UVA Darden Students Dominate UVA Entrepreneurship Cup’s Launch Competition
By Derry Wade
University of Virginia Darden School of Business students performed exceptionally well at the recent University of Virginia Entrepreneurship Cup’s Launch Competition, winning the first and third place prizes along with an honorable mention and “Audience Choice” award. The winners are founding members of Darden’s KPI Club, an organization formed in 2020, with the support of adjunct professor Damon DeVito, to provide a mechanism for Darden women founders to propel one another toward success in key performance indicators.
The Launch competition is the final and most competitive phase of UVA’s Entrepreneurship Cup, which is organized annually by the Batten Institute.
First place along with $20,000 and the UVA Entrepreneurship Cup was awarded to Second Year student Elizabeth Blankenship (Class of 2022), founder of Coton, which turns leftover textiles from luxury fashion brands into designer garments on-demand.
Second Year student Cecilia Rios Murrieta (Class of 2022) won third place and $10,000 for her venture, JAS alcohol-free cocktails, beverages that emulate the look and taste of traditional alcoholic drinks.
The “Audience Choice” award, an honorable mention and two $5,000 prizes went to Second Year student Gretchen Pace (Class of 2022), founder of Goose & Willow, a venture that designs and sells artisan home goods made in the United States and featuring original artwork by U.S. military veterans.
The future is bright for the Darden women founders, and each plans on continuing their ventures after graduation. Blankenship plans to work full-time on Coton in New York City after graduation; Murrieta is working on formal product launches in Charlottesville and Los Angeles and in talks with distributors; Pace plans to work on Goose & Willow full-time in the Washington, D.C., area.
“Three women founders took home $40,000 of the $60,000 in the competition prize money,” said DeVito, a mentor to Darden’s student entrepreneurs and instructor in the popular “Venture Velocity” class. “That’s two-thirds — it’s not a fluke, accident or charity situation — it was clearly earned.”
DeVito noted that in recent years, little more than 2 percent of venture capital dollars have gone to female founders, and said he hopes Darden can play a role in raising the number.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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