Meet the Teams | Team 3

Meet our final BUILD Hartford team, Team 3!

Team 3: Economic Development Zones- Municipal Stakeholders

Team Members: Adam Genera, Zoey England, Kashish Manchanda, Swetha Arayamparambil

First up on Team 3, we have Adam Genera. Adam worked at an immigration law firm this past summer where he realized he wanted to work in the immigration advocacy space. Adam is looking to start a non-profit organization to provide language interpretation assistance to US citizen seekers. 

Zoey England is an honors student completing an Individualized degree entitled Population Health, Policy, and Disease and concurrent FastTrack Masters in Public Health. Zoey spends a great deal of time volunteering with the U.S. Medical Reserve Corps in various capacities and the UConn American English Language Institute as a Conversation Partner. A published journalist, Zoey enjoys covering topics related to climate change, public health, and social networks.

Kashish Manchanda is an MBA Business Analytics candidate with experience in the social development space and a deep passion for ESG leveraging data and ESG skills to add value to Sustainable and Responsible Organizations. Kashish has worked as an Impact consultant in India for major NGOs, CSOs (Corporate Social Organizations), Foundations, and Governments. He provided advisory services to many corporates from setting up the CSRs to maximizing the impact on the ground through Grassroot organizations. His clientele included JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer India, Pernod Ricard India, and National Stock Exchange. Kashish’s passion for data-based decision-making and promoting business sustainability at multiple forums has been driving him to lead a value-adding life.

Swetha Arayamparambil, a graduate student at UConn, will also be joining Team 3.

Meet the Teams | Team 2

build hartford team two

Meet our second BUILD Hartford team!

Team 2: Peer Cities Review- Communities
Team Members: Helen Yang, JiaLiAn Stolfi, Natalie Roach, Mehak Sharma

Helen Yang is an honor undergraduate student and serves as the Media Chair of Honors for Diversity. Helen is a first-generation college student and is looking forward to opening her perspective to entrepreneurship through community-building.

Next on Team 2, we have JiaLiAn Stolfi. JiaLiAn is an undergraduate student pursuing a dual degree in finance and journalism. She is looking forward to working with local businesses this semester to ideate unique solutions regarding wealth disparities and homelessness in Hartford. Previously, JiaLiAn participated in a similar program, The Global Leadership Institute, where she hosted a cultural event to increase acceptance in the community.

Mehak Sharma is on the pre-med track and is fascinated by the way innovation and entrepreneurship can be used to provide solutions for addressing community health issues.

Natalie Roach, a graduate student at UConn, will also be joining the team.

Meet the Teams | Team One

Our BUILD teams are officially final, and we couldn’t be more excited!

Meet Team 1: Surveys and Pain Points- Small Business & Startup Stakeholders

Team Members: Logan Singerman, Becky Obro, Mariah Boria

Logan Singerman is in his last semester at UConn, obtaining a Master's in Public Administration (MPA). Logan is currently the Director of Community Partnerships and Communications at SINA, as well as the co-owner of the Hartford Bride. He organizes volunteer events and facilitates resident-led community projects such as playgrounds, murals, and community gardens. Logan previously served as a Director of Outreach at a homeless outreach center and also an AmeriCorps VISTA.

Becky Obro grew up in West Africa, where she realized the importance of empowering others with resources and skills to make them more independent. Becky was inspired to start her own business in 2017 as she saw that entrepreneurship is one of the keys to reducing poverty, unemployment, and many other societal issues. Becky’s business, CHOP GHANA (literally meaning “eat” or “taste”) delivered packed lunches and catering services to offices and other functions. Through this, Becky was able to employ 10 young people in Ghana. 

Mariah Boria, an undergraduate student at UConn, will also be joining Team 1.

Forming Teams

The inaugural BUILD Hartford cohort has officially broken off into teams! In our second class, the students shared their results from the ‘16 Personalities’ test as well as their insights for which aspects of the BUILD Hartford program interested them. They were then provided with the ‘Clifton Strengths for Students Top 5’ test, which allowed them to discover their top five strengths based on the answers they provided.

Logan Singerman, an MPA student in the department of Public Policy at UConn, as well as the Director of Community Partnerships & Communications at SINA, described the importance of creating teams, “I have learned through my work at a community building nonprofit that the only things that last and are effective are what you build together. That’s why our process to select teams was so collaborative. Everyone had a chance to share their preferences and vote on what criteria we should use for choosing teams. As a group we recognized that people work the best on things they are passionate about. Teams were selected based on people‘s preferences while also trying to balance out different personality types. We all had taken the Myers Briggs assessment and saw the value in having balanced teams.”

