Madison Baldwin and Sarah Alenezi at the Lulu eGames.
“My time in the USP helped me get outside of my comfort zone and experience different fields without fear. Being involved in entrepreneurship is very similar to that where you have to wear different hats everyday and learn about different fields to help grow your venture or idea.”
In this edition of Spotlight on Our Students, we catch up with two of our big winners, Madison and Sarah, from the most recent round of the Lulu eGames, an annual startup competition that awards on-campus entrepreneurs for their new and innovative ideas. Madison Baldwin and Sarah Alenezi are both seniors majoring in chemical engineering. Together with their teammates Els Thijs and Erin Furgason, they form the backbone of a start-up company called Cup’t. The team won big at the eGames, placing in the following categories: Social and Environmental Impact, Built on Cloud, Arts Venture, and Judge’s Choice! Needless to say, they made quite an impression and they agreed to take a little time to tell us more about the work behind these accomplishments. Read more below.
USP: Madison and Sarah, first of all, congratulations to you and your team! This is such an exciting development for your start-up. First of all, tell us exactly what Cup’t is.
MB: Cup’t is revolutionizing bra shopping by introducing the first automated retail sizing technology. Our product is designed to make bra shopping easier for women, and give retailers in-depth customer analysis. Retailers purchase our technology system which fits in naturally to the bra shopping experience.
The customer goes into the dressing room of a retail store and puts on the Cup’t sizing vest. The vest takes multiple, precise measurements and generates the user size and a list of bra recommendations. The whole process is quick and simple and the customer leaves the store with a perfect fitting bra and a great shopping experience. The retailer benefits as well, increasing their sales, reducing their inventory losses and generating customer information.
USP: What an awesome concept! Sounds like it really will make a huge impact both for the consumer and the retailer – so it’s a win-win. What are some of the things you learned along the way in developing this concept?
MB & SA: TEAMWORK!
MB: Honestly, Team dynamics and communication are so important. Talking issues out with teammates and being honest from a place of mutual respect makes a huge difference on the experience you have with any group.
SA: I completely agree, I learned that teamwork and goal-setting are both driven and nourished by sharing the same passion and vision with each other and I was lucky to find that in our team!
USP: Absolutely! If you’re going to accomplish anything with a group, you’ve got to be open and honest from the jump. It sounds like you were fortunate to form a team that worked really well together. What sort of impact are you hoping to achieve with Cup’t?
MB: We hope that bra shopping will finally be fun and easy, and bras will be comfortable! That our sizing technology will make it possible to implement mass customization for bras and other apparel products. But who knows!
USP: These things tend to morph and evolve once they are out in the world, for sure. What were some of the challenges you faced getting to this stage with Cup’t?
MB & SA: Just figuring out the direction to go in with the idea.
MB: Specifically I think it was trying to determine what would be the value proposition? What are the technical details to deliver value to the customer?
SA: Also, trying to explain how the how the product works and that this is a business to business (B2B) product really.
USP: Once people understand what you’re offering though, there is clearly an “a-ha” moment, your success thus far highlights that. Where do you see the business going from here?
SA: We have decided to proceed with the venture and we are in the process of applying to different accelerators and competitions. We are also trying to get consumer feedback on the prototype. In the long-term, I would love to see Cup’t expanding nationally and then taking it globally. My personal long-term goal is to follow my passion and always add value to people’s lives.
USP: You just need that one hook and then you’re in. You’re both really active students in other ways as well. How would you say that your time in the University Scholars Program helped prepare you for this experience?
SA: My time in the USP helped me get outside of my comfort zone and experience different fields without fear. Being involved in entrepreneurship is very similar to that where you have to wear different hats every day and learn about different fields to help grow your venture or idea.
MA: I would piggyback off that and say University Scholars really helped me learn how to combine interdisciplinary topics and listen for understanding. I’m not an expert on electronics or textile manufacturing or retail, but being able to ask questions and listen to others helped us accelerate our progress.
USP: Sounds like you’re both really open to asking questions and brainstorming when needs arise. That’s an awesome way to approach any problem. At this point, other students that are reading this are no doubt curious how they can get involved in the thriving entrepreneurship community here on campus.
SA: NC State University is one of the best universities to support entrepreneurship. There are a lot of entrepreneurship classes that anyone can take as electives but there are also a major and a minor in Entrepreneurship by Poole College of management. The Engineering Entrepreneurship Program is another great way to get involved. The E-garage and the NC Entrepreneurship Clinic are two of the best resources on campus to get started.
MB: Agreed, stepping into any of those spaces with an idea can help you explore entrepreneurship and flesh out your ideas or even just come up with an idea!
USP: This is such great advice for students. And we just know that this not the last we’ve heard about you and the Cup’t team. Before you go, can you tell us the best bit of advice you’ve ever received?
SA: The best advice I have received was from one of my professors at NCSU. She said that it is very important to try and explore different subjects while you are a student. It was a valuable advice because I am now involved with 5 different colleges at NC State and I do not think I would have found out about my different passions and interests if I didn’t explore different disciplines and activities on campus.
MB: In a TED talk by Tim Ferriss, he talks about fear setting, basically asking yourself “What if I ____?” naming the worst case, best case, and partial success situation that could happen by taking action. It really helps you realize how irrational your fears may be and that not everything has to be a complete success to be worth doing. You can do this with anything, from the small to the big stuff!