Seven LaGuardia Community College Students Launch New Venture with Seed Funding and Business Counsel from Capital One Bank

Long Island City, NY— LaGuardia Community College student Karel Powery is one step closer to realizing her dream of starting an online shoe store – Shoe Life – after she competed to win the top prize in the Capital One Student Design Entrepreneur Challenge on Friday, December 16. Karel will receive business counsel from Capital One Small Business Bankers and $1,000 in working capital. 

Karel was among seven students who participated in the three-month entrepreneurial training program that includes business workshops and a mentoring from Capital One Small Business Bankers in partnership with LaGuardia Community College’s Small Business Development Center and NYDesigns, an incubator for design businesses ranging from fashion to architecture.

Karel’s peers also received seed funding based on the strength of the business plans they presented to a panel of judges from Capital One Bank, LaGuardia’s NYDesigns and members of the design community. Michael Starkey and Anel Quintero received $750; and four $500 gifts went to Akua Berko-Mensah, Yamiris Gonzalez, Mario Morees and Alasia Harris.

“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 our future business leaders gain valuable experience and providing resources to help make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality.”

During her pitch, Karel, explained that she has a clear goal: to develop Shoe Life, an online shoe boutique that will exclusively sell trendy, bold and fashionable high-heeled shoes.  She hopes to build a brand that is known for high-quality, on-trend  and meaningful customer relationships.

She plans to put the Capital One grant toward the fee for registering her business, the yearly cost of her e-commerce shopping cart and other marketing needs 

Karel described her experience: “I always wanted to go into my own business, but I didn’t want to be the person who was asked, ‘What kind of income are you bringing in? What is your net worth? What is your margin?” and not know the answer,” she said.  “I came into the program not knowing the answers and came out knowing all the answers.  It feels amazing.”

The partnership between Capital One, LaGuardia’s NYDesigns and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) was established in 2008. During the 12-week training, the students attend business workshops and mentoring sessions facilitated by SBDC advisors, Capital One Small Business Bankers and Resident Designers at NYDesigns. The sessions introduced students to business plan writing, as well as business financials and accounting. The students also had access to a shared studio office and the NYDesigns community and events.

The other student entrepreneurs include:

  • Akua, a budding designer from Ghana, West Africa.  In January, she launched MABM Designs, which features unique clothing and accessories for women ages 17 – 40.  Akua plans to earn another degree in apparel design and launch a store in New York City. 
  • Alesia, is launching State Stop Services, which will publish a catalog for incarcerated women, featuring elegant, but affordable clothing and healthy food choices.  Her company will also develop a website to help keep families connected and introduce re-entry services.
  • Mario, plans to launch BOOK A, an exchange site that will enable college students to buy and sell used textbooks and identify compatible roommates.  His initial market will be LaGuardia students, but he hopes to expand to schools and nationwide.
  • Yamiris, is launching MioNYC, the “Ultimate Beauty Bundle” of makeup products and application, custom jewelry design and photographic services.  Her initial market is beauty pageant directors in Queens. She looks to expand to pageant participants in all five boroughs. 
  • Michael, formed JM Starkey LLC, which will soon sell *67 Apparel, a line of humorous t-shirts imported from Taiwan and sold at bargain prices in New York.  His initial target market will be the 20- to-30-something, hipster crowds. A brick-and-mortar location and graphic and web design services are planned for the future.
  • Anel, launched Quintero, which designs headbands for young girls.  She will create two lines—one affordable and a more distinctive, pricier line to compete with other child accessory designers. 

“The exposure to professionals in the industry encourages our students 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 three times 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 to learn more.

About NYDesigns

Located at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, NY Designs ( 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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