was happy to learn about WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program (SEP) through her campus entrepreneurship initiative.
“I thought, this is another great opportunity for me to network and get connected to people in the grocery industry. After attending, [SEP] definitely surpassed my expectations.”
She described the off-site tours as an insightful glimpse of the Orlando area’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. Meanwhile, on-site workshops helped her hone technical skills she needs to make sure her app clicks with customers.
“When we got to explore the community, it taught us to look for opportunities in our hometown,” she says.
Preparing for the pitch competition was a major part of the week. Amin turned to her mentor, Larissa England of The Kroger Company, for advice.
“[England] was able to spend a lot of time with me [during SEP]. She told me I could practice in front of her, so I did my pitch in front of her before the pitch competition. She asked questions the judges might ask me.”
Amin describes the atmosphere in the room on pitch day as exciting and intense. In the initial round, she had only 90 seconds to impress the panel of judges, complete with a countdown timer.
On winning second place, Amin says, “I was honestly surprised...I’m very happy to have been a part of the pitch competition. It never hurts to pitch your idea.”
She enjoyed the chance to decompress and reflect on the week at the closing breakfast on the last day of SEP. Students and mentors had a last chance to enjoy their newfound connections and think about how to apply lessons to their businesses.
“[Nancy Ragozzino, of Ragozzino Foods] kept in touch after the program,” Amin said. “She congratulated me on winning and encouraged me to get in touch if I needed anything.”
She’s also been encouraged by England’s interest in her app.
“We formed a pretty close relationship…She told me once we have some traction with independent grocery stores and proof of concept, to reach out with information about analytics and market tests about how the app impacts things in the store...Hopefully, with some more information, we’ll be able to get more conversations started with Kroger.”
For now, Amin plans to do smaller-scale testing before approaching a national chain with her idea. Her prize money from the pitch competition will go toward marketing materials for pilot tests.
“We’ve been working with a company based out of Raleigh to develop the app...We’re hoping to finish up by the end of July. [The Big Idea Project] is helping us with marketing and development. After that, we’re hoping to get into some independently owned grocery stores in Chapel Hill.”