Victory is sweet for winner of fifth annual New Venture Competition
YummyBazaar.com, which specializes in food from around the world, delighted the judges at Bryant University’s New Venture Competition on Oct. 16. Company co-founder David Meskhi, a finance major who graduated in 2001, won the competition and was awarded the $20,000 top prize.
"Starting the business, we took a lot of risks, invested a lot of savings, and put our hearts into the enterprise," Meskhi said, savoring the victory. "It was rewarding to have that recognized." The funds will be "incredibly helpful in the context of a lean startup.”
Meskhi, who holds an MBA from Harvard, is the company's chief financial officer. His partner and co-founder, Rebecca Chou, is chief executive officer.
They take great care to select what they consider the most delicious, highest-quality food from among tens of thousands of international products. To ensure authenticity, Yummy Bazaar's products are made at the source: French food is made in France, Italian food in Italy, and so on.
The competition, now in its fifth year, drew business plans from more than 30 applicants.
The questions and the feedback from the judges, all accomplished entrepreneurs in their own right, already have the entrepreneurial couple thinking about establishing a subscription box business and segmenting its customers. The judges offered suggestions about practical next steps to take to accomplish those goals. One judge, Meskhi said, expressed interest in investing in the company.
As news of their business spreads, Meskhi said, more customers are aware “that we can bring them great food and that we provide outstanding customer service. That’s critical for a business like ours where customers may be ordering a $10 item online.”
The competition, now in its fifth year, drew business plans from more than 30 applicants, all of whom received valuable business advice from alumni mentors.
Judges included Eric J. Bertrand ’94, managing director of Lincoln Road Advisors, LLC; David Cooley ’82, owner of Analog Preservation LLC; Brian Cowley ’82, managing director of Cowley Ventures; the 2013 New Venture Competition winner, Daryl Crockett ’82, CEO, inventor, and founder of Gray Systems, Inc., dba Validus & Validatum; and Jay Weinberg ’85, president of The Jay Group.
After hearing pitches from 10 finalists, including four students, the judges also recognized:
- Alumni runner-up Shain Waugh ’00, awarded $5,000 for Nurse Intuition, a comprehensive educational website and social platform that bridges the gap between the student and novice nurse to a professional. Based on early feedback from judges, Waugh is working to make his company a nonprofit.
- Student winner Lindsey Lerner ’15, awarded $8,000 for Level, a marketplace fostering relationships between local food and beverage establishments and music artists in Rhode Island that is raising the economic fortunes of both parties.
- Student runner-up Nick O’Hara ’17, awarded $2,000 for Charging Chair, a beach chair that charges phones and portable electronic devices through two USB ports.
The New Venture Competition, designed to spotlight alumni enterprise and support promising new ventures, is sponsored by the Office of Alumni Engagement in coordination with Bryant's Entrepreneurship program. Forbes ranked Bryant No. 34 on its list of America’s top 50 entrepreneurial colleges and College Factual/USA Today ranked Bryant No. 5 in Entrepreneurial Studies.
Prizes were donated by Bryant alumni and friends.