By: Kandia Johnson
Recently, more than 200 women-led companies gathered at the Conrad Hotel in Battery Park City in New York City for the Project Entrepreneur Weekend Intensive—a summit for advice and inspiration on how to build a successful business. Project Entrepreneur, founded by “Rent the Runway” co-founders, Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss – in partnership with UBS, a financial services firm, aims “to break traditional barriers in women’s paths and provide access to the tools, training, and networks needed to build scalable, economically impactful companies.
The weekend intensive kicked off with a series of workshops and networking events, including notable women in business such as Skinnygirl Cocktails founder and TV personality Bethany Frankel, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, co-founder of Gilt Groupe and Rebecca Minkoff, a fashion-industry leader in clothing and accessories. On the last day of the event, 12 finalists participated in a pitch competition to receive $10,000 and an invitation to a five-week business incubator program at the Rent the Runway offices. BlackEnterprise.com caught up with finalist, FON Powell to chat about her experiences.
BlackEnterprise.com: Tell us a bit about yourself and the problem your business solves.
Powell: My name is FON Powell; I’m a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University and founder of S.A.L.T. (Sodium Analyte Level Test (S.A.L.T.). We empower 78 million Americans to manage hypertension at home. We do this with a smartphone-based device, which consists of a disposable stick and mobile app that measures daily salt from a single urine test.
I started this project based on one my of my classes where I had to choose a Cornell patent and build a business around it. I chose the patent that resonated with me the most–and that was an equation to calculate salt. As you know, salt intake disproportionately affects the black community. Considering my mom didn’t allow us to use salt in our house, I chose the “salt equation.” I chose this topic to build an application around it.
After a class pitch competition, a former cardiologist and angel investor approached me and said she thought my presentation was great and encouraged me to pursue it as a business.
What do you expect to learn from this event? What’s the long-term vision for your company?
I’m looking forward to learning from other like-minded women in business. What would bring me the most happiness is becoming a household name, and knowing that people, especially for people from my neighborhood in St. Louis, can use my product and it can save their lives.
For additional key takeaways, visit projectentreprenuer.org.
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