As previously noted, the final round of the Discovery stage of the University of Virginia Entrepreneurship Cup (E-Cup) took place last week, and three of the 11 finalists were from Darden. And, in exciting news, all three Darden teams were selected as winners!
Reflecting on the Darden teams, MJ Toms, Director of Education and Experiential Learning for Darden’s Batten Institute, cited the group’s breadth: “We had five female founders in the finals, and all three of the Darden teams were in the money. There was great diversity in the paths of the founders: Melissa from Single Baked Sweets is an EMBA format student who left her consulting job in NYC to pursue her start-up full-time. The Slay team launched their venture before arriving at Darden and both students chose Darden so they could continue working on the venture. The Trulli founders met at Darden and have dedicated their Second Year to making the business their full-time gig after graduation.”
We caught up with each team to talk about their win and next steps for their companies. Check out their responses below!
Single Baked Sweets
The Discovery competition came at a perfect time in the development of Single Baked Sweets. We are now exploring a new market – selling our kits at volume for wedding favors. Being able to share our current customer discovery process with the judges and gain valuable connections that will allow us to quickly accelerate new sales has been exciting and validating. It was also humbling to be in the company of other strong, student start-ups that are doing really big things in education, technology, cyber, healthcare and travel. It’s a very supportive ecosystem where we all root for one another and share insights to help each other grow.
We have two big moves on our horizon: 1) Exploring the wedding favor market and adapting our product and sales approach. We secured our first wedding favor order, so we’ll be working with the couple to customize the kits for their big day in May. And we secured two purchase orders from wedding venues to provide our kits as ‘Thank you’ gifts for prospective and current clients. And 2) scaling from direct sales to e-commerce. Our customers are looking to buy online, so we’re working quickly to set-up our online store and ship nationwide.
Aside from the excitement of sharing information about our product and service with the wider UVA community, we also enjoyed connecting with others in the entrepreneurial ecosystem here at UVA. It was inspiring to hear about all of the ventures that our peers are developing and it was helpful sharing advice with one another about how best to navigate the often-daunting journey of building a company and launching a product.
We just completed the build of our native app, and we will be working over the next few weeks to perform quality assurance, to on-board a network of partner salons, and to begin increasing awareness of our brand before our launch. We are eager to launch in Charlottesville, here at UVA, and we look forward to seeing how it will be received on campus!
We loved the opportunity to show the broader community what is special about Trulli. The event was very well-timed given our launch earlier this week and we particularly enjoyed highlighting our encouraging user growth. More generally, it was inspiring to see what our peers are working on – the entrepreneurial environment is strong at UVA!
In terms of next steps, we are very focused on scaling Trulli to additional business schools this spring (Wharton, Kellogg, Columbia). We also plan to use the E-Cup prize to continue building out our product and ensuring an excellent user experience on the Trulli platform.