Stay tuned for the team highlights coming soon!

The Launch of BUILD Hartford

Today we officially launched BUILD Hartford! During this semester long course, students will work to develop their entrepreneurial skill set in customer discovery, strategic planning, and community connections.

In the beginning of the semester, students will be placed into teams as they collaborate to research potential projects based around economic, innovative, and entrepreneurial opportunities in the City of Hartford.

Follow the journey of BUILD, as the first cohort of students lay the foundation for the future of this program. We will be continually updating the community on the progress of this course through our blog, as well as our other social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

If you have any questions regarding the BUILD program, please feel free to reach out to Michaela Hartl via email:

Summer Fellowship Feature: Jeremy Bronen

It’s been one year since I formally joined up with my Co-Founder Tim Krupski and so much has happened! Tim and I created a patent pending toilet lift assist product to help the elderly and disabled get on and off the toilet. The 3 CCEI programs Tim and I attended essentially transformed our idea into a viable business. I knew it was time for me to transition from a part time venture to fully onboarding to SedMed when Tim and I reached the point where we realized we needed to fully commit to the great opportunity we had. Knowing that SedMed has the opportunity to save people’s lives and prevent injuries along with the overwhelming support of my family, friends, and mentors inspired me to make the jump.

It’s funny, my whole outlook on life has actually completely changed since I became full-time on SedMed – I am much much happier and am more motivated than ever. I came on full time as CEO to launch and run our company with my co-founder. The extra time I gained being full time has allowed me to devote way more time to key meetings, work on BD, and network constantly. I also will be driving our prototype around to scores of important stakeholders, users, and investors to review and demo it. My first week being a full-time CEO was BUSY! Before I made the jump, Tim and I organized every task imaginable for the next 12 months into our project management software so we knew we had a lot to get done. As I mentioned, being able to fully commit myself to our venture is one of the most freeing, motivating, and serotonin-producing things I’ve ever done. It’s a lifestyle that comes with a lot of work, but will be the most rewarding when we are able to help people and scale our business. 

Announcing the 2020-2021 InsurTech Fellows


The InsurTech Fellows Program is a collaborative effort between UConn’s CT Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and the University of Hartford and is funded by CTNext. Thirteen graduate and undergraduate students have been invited to participate in the program during the 2020-2021 academic year. Designed to increase student’s understanding of the insurance industry and grow the next generation of innovators within the InsurTech space, students will work directly with new and innovative InsurTech startups, receive personal mentorship from insurance leaders, gain access to networks in the InsurTech ecosystem, connect to exciting job opportunities and internships and earn $4,000 in scholarship funding for their participation.

Expanding on the foundational knowledge gained in a previous InsurTech Venturing course taught by Ken Goldstein, Clinical Instructor of Risk Management and Insurance at the University of Hartford and Michael Kalen, CEO of Covr Financial Technologies, they will gain first-hand experience working with an InsurTech startup via the Nassau Re/Imagine incubator program. Each fellow will also receive mentors to provide professional guidance and support over the course of the spring semester.

Below is the list of the fellows that were selected to participate in the 2020-2021 InsurTech Fellows Program. We are proud to have accepted 9 UConn students and 4 UHart students, spanning across multiple academic programs and includes both graduate and undergraduate students. Join us in congratulating these newly initiated fellows for their participation in such an incredible opportunity.

Alok Bhatt –Master of Business Adminstration, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Andrew Tran -Management Information Systems, School of Business

Eleanor Umaya -LL.M in Insurance Law, University of Connecticut, School of Law

Ian Thomas -Accounting, University of Hartford, Barney School of Business

Jailynn Vidro -Psychological Sciences, University of Connecticut, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Kate Sargis -Risk Management, University of Hartford, Barney School of Business

Kevin Robert Fitzgerald -Master of Business Administration, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Meg North -Master of Business Administration, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Nicholas Bosio -Insurance and Risk Management, University of Hartford, Barney School of Business

Nishant Jain -Master of Business Administration, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Utkarsh Gupta -Master of Business Administration, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Yoanny Brito -Management, University of Hartford, Barney School of Business

Youngho Kwon -Management Information Systems, University of Connecticut, School of Business

Get Seeded Pitch Night #2 Winners

Monday night CCEI hosted their second Get Seeded Pitch Night of the school year. Five teams presented their ideas: Aqualytics, Flush Warranty, Immaculate The Brand, SchoolMe, and SortME. After a period of question and answer along with feedback and voting from the audience, the top three winners were awarded.

In third place awarded $500 was Nick Anderson with Flush Warranty.

