Eight LaGuardia Students Receive Venture Funding and Business Training from Capital One for Design Start-ups

Long Island City, NY— LaGuardia Community College student Ibrahima Njiaye is one step closer to realizing his dream of starting a video and film production business thanks to his participation in the Capital One Student Design Entrepreneur Center, which gave him invaluable business training and $1,000 in working capital. The program is a partnership between Capital One Bank and LaGuardia Community College’s Small Business Development Center and NYDesigns, an incubator for design businesses ranging from fashion to architecture. 

Ibrahima was among eight students who participated in the intensive, three-month entrepreneurial program, funded by Capital One Bank, and ultimately received venture capital from the bank to help them launch their own businesses. The program also included a series of business workshops and a mentoring component. 

Each aspiring entrepreneur received an award ranging from $500 to $1,000 based on the strength of their proposed business plan and pitch that they presented to a panel of judges representing Capital One Bank, LaGuardia’s NYDesigns and members of the design community. The “Pitch for the Stretch” event took place on May 6.

While Ibrahima took the first prize, Delfin Martes and Suchuntra Kawpunna each came away with $750; and five $500 gifts went to Diana Castillo, Alvarez Gonzalez, Marquis Gray, Yuri Guanilo and Athena Ivey.

“As a local bank, Capital One recognizes the important role that small business owners play in stimulating our local economy,” said Giselle Cahalan, Queens Market President for Capital One Bank. “Through this unique partnership, we are helping the future business leaders of our community gain valuable real world experience and providing resources to help make their entrepreneurial dreams come true.”

During his pitch before the panel of judges, Ibrahima, a new media technology student, said that he has a clear goal: to become an independent filmmaker and video production company owner. He explained that is already built his own website, DimeProductions.net, which showcases his short documentaries as well as the work he has done as a part-time graphic designer for his French-speaking West African community; and has invested $9,000 in video equipment–from camcorders to editing software. “But I am missing one important piece of equipment—a lighting kit,” the fledgling entrepreneur noted.  “If I receive the $1,000 in working capital, I will be able to buy the lighting kit, which would allow me to shot in any type of lighting conditions.”

“Words cannot describe how excited I am to win this start-up capital,” said Ibrahima, upon learning that he won the grand prize.  “With this gift I will be able to purchase this last piece of equipment that will allow me to expand my video and film operation and take it to the next level.”

The other students are also well on their way to fulfilling their dreams.

Physical therapy assistant major Delfin is an aspiring apparel designer who already has a brand name “Somos” and a plan: begin his business by designing T-shirts, and, ultimately, branch out to a full apparel line.

While pursuing a degree in criminal justice, Suchuntra is busy creating “Toy Monkey Exchange,” a community-based website that will help families with children exchange toys, baby products and furniture.

Diana, whose mother has been producing jewelry for over 10 years, would like to follow in her mother’s footsteps and start her own jewelry business, but hers would be online. The recent occupational therapy assistant graduate hopes to launch her business before year’s end.

Alvaro, a fine arts major, plans to direct his talents in graphic design and photography to start a graphic design/photography business for the music community.

Business major Marquis is hoping to combine his two passions—business and fashion—and start his C.R.E.A.M clothing line 

After seven years experience in the non-profit sector working on emergency relief efforts in South East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, business administration major Yuri is starting up Tamuru Group, an event production firm that focuses on socially conscious events for non-profit and corporate clients.

Athena, a graduate of the High School of Art and Design and a part-time LaGuardia student, is taking her longtime obsession for belts and creating her own line of affordable, creative women’s belts.

The partnership between Capital One and LaGuardia’s NYDesigns and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) was established in 2008.

During the 12-week training, the students attended business workshops given by Small Business Development Center advisors and mentoring sessions, conducted by Capital One bankers and resident designers at NYDesigns, which covered business plan writing and an introduction to business financials and accounting. The students also had access to a dedicated shared studio that they could use as their office, complete with Internet, phone, fax and copier services and meeting rooms. Students were introduced to the design community at NYDesigns and encouraged to participate in networking events.

Alvaro said that he came away from the training with a tremendous amount of knowledge.  “I learned everything, from the small things like creating a company name and logo,” he said, “to some of the bigger issues such as the importance of capitalization and making sure there is longevity in your business.” 

“This exposure to people in the industry encourages them to dream bigger,” said NYDesigns Director Natalia Arguello. “Each student received financial assistance according to where they are in the business planning process.”

About LaGuardia Community College

LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at twice the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.

About NYDesigns

Located at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, NY Designs (nydesigns.org) is a business incubator for design businesses that provides valuable and affordable resources for designers, including studio space rental, workshop/ prototyping equipment rental, business counseling and courses in business and sustainability. NY Designs’ focus is New York based designers working in product design, industrial design, fashion design, graphic design, interior design, and architecture, lighting design and jewelry design. NYDesigns is located at 45-50 30th Street, 7th floor, Long Island City, NY. 

About Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

The LaGuardia Small Business Development Center provides entrepreneurs with free, one-on-one professional counseling for existing and start-up businesses in English, Spanish, Korean and three dialects of Chinese. Areas of advising include how to start a business; legal requirements; business and financial planning; marketing; business expansion; assistance with franchises; international trade and more.

About Capital One

Capital One Financial Corporation, headquartered in McLean, Virginia, is a Fortune 500 company with approximately 1,000 branch locations primarily in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana and the District of Columbia. Its subsidiaries, Capital One, N.A. and Capital One Bank (USA), N. A., offer a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients. We apply the same principles of innovation, collaboration and empowerment in our commitment to our communities across the country that we do in our business. We recognize that helping to build strong and healthy communities – good places to work, good places to do business and good places to raise families – benefits us all and we are proud to support this and other community initiatives.

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