Campus News

Two student entrepreneurs awarded $5K each for winning Boss Network’s “Boss on Campus” pitch competition

Pictured from left to right: Alana Matthews ’24 and Nailah Starks ’23.

Mary Olivia Viltz, intern
December 2, 2022

NEW ORLEANS – Two student business owners, Alana Matthews ‘24 and Nailah Starks ‘23, competed in and won Boss Network’s “Boss on Campus” pitch competition. The competition was hosted in George’s Auditorium on Saturday, September 3 by founder and CEO of The Boss Network, Dr. Cameka Smith.

The competition featured 10 Black women business owners from Dillard University who were tasked with pitching their business ideas to receive a cash prize to reinvest into their business ventures.

Matthews, the Founder of Boss Babes, is an international business major and vice president of Dillard’s Collegiate DECA. In between academics and personal ventures, Matthews dedicates her time to furthering the Boss Babes brand and expanding their reach. 

Boss Babes is an organization that curates educational workshops and social events geared towards equipping and preparing the next generation of successful female entrepreneurs. They are also gearing up to sell organizational and motivational products dedicated to entrepreneurs.

Matthews started BossBabes to change young women’s perceptions of each other to one of friends, sisters, and inspiration. She says,“The organization’s purpose is to create a safe space for our ambition and assimilation as young women and also give us a fair chance to really pursue entrepreneurship.” Boss Babes acts as a guide and mentor to young women who may not know how to start a business, so that they can build generational wealth and give back to their communities. 

There are big plans in store for Boss Babes. Matthews plans to use the $5K to invest into product development for the upcoming merchandise launch, into marketing and branding materials, and for event curation and any associated fees. She plans to charter chapters on all HBCU campuses, grow a postgraduate network, and expand the Boss Babes brand internationally. 

To any in similar positions wishing to start their own businesses, Matthews says, “Do it anyway despite all fears, odds and obstacles. Go for it with all your heart and remember why you started!”

Starks, founder of Mommy Dearest, is an English major, president of the English Club, and editorial assistant for the 2022 Dillard Review. For Starks, Mommy Dearest is a passion project with a pitch based on a leap of faith. Mommy Dearest is a non-profit organization that aims to aid young and incarcerated mothers and their children. They strive to be a helpful resource for every stage of motherhood. 

Starks plans to use the $5k to consult with professionals who can help her lay the proper foundation for her business, launch a website, create a logo, register the business, and host their first community outreach program which will feature giveaways, scholarships, bonding activities and empowerment sessions. She looks forward to growing a team with passion and connection to their cause to help sustain her business. 

The future Starks envisions for Mommy Dearest expands across multiple states. Starks hopes to build an organization that incorporates in-person events, scholarships of at least $30K, free therapy for families, and a specialized program for new and expecting mothers. 

For up-and-coming entrepreneurs and women leaders, Starks says, “Believe in yourself and your dream. Your business is an extension of you, so you should never allow your business to be half of anything! For a business to last you must be willing to trust in it. This way, it will never be a side hustle.”

For both business owners, Dillard has provided the foundation, basic knowledge, networking skills, and confidence necessary for both young women to take the plunge. Both have had the guidance of Dillard’s College of Business and Dr. Courtney Williams, assistant dean of students and director of Student Engagement & Leadership, as they grow their businesses. In the end, Matthews and Starks both wish to take the lessons learned from their mentors and experiences to pay it forward to the next generation’s success.