Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall hosts a myriad of musical events each week, but what many students don’t know is that a lot more than music has taken place within the walls of Zankel. In February, the space hosted the Freirich Business Plan Competition, where students presented ideas for businesses in the hopes of winning the ultimate prize: $25,000 in investments and legal services. This year, the top honors in the for-profit category were awarded to Stella Langat, ‘16.
Langat, an international student from Kenya, was struck by inspiration for her company, Double Dees, two years ago. After buying second hand shoes, her mother contracted a fungal infection that quickly spread across her body. Across Kenya, 75 percent of women turn to second hand markets. Bras made in larger sizes are particularly difficult to find, driving women to shop consignment. These bras are missing labels and sizes, making finding an appropriate fit nearly impossible. Additionally, in all markets it is difficult to find bras to match darker complexions, making finding an ideal undergarment even more difficult.
After recognizing this problem, Langat and three partners, two of whom live in Kenya, the other attending the University of Pennsylvania, got to work. “It took time, but it’s worth it,” Langat reflects on an incredibly long process that included an 18 month search for a Chinese manufacturer. Ultimately it was a connection with Sam Shulles, ‘14, who lives and works in China, who found a manufacturer that would agree to smaller quantity orders.
The development of the business included a handful of drafts of the business plan and consultation with four mentors, culminating in the win at the Freirich Business Plan Competition in February. The title was accompanied by a $10,000 investment, and Langat was approached by judges individually regarding additional investments.
Langat overcame the unique challenges that presenting a business plan concerning bras surfaces, namely the demographic of judges. The fact that they were predominantly male meant that they did not know the importance of a comfortable, well-fitted bra. As she moves on to the New York Business Competition at University of Albany, this Friday in Albany, Langat worries that a judge’s panel made up almost entirely of men will take away from the salience of her business.
Langat is an inspirational, eloquent speaker with a charismatic smile. Her devotion to her business is undeniable, and her energy infectious. “I’m passionate about Double Dees…and I’m not tired!”