Five Students Utilize Couri Hatchery Resources to Prepare for Upcoming NYSBP Competition

Frank Marin, Natasha Brao, Tosin Alabi, Motolani Oladitan and Jessica Grace McGhee posing in front of Syracuse University banner
Frank Marin, Natasha Brao, Tosin Alabi, Motolani Oladitan and Jessica Grace McGhee

This semester, five Syracuse University students working at the Couri Hatchery Student Business Incubator at the Whitman School made it through the regional level of the New York State Business Plan Competition (NYBPC), an intercollegiate event designed to help prepare the next generation of entrepreneurs in New York state. The Hatchery, led by Program Manager Indaria Jones and supported by faculty from the Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises (EEE), assists students in preparing for this highly competitive event. They will compete for up to $100,000 in cash prizes to support their ventures.


The following students are currently competing for a place in the statewide competition to be held in Albany, New York, on April 25:


Tosin Alabi ’25 MBA is an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Couri Hatchery and a student in Whitman’s MBA program. She is competing with her business venture DiabeTech, an electronic bandage created for diabetic foot ulcers. The bandage not only protects the wound but has sensors that check temperature and glucose levels in real time, providing vital information for the patient and physician. This information can be used to ward off dangerous consequences of diabetic foot ulcers like gangrene or amputation.


From Nigeria, Alabi appreciates the support she has been given at the Hatchery, particularly as an international student. “International students are already dealing with acclimating to both the culture and the rigors of the education here. Sometimes I feel like an octopus juggling so many things at once,” she says. “It took courage for me to go to the Hatchery, but the resources there have helped me understand the rules, legalities, licenses and visa limitations that impact my business. And, I could not go a day without the support of Indaria. She has put a light in the Couri Hatchery and made it the place for me. DiabeTech is not just a business idea for me. It’s helping people have a better life, even those in my own family who are diabetic. This is something I can do to help people.”


Natasha Brao ’22 (VPA), ’23 M.S., ’24 MBA first discovered the deliciousness of the classic Mediterranean dish Shakshuka on a trip overseas in 2019 and soon realized it was a compilation of many Mediterranean backgrounds and cultures. Having always loved experimenting with cooking, she created Shooka, a spiced tomato sauce with the idea of “mixing and melding cultures to promote creative cooking” and formalized her business in 2023. The product quickly gained attention this March when she started selling the sauce. Brao recently acquired a spot at New York State’s International Taste Festival where upwards of 7,000 attended and had the chance to try Shooka.


“My entrepreneurial side comes from my creative background (Brao earned a bachelor’s degree in design). I was an idea machine and very passionate about food and culinary businesses,” she explains. “I’ve been hanging out at the Hatchery for quite a while, planning the future of the business, considering strategic partnerships and creating a road map so I can stay on track as a busy student and entrepreneur. I have weekly meetings with the advisors at the Hatchery and that has kept a fire under me to keep progressing week to week.”


Frank Marin ’23 (ECS), ’24 MBA is enrolled in a dual program earning his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering at Syracuse University College of Engineering and Computer Science and an MBA with concentrations in entrepreneurship and supply chain management. He is working on a business opportunity called Marhold Space Systems LLC, which involves the removal of debris in space through innovative techniques. Marin is creating a general process for the spacecraft to follow that will give it maximum efficiency in debris removal.


“I am incredibly passionate about science and its growing importance, and I have a lot of ideas on how to make the world a better place, starting with removing debris,” he explains. “The Couri Hatchery has been a place for me to talk with like-minded, entrepreneurial people, including members of the EEE faculty who challenge me and also help me stay on track. I hope that one day my ideas can make a difference in people’s lives.”


Jessica Grace McGhee ’19 (VPA), G’24 (VPA) is a fine artist with her own online gallery, who is also a creative arts therapy graduate student at the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). She is entering her business venture Sacred Art of Rising (SAOR) in the competition. SAOR will engage survivors of chronic and complex trauma on three different platforms: the Resource Center in Syracuse’s southside, an area of the city with a high poverty level; the Retreat Center, a safe space with a myriad of nonverbal and verbal therapeutic platforms with access to restorative rest; and the Sacred Art of Rising mobile app with sliding scale access to psychoeducational, motivational and self-care content with a platform for telehealth therapy. As a survivor of complex and chronic trauma, McGhee has created SOAR as an alternative, non-verbal therapeutic platform to help others recover, especially those who are underserved, as a means of “symbolic investment.” She wants SOAR to create a full-circle investment in marginalized communities that heals and uplifts people to reach their own self-directed goals. And, McGhee hopes it will be a place to provide safe outdoor space for individuals and families to build healthy attachments, get social rest and also reach people in need of a place to heal and decrease the chronic toxic stress that accompanies poverty.


“I knew SOAR would be amazingly helpful but, financially, I couldn’t see how I could make it happen. Linda Hartsock just lit up that path for me,” she says. “I moved from Los Angeles to Syracuse in 2008 and was promised a very healthy existence but then endured several kinds of abuse before I got up the courage to leave. But, Syracuse University and the people at the Couri Hatchery have rooted for me and done their best to uplift me and help me reach my dreams.” 


Motolani Oladitan ’24 (A&S), a psychology major, has created Tà Beautie, an online marketplace for African entrepreneurs to sell their beauty products collectively online. From Nigeria, Oladitan is starting with six to eight products and hopes to expand from there, becoming the premier destination for African beauty and wellness by helping get these brands into mainstream U.S. markets. She has tested and used every product she offers, and when people kept asking to borrow her products, Oladitan knew she was on to something.


“Traci Giesler, Indaria Jones, Linda Dickerson Hartsock and all the mentors at the Couri Hatchery and the Blackstone LaunchPad have been so good to me and are always ready to help me practice my pitch or offer recommendations on how to tackle the things I’m facing,” she explains. “I’m looking to put together a marketing plan, and even if I don’t win the competition, I know it’s a learning experience. Syracuse University has been a learning experience, too, and I will take the feedback and implement that into the future of the business. I am in this for the long run.”


The Couri Hatchery is named for John Couri ’63 (CAS), co-founder of Duty-Free International and president of the Couri Foundation. Click here for more information.

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