By Abe Danaher | April 27, 2020
Chemical engineering junior Alexis Lewis took home the top prize in The Proving Ground SCRA/Fluor Fan Favorite Track competition, hosted by the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business. The Proving Ground gave UofSC students and alumni with entrepreneurial aspirations a chance to share their business ideas in a Shark Tank-like competition. Between the four competitions that made up The Proving Ground event, there was $54,000 in prize money.
Lewis and Tiffany Neckles, a marketing and management major in Darla, won $6000 for their Ally B. Organics business plan. Our communications team was able to catch-up with Lewis following her big victory to learn more about Ally B. Organics, The Proving Ground experience, and the role our college played in her success.
1) What originally led you and Tiffany to start Ally B. Organics?
Ally B. Organics is a holistic health and beauty company intended to aid in natural hair, skin, diet and hormonal balance. I originally founded ABO to address some major concerns in this industry due to the lack of regulations. We intend to use our platform to spread awareness of these discrepancies as well as to promote holistic, healthy lifestyles. Holistic means tending to the individual's overall health and wellness. Hormones control all of our major bodily functions and it's important to make sure we incorporate proper nutritional value into our diets in order to promote optimal health and wellness
I later added Tiffany to the team because I knew she would provide valuable marketing and management knowledge as a double major in the Moore School with great business insight. Tiffany was a key part of our marketing strategy and the overall appeal of the presentation. I could not have done this without her, and I look forward to continuing working with Tiffany to build our platform and expand our audience by developing, implementing, and executing plans which will appeal to our audience and differentiate us from our competitors.
2) What did you learn from The Proving Ground experience?
The most important thing I learned from The Proving Ground competition was how to write a business plan and the importance of appealing to sponsors. I also learned some of the fundamentals of being a successful entrepreneur, which includes identifying an everyday problem, pinpointing your market, differentiating yourself and developing feasible financial plans.
3) When you heard that you had won The Proving Ground Fan Favorite Track competition, what went through your head?
When I heard that we won, I literally screamed!
4) Did anything you learned in our college help lead to this victory?
My chemical engineering professor Dr. Kenneth Roberts was a key catalyst in making this possible because he is the person who originally told me about The Proving Ground competition and suggested that I apply. Taking chemical process principles with Dr. Chris Williams was also integral in making this company a reality because for our final project in the class, he allowed our group to analyze the process of makeup formulation, which really showed me first-hand how vast the opportunities are for a chemical engineer. This also showed me how I could combine my interests with my passion for engineering to pioneer a health and beauty company. Without these two professors, I'm not sure if I would have made it this far.
5) How do you and Tiffany plan to use the $6,000 you won?
With the funds won, we plan to jumpstart this company as soon as possible. Adjustments will have to be made from the original plan due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Initial investments will include ingredients, packaging, graphic design and marketing, and most importantly, organic certification through Clemson. We have contacted Clemson's accrediting agency and plan to have the 14-page application completed after finals are over. It can take up to 60 days for this to be processed. Organic certification is an essential part of our marketing plan because consumers want to buy products that are USDA approved and have met FDA standards. We look forward to participating in vendor events such as CURLFEST in Atlanta once the pandemic is over.
6) What is your hope and vision for Ally B. Organics in the coming years?
In the coming years, we plan to continue research related to hormonal balance and endocrine disorders. Ideally, we would like to one day have a location where we extract our own ingredients for formulation and provide additional services such as hormone panel tests and health/wellness consultations. We also intend to become dermatologically approved through Skin Health Alliance.
Watch the live stream of Alexis' and Tiffany's presentation for The Proving Ground