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Skidmore College

Skidmore’s creative entrepreneurs solve real-world problems

April 24, 2024
by Katie Rocque 

What makes the annual Kenneth A. Freirich Entrepreneurship Competition such a rewarding experience for Skidmore’s passionate student entrepreneurs each year?  

Is it the invaluable mentorship fostered among students, staff, and alumni mentors, who bring real-world feedback and insight to the “Shark Tank”-like competition? Maybe it’s the thrill of anticipating who will be awarded cash prizes that will help take students’ ideas to the next level? Or maybe it’s being part of an exciting Skidmore tradition that is now in its 15th year?  

The answer has to do with all of the above and more: Skidmore is a place where creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship are celebrated; where a supportive community including past competition winners, alumni mentors, classmates, faculty and staff, parents, and judges from successful enterprises come together to cheer on students and ensure that student projects shine.  

That talent and creativity went on full display at this year’s competition finals held on April 12.  

From clothing lines with social and environmental impacts, to apps that make trip planning or listening to favorite music easier, all eight business plans that qualified for the 2024 finals worked to find creative, entrepreneurial solutions to solving challenging problems while also making a world of difference.  

And the winner is ... 

Malika Sawadogo ’24 celebrates after winning the 2024 Kenneth A. Freirich Entrepreneurship Competition.

Malika Sawadogo ’24 celebrates after winning the 2024 Kenneth A. Freirich Entrepreneurship Competition.

MESTH Collection  

Malika Sawadogo ’24 captivated the audience with her showcase of quality, affordable clothing inspired by the beauty of her homeland, Burkina Faso. Her presentation not only highlighted the thoughtfully sourced fabrics from her hometown but also featured a vibrant fashion show showcasing the line’s men's and women’s wear.  

MESTH’s unique clothing and bags not only exude beauty but also serve a greater purpose of supporting the community that inspired the fashion line. With a commitment to giving back, 5% of proceeds will be directed toward aiding widows and orphans in Sawadogo’s home country of Burkina Faso. Looking ahead, she envisions establishing a foundation that will provide even more support to the community. 

Here's a buyer's secret: Sawadogo aims to offer consumers a sense of individuality through her limited design brand approach. By choosing a MESTH piece, not only will you adorn yourself with a handmade, traditional African design, but you'll also own a style that's truly one of a kind. 

Second to none ... 

Justice Ripinga ’24, who placed second, presents his business plan for Quatam, a ride-sharing app for minibus taxis in South Africa.

Justice Ripinga ’24, who placed second, presents his business plan for Quatam, a ride-sharing app for minibus taxis in South Africa.

Quatam 

Quatam is a ride-sharing app with a mission to revolutionize public transportation efforts in South Africa. According to its founder, Justice Ripinga ’24, upward of 70% of South Africans face challenges, such as long waits, associated with the minibus taxi, the country's main form of transportation. Quatam allows passengers to accurately locate a seat on the nearest minibus while optimizing routes for drivers to ensure efficient pickups. 

Ripinga is a member of the African Leadership Academy,which seeks to transform young leaders into the next generation of entrepreneurs.  

Time for third ... 

Azizul Hakim ’26 (left), Fiker Tadesse ’26 (center), Jacob Kriss ’25 (behind Tadesse), and Casey Rueda ’24 (right), who placed third, present their business plan.

Azizul Hakim ’26 (left), Fiker Tadesse ’26 (center), Jacob Kriss ’25 (behind Tadesse), and Casey Rueda ’24 (right), who placed third, present their business plan.

QuickThought 

College students understand the time crunch as well as anyone, and QuickThought  provides a solution. Azizul Hakim ’26, Casey Rueda ’24, Fiker Tadesse ’26, and Jacob Kriss ’25 developed the schedule-syncing application to help people optimize free time and improve group planning efforts. 

The third-place winner is a faster, simpler, and personalized platform that not only helps find and coordinate time, but also integrates multiple calendars into one place and offers suggestions on how to spend free time based on an individual’s energy level, social battery, and budget. 

Entrepreneurship at Skidmore ... 

Skidmore’s liberal arts curriculum encourages students to think outside of the box and consider how they might connect the dots among seemingly disparate concepts and ideas. Students are encouraged to think through how they can solve problems creatively, improve their communities, and use entrepreneurial approaches to pressing issues.  

“To be an entrepreneur is to embody the liberal arts. Freirich is a business plan competition, but also a larger constellation of entrepreneurial experiences ... At Skidmore, we want all our students to hone creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial skills,” President Marc C. Conner said, noting the competition was open to students from all majors.  “Here, you can be an artist, scientist, French or dance major... and an entrepreneur.” 

Business plan bonus ...  

The Freirich Competition isn’t the only place where Skidmore students have put their entrepreneurial talents on recent display.

In the weeks leading up to Freirich, a student team presented their business plan, FarmHub NY, at the New York State Business Plan Competition. The results: second place in the agricultural track and advancing to finals at the end of April. Founded by Sophie Sacco ’24 and business partner Noa Berger ’24, FarmHub NY was created with a mission to connect consumers with small local farmers.  

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