Jelyse Dawson, first year Jenkins MBA candidate, participated in the National Black MBA Conference’s Digital Whiteboard Pitch, an experience that she called “an intense, A-Game event.”
Like the other six Jenkins MBA students at the conference who participated in the case competition, Dawson said she went to the conference focused on winning. She placed fourth out of 10 semi-finalists with her digital whiteboard pitch for her startup, Fusion Fitness by Jelyse.
“This was an intense, A-game competition where entrepreneurs armed with only an electronic whiteboard, marker, and their salesmanship had five minutes to present their business idea to a panel of venture capitalists, academicians and established members of the business community,” she said.
Dawson had started her yoga-based company in 2015, after leaving a corporate position to return to North Carolina to take care of her mother.
“Using yoga therapy, I helped her during chemotherapy and radiation,” she explains in her startup’s video, noting that doctors, impressed with her mother’s progress, began referring her to other patients and hospitals across the state.
That, she said, is when she “realized there was a market need for wellness programming targeting medical patients and employees. Since that time, the business has experienced incredible growth and we are ready to launch a digital platform,” she said. “I participated in the competition to acquire start-up capital for product development.”
Her website now includes several components: Movement for Medical Patients, Employee Wellness and Youth Fitness.
Dawson’s challenge at the conference was “to pitch my wellness tech venture to a team of angel investors and venture capitalists for a prize of $10,000. I had to create a video outlining the value proposition and use a digital whiteboard to communicate financial projections and unique selling points for the product,” she said.
“My experience as an HR recruiter with John Deere and eight years as a certified fitness instructor provided a holistic view of what corporate wellness technology should look like,” Dawson said. “Professor Lewis Sheats, Professor Jeff Pollack and Charles Canteen, Poole College’s director of online marketing, were incredible resources, as they taught me how to share my story with investors.”
As a result of the competition, Dawson was invited to apply for Code2040’s Entrepreneurship Residency program powered by Google. “Code2040 connects Black and Latino tech entrepreneurs with the resources they need to take their companies to the next level,” Dawson said. “With Code2040’s help, Fusion Fitness has the potential to impact millions of lives through corporate wellness.
In addition to the competitions, NBMBA conference participants attended a two-day career expo that included institutes focused on entrepreneurship, leadership and marketing, individual sessions on topics including diversity in technology, sustainability, black professionals, personal brand and more. Participants also had the opportunity to interview with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US LLC, this year’s sponsor for the event.
Also competing at the conference was a team of six Jenkins MBA students, earning second place in the NBMBA Case competition. Read their story.