Graduating Founder Wins Pitch Contest in National Entrepreneurship Competition – Georgia State University News – Press Releases, Robinson College of Business – Business & Economy

ATLANTA — With more than $10,000 in prize money, Tatyana Langford (B.B.A. ’24) is set to take her fledgling company to the next level.

Langford, who graduates this spring with a degree in entrepreneurship from the J. Mack Robinson College of Business, is the founder of Yanie Eyewear, a company aimed at manufacturing and distributing fashionable glasses embedded with technology to alleviate the symptoms of dry eye disease.

Langford and her teammate Claude David Mbemba, a Georgia State chemistry major, were among the 25 finalist teams selected from across the country to compete in the e-Fest Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Competition April 18-20 in Minneapolis, Minn. The contest, sponsored in part by Best Buy founder Richard M. Schulze’s family foundation, is held each year on the campus of the University of St. Thomas.

In the competition’s initial 90-second elevator pitch contest, called Pitch Slam!, Langford placed first, which comes with a $10,000 prize. Yanie Eyewear won another $1,500 in the final pitch competition on the last day of the contest.

“Being accepted among the top 25 startups in the nation to compete was a great honor for us,” Langford said. “Being there with everyone and pitching and participating in the challenges was a really fun time.”

Along with sponsored travel to the contest, chosen startup teams compete in a total of three challenges, and are treated to professional development workshops, presentations from business leaders and a keynote address from Schulze, who began what became Best Buy in 1966 as his own startup, Sound of Music.

Over six of the last seven years, Dr. Isabelle Monlouis, acting as the GSU eFest campus adviser, has selected and mentored undergraduate venture teams throughout their e-Fest qualification process, and a GSU team advanced to become an e-Fest finalist each year.

Georgia State’s 2019 team, DelivHer led by Chante Knox, took the grand prize of $75,000 with what they called the “first significant innovation in feminine hygiene products in 80 years.” DelivHer was competing against teams from the likes of Princeton, the University of Florida, Rutgers and Virginia Tech. Yanie Eyewear was competing against teams from the the likes of Harvard and Johns Hopkins.

“The contestants we bring get to see themselves as entrepreneurs, and they network with other entrepreneurs, and that changes their trajectory,” Monlouis said. “They win money, they have a good time, they meet people and they get some good coaching.”

Langford began Yanie Eyewear (named for the nickname given to her by her mother) in December 2022. Having been diagnosed herself with severe dry eye disease, Langford said many of the devices available to offer relief are expensive and bulky. She wanted to develop eyewear that not only treats the symptoms of the condition, but is affordable and fashionable.

In 2023, Yanie Eyewear was chosen as part of the fourth cohort of the Georgia State Entrepreneurship & Innovation Institute’s Main Street Entrepreneurs Seed Fund, a business accelerator program that provides resources and mentorship to student founders and recent alumni.

Langford also enlisted the expertise of Mbemba, who has been working to identify the appropriate materials for use in eyewear prototypes.

“She needed a material scientist to help with development,” Mbemba said. “Tatyana interviewed me and I was drawn to it, so I decided to give it a shot.”

Langford said she plans to pursue Yanie Eyewear as a full-time venture after graduation. The e-Fest prize money, she said, will help with patent fees and prototypes, which she hopes to complete by the end of the year.

She also plans to enter Yanie Eyewear into additional collegiate startup competitions.

“Our goal is to make sure our glasses are easily accessible,” she said.