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Chicago Booth’s Polsky Center has been running its New Venture Challenge (NVC), one of the top business accelerators in the US and open to all Booth students, since 1996. This year marks the start of the first ever Alumni NVC. Booth’s Evening and Weekend alumni make up nine of 35 teams and are competing in four of the five regions. In a past post, we introduced two alumni competing in the Midwest and on the West Coast. Now, meet two additional alumni on the East Coast and in Asia.

Efua Mensah-Brown, Founder of Thread Life and Dharma Verma, Founder of prepbuddies

Efua Mensah-Brown, Weekend MBA Alum, Thread Life, East Coast

Thread Life is a peer to peer marketplace for sustainable fashion.

If I look deep down I probably always wanted to be an entrepreneur but didn’t know there was such a thing. It wasn’t until I got to Booth that I realized entrepreneurship was an option and I wanted to give it a shot. If your goal is to make money, I don’t think entrepreneurship is for you. It’s a tool to make a big difference in the world…that’s what my main focus is, I can do something to change the world. Booth gave me the courage to consider it a life goal.

My last company was in the social entrepreneurship space. I launched a fashion line to support the end of human trafficking. As I continued on the journey, I learned about issues in the fashion supply chain. How do I build a sustainable business? That’s how I came upon the idea of creating a marketplace with a reverse retail model. Instead of looking for ethical fashion, you post what you are looking for, and a vendor can bid on it.

My advice to budding entrepreneurs is that you really need to believe in what you’re doing because it’s very easy to get discouraged. Surround yourself with people willing to help. So many people will not get it- it’s not for the faint of heart, but with all of the struggles, I would still do it again.

Dharma Verma, Founder of prepbuddies

Dharma Verma, Evening MBA Alum, prepbuddies, Asia

Prepbuddies is an education platform that empowers educational institutions to improve outcomes.

I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, which was the reason I went to business school. I was inspired by concepts such as Zipfit and Swingbyte that fellow students at Booth were working on while in school. I always wanted to improve the life of students. Prepbuddies will be launched in the Indian market first as it has a large student base which is ideal for testing the business model before launching it to other markets across the world.

There is a gap in access to resources and information, especially in the tier two cities of India. The educational system in India is very different than the US - preparation for the academic journey is very intense and ranges from 2-4 years. Prepbuddies will provide better insight to students and faculty about performance, will build strategy to improve areas of weakness and will help them excel on their examinations. I’m testing a pilot of my platform in India with the intention of rolling it out to other countries down the road.

Entrepreneurs should get as much exposure as needed to help them in their journey and give them insight into how to run a business. Remember to enjoy the  experience.

Stay tuned as we find out which teams progress past the semifinals in April!