In second place awarded $750 was Hritish Bhargava and Abhishek Bhargava with SchoolME.

In first place awarded $1,000 was Patricia Olivia and Djuly Fleurant with Immaculate The Brand.

Thank you to everyone who pitched and joined the event, we hope to see you at the next Pitch Night on January 26, 2021. If you have an idea and want to participate in the upcoming Pitch Night, please submit your application.

Digital Surgeons Brings Branding Expertise to CT Startups

Accelerating your business through brand and marketing

“Should I really be worried about my brand?”

With so many things to focus on like product development and raising capital, have you ever found yourself asking that same question?

Chances are, if you’re an entrepreneur or in marketing, you’ve pondered the question at least a few times.

Ask Joe Pilcavage, Head of Creative at New Haven’s Digital Surgeons , a creative consultancy that specializes in positioning, branding, and launching visionary founders’ latest startups, and you’ll get an answer that might surprise you.

He’ll tell you that, “One of the single greatest reasons businesses fail is because of their branding. At some point in the journey, whether it’s their initial inception or their future marketing efforts, they fail to deeply understand their customers and deliver a consistent experience that answers their needs.”

That’s because a brand, as it turns out, is something people feel . Our ability to create a positive, lasting feeling is what ultimately gets investors and customers to buy in.

Wait a minute. Really?

Sounds like something worth exploring, right? Well, that’s exactly what Pilcavage and Pete Sena, CEO and co-founder of Digital Surgeons, did for a dozen Connecticut startups at the CCEI 2020 Summer Fellowship Program in late June as part of their thinkfwd initiative. Pilcavage and Sena, who together have over thirty years of experience in brand strategy, go-to-market innovation, and digital transformation, broke branding down bit-by-bit for the eager entrepreneurs. What follows are a few key takeaways of their presentation, one that was enthusiastically received by those in attendance and still being talked about here at the CCEI.

8 Key Takeaways From the Digital Surgeons Branding Presentation

  1. Branding works because of the emotional attachment we give to a product or a purpose.
  2. Brands are living organisms that must respond, adapt, and evolve over time.
  3. Positioning is all about deciding the space you want to occupy in the minds and lives of your audience.
  4. When you try to speak to everyone, you’re heard by no one.
  5. Humanizing your brand into what Digital Surgeons calls Brand DNA allows you to set a north star for how you want to communicate to and with your customers.
  6. Your brand’s tone of voice should be a driver of differentiation in your space.
  7. Your visual language is your voice without words. Choose your logo, colors, fonts, and images wisely. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
  8. Your brand should be regarded as sacred, but that doesn’t mean it’s untouchable. Testing, learning, and iterating often are vital in continuously providing a stellar brand experience.

Throughout the course of the program, Pilcavage and Sena also led exercises with the entrepreneurs to help them refine their own brands in real-time. Interested in doing them on your own? Click here to check them out. And if you want to learn more about Digital Surgeons, their work, and branding in general, hop over to the Digital Surgeons website.

Digital Surgeons

Summer Fellowship 2020 Highlight: onewith


onewith provides a smoothing, second-skin fit through a re-imagined method of creating swimwear that mimics the feel of seamless undergarments. In addition to feeling and fitting differently, onewith seeks to capture, in its aesthetics and detail, sun-soaked, nostalgic East Coast summers.

For as many swimwear companies as there are, they are all – even the brands that are ‘figure-flattering’ – constructionally very similar. I had this realization in the spring of 2019 when I was trying on roughly a dozen swimsuits in my living room, and was feeling frustrated (to say the least) with the way they were looking and feeling. I said, out loud, that I wanted to create a swimsuit that felt ‘one with’ my body, and upon saying that, the ethos and brand came to me immediately.

My background is in fashion, and more specifically, the bridal industry, so I was familiar with the pain points women had with garments and the way they fit, especially in categories as intimate as bridal, lingerie, and swim. I have also been a content creator for 12 years, making YouTube videos for an overwhelmingly female audience since 2008. With this experience, and now with the idea for a brand that I felt could help women feel more confident, I felt a responsibility – and unwavering passion – to bring onewith to life.
    As the daughter and sister of UConn alumni and a proud UConn alum myself, being accepted into Summer Fellowship was surreal. So many amazing businesses and UConntrepreneurs have come out of this University, so I knew I was going to take this opportunity and make the absolute most of it. The quality of curriculum, content, mentors, and speakers in Summer Fellowship is absolutely top-notch. I have absorbed and implemented so much of what I have learned already and look forward to continuing to do so. I also love networking – even virtually – with the other Fellows! It’s fun to bounce off of each other and feel so supported within the group.