Inaugural Hudson Valley Venture Fest brings finance and entrepreneurship together

SUNY New Paltz claimed a place at the heart of the regional start-up ecosystem as the host site of the first-ever Hudson Valley Venture Fest, a meeting of entrepreneurs, investors, students and educators representing a broad array of businesses and organizations.

The October event was co-sponsored by the School of Business and the Hudson Valley Venture Hub at SUNY New Paltz, and attracted nearly 300 attendees.

Video courtesy of Dan Sagarin

It was designed to unite the two sides of many entrepreneurial endeavors: the founders and managers with dreams of building their businesses up from nothing, and the financiers eager to invest in new products and services that have the potential to change the world.

This dual dynamic made the Venture Fest an exciting opportunity for New Paltz business students.

Monica Kreis ’19 (Finance) of Schenectady, New York came to the Venture Fest from the investment side. She said she was inspired by panelist Chelsea Fawn Briganti, the founder of biodegradable product manufacturer Loliware, to think about the importance of representation and diversity in start-up culture.

“There’s just not that many women entrepreneurs right now, and there’s not many women working in finance either,” Kreis said. “I think women can bring a different perspective to entrepreneurship and investment, by supporting people who might not otherwise get an opportunity. I want to work in finance so I can help entrepreneurs like Chelsea succeed.”

Approaching the Venture Fest from the entrepreneurial side was Randy Munoz ’20 (Management) of Montgomery, New York. Munoz is the son of a business owner who has aspirations of starting his own company in a rapidly growing category.

“The beauty industry right now is booming, so it’s very exciting to think I can be a part of it,” Munoz said. “Before I came to college I thought I just wanted to do people’s makeup, but now that I’ve spent hours and hours studying this industry, I’m more interested in starting my own business and seeing where it can take me.”

Munoz was able to meet with investors at the Venture Fest and talk to them about what they look for when they make a decision to partner with an entrepreneur.

“I got there early and talked to one of the investors about this project,” Munoz said. “He told me he thought it was a viable idea and invited me to email him to connect with a friend of his who works in cosmetics.”

Presenting entrepreneur Reva McPollom (right), founder of Lessonbee, speaks with audience members at the 2019 Hudson Valley Venture Fest

Stories like these have become common since the 2018 launch of the Hudson Valley Venture Hub at SUNY New Paltz. It has become a vibrant network connecting New Paltz students, faculty and alumni with regional business owners and investors.

“This is first and foremost about connecting with each other and discovering that we all share common beliefs and passions,” said Tony DiMarco, entrepreneur in residence overseeing the Venture Hub. “Our long-term goal is to increase the number of entrepreneurs here, as well as the number of successful entrepreneurs here, and drive the economic vitality of the Hudson Valley region.”

The Hudson Valley Venture Hub at SUNY New Paltz and the SUNY New Paltz School of Business would like to offer special thanks to Kenneth Pasternak ’77, and the Pasternak Family Foundation for their support of Venture Fest ’19.