Fordham Foundry Funds Fledgling Firms


Student entrepeneur Emmit Flynn, FCRH ’22, (right) competes in the 5th annual Fordham Foundry Ram’s Den competition. (Courtesy of AwfulCloth.coom)

The Fordham Foundry, a group for entrepreneurs in the Fordham community, held its third Ram’s Den Competition on Saturday, Feb. 6. The competition was held online this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic  more than 100 people attended. 

Ram’s Den, formerly VentureUP!, is a Shark Tank-like competition “for early-stage ventures or business ideas that have a Fordham student or graduate among their founders, and then the winners are chosen by a panel of judges drawn from the venture capital and startup community,” according to William Brodlo, FCRH ’22, one of the competition’s organizers. “Winners can get up to a total prize pool of 40,000 dollars, and our top winner this year got [22,500 dollars]  They compete by showing a pitch deck slide, explain their idea and then answer questions from judges,” said Brodlo. Attendants were encouraged to vote for their favorite team for the People’s Choice award, which carried a $1,500 prize.

Brodlo, who dealt with the technological aspect of the competition, explained that the main difficulty in hosting the competition was working within the limitations of online platforms such as Zoom. However, he said that the ease of accessibility that comes with an online event meant that more people were able to attend and that this year had a larger reach in terms of viewers.

The competition is formed from students or alumni from Fordham who apply to the competition and are chosen by the Foundry based on their company’s viability and the judges’ interest level. The competition differs from the Foundry’s Pitch Challenge due to its requirement of at least $10,000 yearly revenue, according to Brodlo.

Outside of the financial incentives for competitors, the Fordham Foundry offers opportunities for budding entrepreneurs to network among the business community and to solidify their business plans for expansion.

This year had eight competitors with ventures in fields ranging from fashion and beauty to agriculture to plush toys. Many, such as the plush toy company Laffin, presented by Jonathan Samuel, FCRH ’24, and Nikolaj Folmer, FCLC ’24, and the fashion brand Awful Cloth, founded by Emmit Flynn, FCRH ’21, utilized TikTok and Instagram to reach the consumerist Gen Z population. 

Nicholas Raefski, GSB ’21, of the clothing brand Nicholas Raefski, explained that the mission of the brand is to generate “hype” for the clothing, as well as raise awareness of mental health issues and work towards mental health advocacy.

Ely’El Beauty, founded by Alida So, GSAS ’22, seeks to provide natural beauty products by offering high-quality products with ingredients and recipes sourced directly from the founder’s native Burkina Faso.

Two companies sought instead to work with other businesses themselves. Equeduct, presented by Nick Avella, GSB ’12, and Usman “Ozzy” Raza, intends to provide loans for small businesses. Final Approach Consulting, run by family members Justin Logerfo and Hannah Logerfo, FCRH ’20, is a data analysis consulting firm that hopes to help companies make better business decisions.

Tu Plaza, presented by Paulo Vieira, GSB ’22, stimulates the agricultural economy in Colombia, and was the winner of this year’s People’s Choice award. Rickard Jean-Noel, GSB ’20, spoke about The Real Word Ministries, Inc., an information distributor, podcast and nonprofit dedicated to bringing hope to people’s lives and to improving the living situation of disadvantaged persons, especially as the pandemic further harms living conditions.

Tu Plaza also took first place with a $22,500 prize, with Equeduct, Nicholas Reafski and Awful Cloth in second, third and fourth place, respectively.

The judges this year were Desmond Lewis, co-founder of the Bronx Community Foundation,  John Murphy, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Adobe, Annie Evans, founder of boutique fund Dream Ventures, Jared Sorin, co-founder of entreprenYOURS, Inc. and Elena Rowell, GSB ’13, outbound product manager at Google. 

The Fordham Foundry will also be holding their 5th annual Pitch Challenge, which is open to entrepreneurs at earlier stages of business development, with a chance to win a $20,000 prize. Applications for the Pitch Challenge are due Wednesday, Feb. 1o at midnight EST. The competition itself will be held on March 27.