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The entrepreneurial journey continues to the Archangel’s Den

January 31, 2022

After months of preparation with alumni mentors, the Archangel’s Den teams are ready to face the judges' panel on Thursday, February 10, 2022.

Five teams selected in November 2021 have spent the last three months working with a diverse team of expert mentors to prepare for their virtual presentation. 

While working through the mentorship levels, the teams regularly checked in with project mentor, Michael Bakaic ’07. After clocking more than 80 hours working with the teams to prioritize their tasks, he reminded them to celebrate successes and analyze setbacks.

“Our mission in the Archangel's Den was to invest our experience in developing the characters of the participants,” shares Bakaic. “We aimed the mentoring at training core skills, providing guidance on critical thinking, and offering case studies on how to engage with the tough questions when developing a business.” 

Throughout the process, Bakaic worked on refining business models, identifying successful criteria, and most importantly strengthening self-confidence in participants.

“There is no singular secret recipe for success, and we worked with the teams to bolster their own recipe with a foundation of tools and discipline. The growth of the participants was delightfully apparent over the programme. It has been a distinct pleasure to work with these ambitious minds and their contagious energy,” adds Bakaic. “They have the vision to see where they want to go and are cultivating the discipline needed to get there.”

FreshFind – James Jun ’10 and Michael Mastrella ’10

SMCS Archangel's Den finalist James Jun SMCS Archangel's Den finalist Michael Mastrella

FreshFind is an online marketplace connecting consumers with local food and artisanal goods from nearby vendors and farmers’ markets. 

“The Archangel’s Den pushed us to go beyond our usual boundaries to meet with different mentors, each with very different perspectives. This process allowed us to challenge our thinking and vision, which became sharper as a result,” shares Jun. “A big challenge was allocating time to the competition while running the business at the same time, but I believe the time investment was worth it.

“We hope that we’re making a positive mark in the community through our participation.”

Jobify – Tony Downey ’16 and Dave Rodrigues

Tony Downey '16 Dave Rodrigues

Jobify is a platform that helps connect teens to local job opportunities while equipping them with the necessary tools to secure employment.

“I feel that we have grown as individuals over the last three months thanks to the mentorship from other successful entrepreneurs, courtesy of this competition. We practiced looking at certain business challenges through a different lens and created innovative solutions. This is a skill that we will carry throughout the rest of our entrepreneurial journeys,” shares Downey. 

“It has been challenging to navigate the launch of our product through an ongoing pandemic. However, through creative thinking, we produced solutions that leverage digital channels, making it much more efficient to execute our go-to-market strategies. In life, we can make excuses, or we can get results, but you cannot have both. We have gained valuable relationships with mentors who have offered to help grow our business in any way they can, including opening their networks for us or even introducing us to potential clients. Business is all about who you know and being exposed to these high-level individuals is extremely helpful. The opportunity to participate in this competition is something every SMCS alumnus interested in entrepreneurship should consider. You learn a lot, and it is super fun.” 

Olena – Oleksandr Feoktistov ’18

Oleksandr Feoktistov '18

Olena is an online marketplace for print-on-demand products based on user-submitted designs.

"I've always known that I had the capacity for entrepreneurship, but I didn't give it a serious thought until I took a leap of faith this year. Competitions like Archangel's Den are especially helpful in that not only do you meet talented people and learn new things, but they also keep you on track,” says Feoktistov.

“My startup went through at least 15 iterations throughout this process, which was hugely demotivating for me. Every time you must recheck your assumptions and change the pitch. However, I knew that I could always count on the support of the St. Mike's community, whether it is organizers like Mr. John Walsh ’73 and Ms. Stephanie Nicholls, mentors like Michael Bakaic, or the participants themselves (i.e. Matthew Travis ’18, who exchanged a few ideas with me during the competition). All in all, I would have not gotten this far without reconnecting with the community I missed so much! I am looking forward to the premiere and staying in touch with the connections I made!"

WutUp – Matthew Travis ’18

Matthew Travis '18

WutUp is a new platform where users can see and create opportunities to hang out with others within their network.

“Through the Archangel's Den, I have grown tremendously as an individual. From learning how to accept and analyze constructive criticism, to gaining confidence through speaking with mentors and reaching out to business contacts, and how to look at the bigger business picture of WutUp rather than just the software development side,” shares Travis. 

“I have faced and overcome many challenges with the help and support from the mentors, mainly being able to step outside of my comfort zone. As a result of the Archangel's Den, I hope to further my relationships with mentors, gain investors or potential business partners, and create more awareness of WutUp.”

ZALE Apparel – Akil Thomas ’17, Giancarlo Giorno ’17, and Patrick Romain ’17

Akil Thomas '17 Giancarlo Giorno '17 Patrick Romain '17

ZALE Apparel separates itself from other brands in the streetwear industry by adding a personal touch to all of its collections and individual items. 

“Through the many mentorship meetings we had as a team, I realized a lot of things about business. A couple of notable things include the emphasis on managing people as a leader as opposed to the actual business decisions and work,” shares Thomas. 

“I was taught the importance of keeping my employees in check and happy in an appropriate way. Another notable thing was the importance of organization. Because we are a small business, there was not an urgent need for a ton of organization, but I was taught the importance of establishing successful habits from day one to make everything flow smoothly. The biggest challenge for us during this competition was simply just preparing to convey our vision and passion to the judges. We knew that the majority of the pitches would be tech startups which would give them an advantage over us. To give ourselves a chance we had to get creative and convey how we differentiated from the other pitches which took a long time to plan out. 

“We made a lot of connections throughout this experience, gained a lot of important insight and advice, and believe that it is very important to talk to experienced and knowledgeable people who have been through what our team is about to go through. We will maintain a close relationship with our mentors.” 

Beginning in 2018, the Archangel’s Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest supports the entrepreneurial aspirations of young alumni by providing valuable learning, mentorship, and networking opportunities that reflect the school's mission and values.

This year’s event is presented by Crunch Media Branding & Communications Inc. and Lyn Group and will take place virtually on Thursday, February 10, 2022, at 7 p.m.
 

Related links:

Archangel’s Den Alumni Entrepreneur Contest

Alumni