FIT Design Entrepreneurs wrapped up its six-month program Thursday night in a tie, awarding first place to both Sterling King, owner of her fashion jewelry brand, and Cherry Blossom Intimates, which provides custom-tailored bra experiences for breast cancer survivors post-surgery.
Each of the winners will receive $75,000 in prize money courtesy of FIT Design Entrepreneurs and founding program sponsor G-III Apparel Group.
Now in its eighth year, FIT Design Entrepreneurs has decided to end the program with this final round.
This year, there were 25 participants who all prepared a business pitch for evaluation. Those pitches were narrowed down to four on Thursday afternoon. All four presented during the live broadcast Thursday night before the two tied final winners were revealed.
The participants are selected for the executive-level program based on their talent, sales and industry traction. The six-month program helps designers develop strategic business plans by providing them access to Fashion Industry of Technology classes, resources, events and industry professionals who serve as mentors, financial consultants and pitch-workshop leaders. The event culminates in the pitch event and designer showcase.
The program was created eight years ago by the New York City Economic Development Corp. and FIT and has been run by FIT for the past three years.
Discussing the program and why it is ending, Dr. Joyce Brown, president of FIT, said, “The program was kind of an advanced boot camp for working designers who had not yet mastered the skill of business planning, a skill crucial to long-term success. In 2017, after the city’s commitment to the program ended, FIT became its sole proprietor and so the subtle change in name. In those eight years, we have had the pleasure of lending our distinctive expertise to a remarkable group of gifted designers, we believe, have the potential to contribute much to the world of fashion and design. We were supported by some of the industries ‘best and brightest’ — leaders who generously gave their time to act as mentors, panelists and judges.”
Brown said 254 designers representing 225 companies have benefited from the program, and she thanked G-III and its chairman and chief executive officer Morris Goldfarb, as well as FIT’s Jeanette Nostra.
Goldfarb couldn’t be reached for comment.
As for this year’s winners, Cherry Blossom Intimates created the first-of-its-kind breast health facility and intimates boutique for breast cancer survivors and their friends. The company was cofounded by Jasmine Jones and Dr. Regina Hampton, a board-certified breast cancer surgeon and the only physician who is a certified mastectomy fitter. Jones was inspired to create the business after losing her grandmother to breast cancer.
Jones said she will use the prize money for additional storage and inventory space for packing, shipping and logistics, which will help her scale her business more quickly. The Cherry Blossom Intimates boutique, which is based in Glenarden, Md., sells bras, loungewear, lingerie, bags, accessories and post-mastectomy bras and prosthetics. Its web site is cherryblossomintimates.com.
“I had done a business plan when we were initially seeking capital, but I’d never done the way FIT required it. Doing it this way made me take every thought I had about the business and look at it to see if it made sense. This is how I will shape my future and change the lives of women across the world. This is how I knew I was onto something and that it was more than just a local idea and could have a global impact,” Jones said.
Sterling King, a former classical ballet dancer turned designer, makes sculptural earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces using bold forms, distinctive textures and baroque embellishments in New York City. All of her materials and production is sourced locally in New York’s garment district and jewelry district through partnerships with manufacturers. Her web site is sterlingkingny.com.
King plans to use the prize money to invest in marketing and product development and to continue to produce locally in New York City.
“Having the building blocks to implement the ideas in your head and doing it in a sustainable and productive way is invaluable,” King said.