After a summer of learning the key components of running a successful business and developing a comprehensive business plan, a select group of designers in the Design Entrepreneurs NYC (DENYC) Class of 2015 presented their company profiles and final business plans at FIT on October 1 to a panel of high-level industry executives. Twelve companies were chosen from the 25 brands that participated in this year’s DENYC program. Raul Arevalo (an FIT alumnus) and Brad Schmidt of menswear brand CADET took first prize, receiving $100,000 to implement their business plan. Jason and Julie Alkire of Haus Alkire, a luxury women’s wear brand, were selected for the second-place prize of $50,000 to implement their plans for growth. The 2015 second place award was provided by Michael Gold, president of YM, Inc., in honor of his father, Israel Goldgrub. Both will also receive ongoing mentoring by industry executives.
DENYC, which has now completed its fourth year, is a free, intensive, “mini-MBA” program that teaches emerging New York City–based designers who have been in business for at least two years marketing, public relations, operations, and presentation skills, as well as financial management skills, specifically relevant for the fashion industry. By the end of the program, each company―a number of which have already had commercial success and positive publicity―comes away with a business plan they can implement to bring their business to the next level. The 25 graduates of the Class of 2015 were selected from an applicant pool of approximately 250.
As part of the continued effort to support the city’s fashion industry, the prize monies this year increased for first and second place winners from $25,000 to $100,000 and from $10,000 to $50,000, respectively. This is a result of the established fashion industry’s commitment to the program and emerging designers. Through the leadership of founding sponsor G-III Apparel Group, Ltd., companies that now support DENYC include Macy’s, PVH/Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Cole Haan, and Ivanka Trump. The program, envisioned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation as part of its suite of efforts to support the city’s fashion industry, is housed at and operated by FIT.
“Raul and I found Design Entrepreneurs NYC to be challenging—but in a good way,” said CADET co-founder Brad Schmidt. “Developing a five-year strategic plan was a huge learning experience and prepares us to make CADET into the next great American brand. Our mentor, Jeanette Nostra, was instrumental in focusing us on a plan that made sense and was achievable. This program is business focused, so being recognized for our business potential and viable strategy is a true honor.”
Since its inception, DENYC has proven successful in creating jobs and opportunities around New York City. Many of the more than 100 alumni have grown their businesses and achieved success after participating in the program, including 2013 grand prize winner Becca McCharen of Chromat, who earned a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list; participated in MADE Fashion Week, showing her fall 2014 line; and was featured in the City’s Made in NY marketing campaign. Class of 2014 alumnus David Hart was just five years into his menswear design business when he joined DENYC. Already boasting an A-list clientele including Daniel Radcliffe, Alan Cumming, Bryan Cranston, and Andy Samberg, as well as receiving top-line press, he—since participating in the program—has become creative director of Hickey Freeman, was an International Woolmark Prize finalist, has a Cadillac collaboration, showed at New York Men’s Fashion Week, and was named a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.