From Smart Loos To Cold Brews, Collab Grads… | New Haven Independent

2022-07-08 02:32:54 By : Ms. Bella Zeng

by Olivia Charis | Jul 7, 2022 2:30 pm

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Posted to: Dixwell, Business/ Economic Development

Fashion designer Monica Lee at Wednesday evening's graduation.

New Haven’s nine newest homegrown entrepreneurs are hitting the market with ideas ranging from a ​“ smart potty” to …tools to help other entrepreneurs hit the market as well.

Collab executive director Dawn Leaks.

The nine entrepreneurs graduated Wednesday evening from the latest ​“ class” of emerging business owners gaining group advice and direction through New Haven’s Collab. The ceremony for the Spring 2022 cohort of the program took place at NXTHVN on Henry Street.

Collab works with three cohorts of entrepreneurs annually, providing them with resources and advice to take their emerging businesses to the next level. 

Out of the 111 businesses that have come through Collab to date 87 percent of them are still operational. This, Collab Executive Director Dawn Leak told the graduates, ​“ speaks to the tenacity of our entrepreneurs.”

All nine entrepreneurs Wednesday evening said they were grateful they are that Collab has invested in taking their dreams to the next level.

Each graduate was called up to receive a certificate and speak about their new enterprises — offering a taste of the range of businesses in the works for New Haven.

Of note was how two of the emerging enterprises focus on helping others launch enterprises as well.

Entrepreneur Danielle Russell’s stationery company Uncommon Work sells a minimalistic six- month planner to help entrepreneurs structure their days to maximize their efficiency. 

She originally planned to make a platform for women like her mother: After watching her mother run three businesses, work as a nurse, and raise seven children, Russell wondered how she could make her mom’s life easier.

“ I saw her wearing the hat of 20 people,” said Russell.

SBeing in the Collab Accelerator program pushed Russell to question what it means to be an entrepreneur. She wondered, ​“ What question should I ask myself to build the structure I need?”

“ Successful business requires a self-aware entrepreneur,” Russell noted. 

Her planner is designed to build this self-awareness by encouraging the entrepreneur to answer the question: ​“ What does your ideal day look like?”

From this day, which Russell said participants should imagine about five years into the future, entrepreneurs are to build their values, goals, and habits —  ​“ so that you don’t forget what it takes to build your ideal day” in the present. Russell said she is grateful to have been part of Collab’s Spring cohort this year.

“ I needed community,” she said. ​“ Because this journey is kind of crazy. You need people who constantly understand what you’re going through. I didn’t realize how much it took to push past yourself.”

Russell said her next steps are to host workshops to test the first few pages of her planner with real people before making the planner available to the public next year.

“ You gotta put it out. You’ve got to give birth,” her mother, Sheryl Smikle-Russell, told her.

Melissa Lytrelle Singleton, founder of New Space

New Space founder Melissa Lytrelle Singleton is also an entrepreneur for entrepreneurs, offering ​“ mobile office space.”

Singleton said that her goal is to help ​“ entrepreneurs on the go” by providing a space where they can host meetings, have classes, and hold trainings. 

Ideally Singleton is looking to set up this space using a trailer or other mobile space that is easily accessible. 

Singleton’s ​“ Airbnb for entrepreneurs” is designed for people who are looking for comfort and privacy in an innovative space. 

Daniel Miller, founder of Xander's Cold Brew .

Daniel Miller, 34, took inspiration from his now 4‑year-old son Xander in the making of his coffee company Xander’s Cold Brew.

Miller began Xander’s last summer at farmer’s markets after Miller saw his son’s love for helping dad make coffee in the morning. ​“ When he was a toddler, he would drag his chair and try to help me make coffee,” Miller recalled. 

He said he thinks about what he leaves behind for his children, an ​“ inheritance of creativity” and confidence he hopes to keep alive as he continues to build the business. 

Miller has been making coffee since college, and actually used to dislike the beverage. ​“ But then I started experimenting,” said Miller. ​“ I became a little bit of a coffee nerd.”

Entrepreneur and mother Ming Hui also took some inspiration from her child in the making of her business, EC Potty. The EC , or ​“ Elimination Communication” Potty, is a ​“ smart” item designed to aid in potty training.

Hui noted that the rise of disposable diapers in the 1960s extended the time kids take to be potty-trained in the U.S.

“ When I was young back in China,” Hui noted, kids were ​“ done by one”.

Now, not only is potty-training taking longer: so is the decomposition of these diapers and pampers — 500 years too long. 

Hui hopes with her smart potty to help the environment and save parents the annual $900 on disposable diapers. 

Elimination communication, Hui said, is the practice of ​“ learning your baby’s signals” and ​“ using cues to teach a baby” to associate the potty with elimination. 

The protective bars on Hui’s design make it uniquely cater to infants; current potty trainers on the market are made for toddlers. 

As Hui makes plans to produce a prototype as her next step, she reflected on how far she has come with Collab: ​“ I remember going into the program with just an idea and a piece of paper.”

Lee designs showcased at the graduation.

Fashion designer Monica Lee’s business, Recreate Collection, is a fashion-forward women’s brand that specializes in functionality and eco-friendliness.

“ I’m trying to create a collection for every different type of occasion,” said Lee. 

Lee said that the biggest way her brand stays environmentally conscious is through her pre-order system. Rather than adhere to the general system, where companies create a bunch of designs and then hope they sell, only to create huge amounts of waste, Lee utilizes pre-ordering to minimize waste. 

She said she wants to ​“ set the standard that we don’t need to have [the non- pre-order] system.”

Now 33, Lee has been sewing since she was in elementary school. Collab, she said, has ​“ motivated me to take my venture to the next level.”

Collab graduate Dr. Shanta M. Smith is working to improve the work environments and the lives of women of color in the educational system through her professional learning program ​“ Herjourns Leadership Solutions.”

The program focuses on helping women of color who are leaders in the school system deal with ​“ workplace trauma,” through self-care, said Smith. 

In general, leaders are often the last in the school system to receive professional development training, she noted. That’s especially true for women of color who deal with ​“ intersectional identity based discrimination” in the workplace, she said.

These stressors can make work difficult, as well as lead to lifelong health issues for women of color.

Smith’s program seeks to shift this narrative by capitalizing on ​“ resistance through radical self-care,” a self-care that is ​“ a way of life,” Smith said.

After finishing her dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania on this subject in 2021, Smith has been working to bring this program to Black women leaders in various locations, with hopes of starting a new cycle of the program in North Carolina shortly. 

Smith wants women to come out of the program with a higher level of racial literacy and a higher level of racial literacy and be ​“ not just reactive but proactive.”

“ We can do this. It’s just a matter of having the right support system in place,” Smith said. 

La Cocina De Sandra's authentic Guatemalan cuisine.

Sand Trigueros and her son Elmer Galvez.

Sand Trigueros is serving up authentic Guatemalan cuisine with the help of her son, Elmer Galvez at La Cocina De Sandra.

Sand, who moved to the United States in 1995 from Guatemala, took courses at New Haven’s Havenly Cafe before being encouraged to start her own food business. 

After opening officially in March, La Cocina has been catering for groups across the city, including Yale Farms and University of Connecticut events. 

Sand is passionate about making food that people love. ​“ Now I know that my dream can come true,” she said. 

The other new Collab-assisted enterprises include Bright Raven Studio, a small pottery business designed to bring ​“ ritual and fine arts,” to the everyday run by Gabriela Margarita De Jesús; and Hip Hop Exec Academy, a program that helps alter the narrative for Black and brown children in the music industry, founded by Christian Farrad.

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