UB Business Student, Arts and Sciences Alumna Win Top Awards for Entrepreneurs at National Urban League Competition
August 17, 2016
Contact: University Relations
A University of Baltimore history alumna and a current student in UB's Merrick School of Business won two of the top awards for entrepreneurs at the National Urban League's 2016 Small Business Matters Entrepreneurship Summit, held in Baltimore on Aug. 6. Takia Ross, B.A. '11, won the top prize of $10,000 for her presentation on her start-up business, Pretty Mobile, an on-wheels version of her traveling make-up services company, Accessmatized. Monique Reid, a student in UB's entrepreneurship program, placed third in the same competition, earning $5,000 for her business, Advanced Laboratory Services.
(Pictured, from left, Takia Ross, Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Director John Zuknick, and Monique Reid.)
Both of the UB winners received assistance in entering the competition from the University's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Like other entrepreneur pitch competitions, the Small Business Matters Entrepreneurship Summit selected a small group of qualifying entrepreneurs to present their plans for a new or existing business to a panel of experts, who typically assess the potential for the business to become successful. In this instance, Ross and Reid were among fewer than a dozen finalists, vying for funding to grow their companies.
"It was a surreal experience, to enter and win this competition in front of an audience of about 300 plus four judges," Ross said. "I’ve been involved in pitch competitions before, but this was a new level in so many ways."
Ross, a past winner of UB's Attman Competitive Business Prize and the Rise to the Challenge competition, said she used her few minutes in the competition to talk about the Pretty Mobile, a large van that she converted into a traveling make-up and salon for weddings, parties, fashion shows, film shoots and more. Having provided services for 40 weddings and more than 450 clients, and already turning a profit, Ross said telling the story of her business is really telling the story of her life—as a helpmate, a booster and a great listener.
"I always talk about the numbers for my business, because they are business people and they want to know about the financials," she said. "But I tell everybody that Pretty Mobile solves problems—we go wherever you are and we provide professional services so you can be at your very best."
Reid, also a winner of last year's Attman Business Prize, told the Urban League audience about her one-woman company, Advanced Laboratory Services, which provides on-location phlebotomy services for insurance, employment and other purposes. Reid, who often works 14-or even 16-hour days, traveling throughout eastern Maryland and into Virginia, said her goal is to raise enough money to open her own laboratory for processing blood tests.
"I'm getting my financing together to buy state-of-the-art equipment and set up a permanent home for the business," she said. She also is preparing to offer a certification course for others who are interested in phlebotomy work. Her business has been consistently profitable, with hundreds of clients in homes, schools and office settings.
Both Ross and Reid give credit to the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation the University's Merrick School of Business for helping them to maximize the potential of their businesses, from conception to execution.
"Before I came to the center, I was so green about how I could make Advanced Laboratory Services work as a business," Reid said. "They go above and beyond. If it wasn't for the center I don't think I would have this kind of success."
"I've learned a lot from the center," Ross said. "They've taught me how to tell the story of my business, which is so important to customers, funders—just everybody."
The two agreed that the National Urban League pitch competition was worth the effort of applying, going through various rounds, and standing up in front of a room full of strangers at the Baltimore Convention Center. For them, it was just another tough but gratifying day as an entrepreneur: the work is hard, but it’s great to be the boss.
"I have long days and I work hard," Reid said. "But you can't make any money sleeping."
The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the College of Public Affairs, the Merrick School of Business, the UB School of Law and the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences.