This year’s NYU Entrepreneurs Festival, the largest student-run event of its kind in the US, was held over the weekend of International Women’s Day on March 8. It was a packed weekend with four keynote speakers, talks, roundtables and workshops. Over 1,000 people attended to see over 60 startups showcased at the festival.
Highlights from the festival included the keynote speech from Maryellis Bunn, CEO and founder of the Museum of Ice Cream, as well as the student pitch competition.
Part I: Results of the Student Pitch Competition
Winner, Outro: Outro bills itself as the first app that makes staying safe as easy as having fun by rating and reviewing bars and clubs. More specifically, the app allows users to rate aspects such as security and comfort level, ensuring that each going-out experience is a safe one.
2nd Place, Grounded Upcycling: This startup makes an exfoliating scrub bar out of used coffee grounds with the goal to divert large amounts of coffee from being sent to the landfills.
3rd Place, U-START: This unique platform connects students to college communities by matching users with collaborators and projects.
Part II: Keynote Recap: Museum of Ice Cream
Have you noticed empty commercial real estate across NYC over the years? Maryellis Bunn, CEO and Founder of the Museum of Ice Cream, certainly did.
For Bunn, an NYU graduate, visiting ice cream shops was one of the few things that personally made her feel safe in the city and allowed her to better connect with others. Finding empty commercial real estate as she walked around New York, she decided to build the Museum of Ice Cream for people like her to feel safe and connect together. “Everyone loves ice cream,” Bunn said. “So it was an easy sell.”
Bunn didn’t have a plan, only a true desire to build a community that was generally relevant to people. In a time when people are increasingly attached to technology, creating a physical space for people seemed more urgent than ever. With these ideas, the Museum was born. The Museum of Ice Cream was an installation pop-up that opened in the Meatpacking District in July 2018, an interactive art exhibit with ice cream and candy themes — an Instagram sensation.
Start-ups are hard work but Bunn emphasizes that anything is possible. When the Museum first opened, she was the greeter, the host, the designer, the painter and the cleaning lady. It certainly wasn’t a nine-to-five job, to say the least. She found herself waking up at 4 am, sitting in the dark and scooping ice cream.
The Museum was a big hit and found fans outside of Manhattan, in San Francisco and Miami.
Bunn encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to respond to real-world problems and to just try out. Despite her newfound success, people continue to be at the core of her business. Her brand currently employs about 300 people and Bunn typically spends 70 percent of her time recruiting. She loves to give people autonomy and devise roles that employees themselves feel strongly about.
Of course, there was no way to avoid the ultimate question from the eager audience: are there summer internships? Bunn emphasized the importance of a constant search for talent in growing the business. She recollected an interview where a candidate taught her something new. By the end, she had already extended an offer: “When can you start?”