2024 PETE Prize Winners Develop Pioneering Adaptive Fashion

FIT DTech Lab Executive Director Michael Ferraro, Michelle Chung, Ed Goodman, and Sonia Yanes.

The winners of FIT’s third annual PETE Prize for Entrepreneurs were announced Thursday, May 16, at FIT. The 2024 winning team of Michelle Chung, Entrepreneurship ’22, and Sonia Yanes, Fashion Design ’22 whose company is Odera, have created a business making online shopping for fashion an easy and enjoyable experience for the disability community. Odera is an online marketplace designed for disabled individuals, pioneering adaptive fashion’s shift from being function-focused to fashion-focused, and also offering a guided shopping experience to the neurodivergent community.

Chung and Yanes, who were chosen from among five teams, are receiving $30,000, along with office space for one year as well as marketing, legal, financial, creative, and operational guidance on how to build and launch an innovative company.

“I think people go through this and they go through it quietly,” said Yanes, “so a lot of people don’t realize how many people it’s actually affecting until someone starts a conversation and … you realize how many people and how big of an issue this really is because at the end of the day a lot of disabilities aren’t really visible.”

Chung and Yanes plan to use the $30,000 for website development and customer acquisition activities. “I think that this concept is very much a need in this market,” said Chung. “The reason why the both of us have thought of this is we actually talked to people on the consumer side and the brand side.”

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.

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.

“You’ve all probably heard about incubators helping young companies get started,” Goodman said in presenting the awards, “but there’s none involved backing creatives in the creative industries, and FIT is perfectly positioned [for this], and someday I hope FIT will be the go-to incubator.”

Judges for this year’s PETE Prize were Wanda Colon, founder, Wanda R. Colon Consulting; Aleks Gosiewski, co-founder and COO, Keel Labs; Richard Jaffe, adjunct instructor, Global Fashion Management, FIT; and Michael Keany, chief transformation officer, West Monroe.

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