Craftistas takes top place in Student Sandbox Demo Day competition

August 16, 2012

Startup entrepreneur Camille Malkiewicz found out that going last among 15 presenters in the RvD IDEA Student Sandbox Demo Day competition had its benefits, after all.

Her company, Craftistas, took first place, winning $1,000, a travel stipend, and most importantly, a highly sought spot on the presenters’ stage at the Early Stage East venture capital showcase this fall. The slot represents a huge chance to attract serious potential investors and to obtain funding to take the subscription service do-it-yourself fashion-kit company to the big time.

Craftistas“I’m estatic, I’m so happy,” says Malkiewicz. “There were so many solid teams. The last few months I’ve been working alongside them, and I think highly of every single team, so I was really so surprised to win,” she says. Malkiewicz also is thrilled to be attending the Early Stage competition. “You have to apply, and there are hundreds of thousands of applications to present,” she says. “And to get the golden ticket—wow! It is so exciting!”

Malkiewicz, of Syracuse, graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s degree in advertising in May. She spent the last 12 weeks in the RvD IDEA Sandbox, further developing the company along with her team member, To Thu Tra, who is a current student in the Newhouse advertising program.

The idea for a service that curates fashion trends and delivers them monthly to subscribers has been on Malkiewicz’s mind for some time. Into crafts as a girl, she let her creative side go when soccer overtook most of her secondary school spare time. Eventually, she longed to get creativity back into her leisure hours, and that’s how the idea originated.

Fourteen other startups pitched to an audience of about 250 fellow students, mentors, RvD IDEA Sandbox staff and SU and other college supporters at the Demo Day competition. The presenting teams were selected from among 34 teams initially brought into the RvD IDEA Sandbox this summer.

The objective of the RvD IDEA Sandbox is to accelerate the process of ideation, development and deployment through mentoring and coaching. The experiential-based program’s objective is producing revenue-generating entities or investment-ready firms, according to John D. Liddy, entrepreneur in residence there and an adjunct faculty member at SU’s School of Information Studies (iSchool).

More so, the experience provides a taste of real-world startup life within a backdrop of support, guidance and access to resources. Students who spend their summer in the RvD IDEA Sandbox enjoy a dimension and scope of practical experience that wouldn’t otherwise be obtainable before they step into the real world, he says.

“It helps them recognize that having the idea is not enough, that you have to execute on that idea, and that execution takes lots of parts and pieces,” Liddy noted. “The experience portion is vital; through the process of doing it, you become much better at it—and by that, students will have a much richer education.”

The RvD IDEA Sandbox, an EDA University Center, has experienced tremendous growth, going from a modest start in 2009 with five teams, to 12 in 2010, 21 last year and 34 in 2012. There also has been tremendous growth in the number of mentors active in the program: from four initially to the 115 who assisted with all aspects of guidance this year—including entrepreneurs, professors, technologists, subject matter experts, attorneys and accountants, Liddy says.

Judges were entrepreneurial leaders David Freschman, Christine Tate and SU University Professor Carl Schramm.