Amazonian Wins 6th Annual Pitch Challenge


Fordham Foundry is the university’s hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. (Courtesy of Foundry Foundry for The Fordham Ram)

Amazonian, the company started by Elsie Ndema, director of Talent Acquisition at TheGuarantors, GSB ’13 and GSB M.S. ’22, was awarded $8,000 through the Fordham Foudry’s sixth annual Pitch Challenge on March 26. The Fordham Foundry, a foundation focused on helping Fordham students and alumni with their business start-ups and ideas, hosts the Pitch Challenge annually to allow both students and alumni to compete for start-up money by pitching their business ideas to a panel of experienced judges.

Amazonian is a company that provides women over 5 foot 9 inches, a new way to buy clothes. According to Ndema, a 6-foot tall woman herself, tall women have traditionally struggled to find affordable clothing that is both flattering and well-fitting.

“When I was younger, I honestly used to believe that I couldn’t afford tall clothes, so I promised myself that one day when I got a ‘big girl job,’ I could leave those high waters behind and keep these ankles warm in the wintertime,” said Ndema during her pitch. She added: “I’m from New York, you know it gets cold out here. So years after having my big girl job, I realized that no matter what I was willing to spend, clothes that virtually would fit my height and physique were nonexistent.”

Amazonian would create small pop-up shops that allow tall women to attend in-person and try on clothing specifically catered to their body types. Women could then order the clothes that they tried on at the pop-up and feel confident that the clothes would fit them well. Alternatively, women could order clothes through an Amazonian app, have them sent to their house and try them on before actually committing to purchasing the garment. Amazonian will also have options for women to purchase clothes directly from them, bypassing the “try before you buy” option.

“[Amazonian is] a tall women specific apparel line. Not only will Amazonian focus on inseam and common pain points, but it will also [by] focusing on conforming material to flatter and respect our variety of tall curves, and will finally offer the ‘try before you buy’ experience that tall women have been waiting for,” said Ndema during the pitch challenge.

According to Al Bartosic, executive director of the foundry, Amazonian stood out to the judges because of Ndema’s presentation skills.

“She came across really confident in her idea, she was able to present it with a lot of energy. She had a good flow to the three minute pitch, and that’s an art or science within itself,” said Bartosic.
Barotsic also noted that the judges felt that Ndema was able to effectively isolate and indicate a problem, solution and market opportunity.

He also said that her own experience of being a tall woman and personally struggling with the problem she presented added to her credibility.

“I think she did well in [presenting] a problem that was very personal to her. In the sense that she is a six-foot-tall plus woman. Her business is around the problems that women over 5 foot 9 inches face when they’re trying to buy clothing,” said Barotsic. “[Ndema is] super credible in terms of here’s a problem that’s being faced and here are the current solutions, none of which are really viable for people that have this issue, and that’s why Amazonian is going to solve the problem.”

According to Bartosic, this year’s Pitch Challenge featured the highest number of participants yet. A select 55 teams presented their pitches at the event, but they received over 100 applications.
“We had 130 student teams apply back in January. Then we take them through a process of three mandatory check-ins, so you can think of that as a funneling process or a winnowing process,” said Bartosic.

The Fordham Foundry hosts a variety of entrepreneurial challenges throughout the year. In addition to Pitch Challenge, the Foundry puts on competitions like Rams Den, a “Shark Tank”-style business competition, and The Battle of the Bronx, which is a business plan competition between Fordham and Manhattan College.

Pitch Challenge stands out among these other competitions because it provides opportunities for members of the Fordham community to receive feedback on business ideas as well as possibly obtain start-up funding.

“I think [Pitch Challenge] is important to the Fordham community if you have an interest in pursuing a business idea or a project of some sort, to get some feedback,” said Bartosic. “One of the things that we always try to tell people that participate is that it’s one thing to have the idea in your head and to convince yourself that it’s a good idea, it’s another thing to trot it out into the light of day and have other people give you some helpful and critical feedback on it.”

The Fordham Foundry is available for all students to use, not just those studying business. According to Bartosic, the foundry is available for students after graduation and is willing to help students regardless of what stage of development their business is in.