The winners of FIT’s second annual PETE Prize for Entrepreneurs were announced during Entrepreneurship Month on Thursday, November 30, at a breakfast at Spring Place. The 2023 winning team of Habin Lee, Technical Design ’23, and Mary Addison Davis, Fashion Design ’23, whose company is RANEA: Courage to Move, have created a business manufacturing and selling athletic wear that facilitates proper muscle movements and reduces stress for chronic injuries for both men and women.
Lee and Davis, who were chosen from among 96 applicants, are receiving $30,000, along with office space for one year and marketing, legal, financial, creative, and operational guidance on how to build and launch an innovative company. “What’s really important for RANEA,” said Lee, “is to promote and to remember the joy of having an active lifestyle without getting injured.”
By incorporating compression garment technology in its designs, RANEA aims to stabilize major core muscle areas to prevent injuries. “I started developing the idea when I was suffering from sciatica earlier this year,” said Lee. “I was hoping that there were garments that could give me enough stabilization to move, yet would not limit my movements like braces. [Kinesiology tape] was a good temporary solution, but it was too irritating to my skin and very disposable. RANEA started out of my desperation for comfort and function.”
Lee and Davis plan to use the $30,000 to build a strong foundation for the company, beginning with creating solid garment prototypes. They are going to focus on experimenting and forming a community of people to gather reviews of their product and sizing data. “Body shapes vary a lot, and the ultimate goal is to create a detailed size chart in order to fulfill the needs of the customers representing diverse body shapes,” Lee said.
The PETE Prize is inspired by Peter G. Scotese, chairman emeritus of the FIT Board of Trustees and a pioneering entrepreneur. Seed funding was provided by Edwin Goodman, former chair of the FIT Board of Trustees and a partner of Activate Venture Partners, and was matched by Laurence C. Leeds, Jr., of L. Leeds Holding LLC, and a member of the FIT Foundation, along with Jay Baker, former president of Kohl’s Department Stores, former FIT trustee, and former chair of the FIT Foundation.
“We wanted to honor PETE and his wonderful career and his ability to nurture young people,” Goodman said during the award presentation. “We thought about that and we identified a number of qualities that reflected the prize—passionate, empathetic, tenacious, and enthusiastic, so that’s for PETE. I’m thrilled that we’re starting our third year.”
The PETE Prize is administered by the FIT DTech Lab as a jury-picked merit award competition which recognizes excellence in the development of fresh, insightful and creative ideas which are envisioned through execution-focused business plans that demonstrate innovative, design-oriented thinking. The proposal represents a for-profit business idea, distinctive in the demonstration of creativity and imaginative qualities. Ideas submitted must include a focus on art, business, design, mass communication, and technology connected to the fashion industry—and promote FIT’s core values of innovation, sustainability, and diversity.
Haley Schwartz, Fashion Design AAS ‘22, was the first PETE Prize recipient, and since winning in 2022 for her business Vertige Adaptive, Inc., she has developed a line of adaptive apparel; is preparing for an e-commerce product launch on her website and an innovative live shopping event—utilizing the Bambuser platform—to introduce her collection during American Heart month in February. Schwartz has also begun working with production and development consultants to secure a manufacturing partner; was selected by the Fashion Service Network (FSN) to participate in their mentorship program; and will receive industry guidance from FSN as she further develops her collection and moves toward broader distribution.
Judges for this year’s PETE Prize were Patti Carpenter, principal, Carpenter+Co. and Global Trend Ambassador (FIT alum); Michelle Collins, president and CXO, a non-agency and Forbes Business Council member; Jessica Couch, partner, Fayetteville Road Management Consulting Agency; Aleksandra Gosiewski, co-founder and COO, Keel Labs, and Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree (FIT alum); Jordana Guimaraes, co-founder, FASHINNOVATION; and Marcelo Guimaraes, co-founder and CEO, FASHINNOVATION.