A team at Chicago’s Booth School of Business has won a competition for female MBA entrepreneurs with a startup idea seeking to reduce the occurrence of cervical cancer through early detection.
Founded by Booth MBAs Sue Kim, Arshiya Faza, Courtney Burrows and Camille Emma, 4Women bagged $10,000 at the second annual Power Pitch competition, set-up by Forté Foundation, a non-profit focused on enhancing gender diversity among MBAs.
4Women beat 48 other teams of MBA students to secure the win. A panel of esteemed judges, including representatives from Goldman Sachs and Amazon, evaluated each pitch based on how convincingly they presented their business concept, as if they were potential investors.
“It was a different experience for us to pitch to a room full of women, and because the audience was essentially our target market, it was great validation to hear that our idea resonated with them,” said Sue.
“So many audience members came up to us afterward and urged us to make our idea a reality.”
Arrion Rathsack, the competition’s founder, said: “The judges determined that 4Women had the best overall presentation of their business concept and were thorough in their description of how their business will work. They also recognized the social impact of the product they were developing.”
4Women’s product aims to reduce the occurrence of cervical cancer through early detection of the virus that causes it — the human papilloma virus (HPV). The product is a self-collection kit that tests for the presence of HPV. Because it can be used at home, it replaces the need for more invasive, uncomfortable pap smear tests performed by a doctor.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer in women globally, according to the World Health Organization.
4Women’s vision is that access to an effective and user-friendly alternative for screening could potentially increase compliance and make the process comfortable and easy for all women.
The team plans to use the funding to hire legal help to conduct an in-depth patent search and freedom to operate analysis. They will also use it to begin manufacturing a small batch of their prototype for an initial feasibility test.
Sue added: “This win is empowering, and it has invigorated us with new energy to keep moving forward to improve women’s health.”
The purpose of the Forté Power Pitch competition is to encourage and support aspiring women entrepreneurs, by demonstrating to women at top MBA programs how it can be done. Only 17% of companies are founded by women and in 2016 women received just 2.19% of venture capital funding.