An Interview With Blue Ocean 2017 Competition Winners… PromElle
Riya Gupta and Nishka Ayyar
The Harker School - San Jose ‘19
Below is an interview with last year’s winners of the Blue Ocean Student Entrepreneur Pitch Competition. These two young women pitched the idea of a peer-to-peer fashion app for teen girls that facilitates the rental and lending of clothes. They actually went on to establish the business (which is not required for the competition). This can help you understand more about Blue Ocean Pitch Competition and hopefully motivate you to register and submit your pitch.
Blue Ocean: Why did you enter the contest? What did you hope to accomplish or learn?
We have both been participating in our school’s DECA chapter since freshman year and really enjoy it. With each competition and with every piece of advice we received, we learned a lot, improved our presentation skills, and considered even more aspects of our business. When we heard about the Blue Ocean competition, we were really excited to participate because it gave us the opportunity to share our business idea with a large audience. We didn’t have any expectations in terms of accomplishments within the competition because we honestly didn’t expect to win. However, we hoped that we would gain helpful advice and validation of our idea.
Blue Ocean: Why this contest and not another one?
There are very few pitch competitions for high school entrepreneurs and Blue Ocean is definitely one of the well-known ones. We have participated in others as well, including Diamond Challenge (we placed 2nd at the Global Finals in 2017) and the Baylor University Youth Entrepreneurship competition (we placed 3rd). However, we really liked the Blue Ocean competition not only because it was very convenient and accessible for participants, but also because it helped us reach a much wider audience than any other competitions we’ve done.
Blue Ocean: How did you pick your topic?
We came up with the idea based on a personal experience. In our freshman year of high school, Nishka had a very frustrating experience trying to find an appropriate dress that fit her budget for Homecoming. The boys meanwhile had an easy time renting their tuxes, with plenty of affordable options available. Based on Nishka’s experience, we wondered if other girls felt the same way she did. We surveyed our peers and they confirmed that they felt just as frustrated shopping for a formal dress, especially since they would likely only wear it once. At the same time, we were both partners in a Business and Entrepreneurship class at school and were tasked with coming up with a solution to a community problem. So, we worked on our idea for PromElle in that class, then got together that summer and began building PromElle into a real company!
Blue ocean: How much time did you spend creating your pitch?
We spent a lot of time creating our first pitch, making sure all of the content and the presentation looked and sounded great. However, once the first draft was done and now that we’ve pitched on numerous occasions, it has definitely been easier updating and tweaking our pitch.
Blue Ocean: How did you work together? Who did what?
We have worked very well together. We work collaboratively on most tasks but for certain things, one of us will take the lead, based on our interest and expertise. From mockups to design to marketing pitches to QA testing to social media marketing, we both work together on all aspects of the business.
Blue Ocean: What was hard to build a pitch and a company?
Managing a startup while in high school has definitely not been easy. Also, lack of funding to scale the business and marketing and outreach without a budget have definitely been obstacles.
Blue Ocean: What was easy?
Nothing has been easy, but we’re really grateful for the experience and have been learning a lot along the way!
Blue Ocean: Did your school help in any way?
Our school has been very supportive of our idea, and they have even allowed us to present PromElle at a school assembly.
Blue Ocean: What did you learn?
Participating in the Blue Ocean competition helped us gain some valuable input about our business idea and polish our video-creating skills, and also helped us learn that there are so many other teens out there with amazing business ideas. Also, at first it seemed impossible to create a compelling video pitch under 1.5 minutes but we finally managed to. (last year pitches were limited to 90 seconds. This year we have expanded to 3-5 minute pitches)
Blue Ocean: What did you do with your winnings?
We used it to cover the operational costs of our business and to create a more polished video.
Blue Ocean: What would you do differently?
We wouldn’t do anything differently - everything we’ve done thus far has helped us learn more and reach our current stage.
Blue Ocean: What advice do you have for future participants?
Take the risk.There is no better way to learn than by doing it. If you are passionate about an idea, pursue it. From our own experience, we also believe it is better to work with a partner and/or a team as it helps to have another person to brainstorm ideas, collaborate, and share the workload. Good luck!