Tiffany Smith now has extra funds – plus a new Microsoft Surface – to launch a company that aims to address two critical issues facing society today: labor shortages and a high recidivism rate, which can be defined as the percentage of returning citizens that relapse into criminal behavior post release. OrangePrint, started by Tiffany and fellow Kellogg School of Management MBA classmate Drew Dilts, connects skilled, formerly imprisoned citizens with construction industry employers in need.
At the first annual Forté Power Pitch Competition held during the Forté 2016 MBA Women’s Leadership Conference in Austin in June, Tiffany was one of four finalist teams to present her business idea in front of a panel of judges and an audience of 500 female MBAs. She won both the overall competition and the audience favorite awards, taking home $10,000 and a Microsoft Surface Book laptop, both provided by Microsoft Surface.
“I was surprised and grateful when they announced the winner,” she said. “People came up to me after my presentation and told me they really loved it, so I thought maybe I’d win the audience favorite. But I definitely didn’t think I’d win both awards.”
Power Pitch creator and organizer Arrion Rathsack, Forté Foundation’s associate director of student and alumnae relations, said the ideas of all four finalists were strong on paper, but Tiffany’s live presentation at the conference set her apart.
“Tiffany could really communicate what OrangePrint was about because she has a vested interest in making her company succeed,” she said. “She got the audience excited by sharing her personal story, and that ended up being an important factor in the final selection.”
Before starting her full-time MBA program, Tiffany worked at a large construction company in Washington, D.C. and saw lots of problems first-hand, including a shortage of available skilled workers, high turnover and training costs. At the same time, within her own circle of family and friends, she felt frustrated for current and recent returning citizens who were formerly incarcerated and couldn’t get a job after release from prison.
Those two factors inspired her and Drew to develop the idea for OrangePrint, and to ultimately co-found the company. The idea spawned from another concept they developed at a business competition during the winter of 2016.
“Society expects people who get out of jail to become productive citizens, but those people don’t know where to go and they face a lot of barriers in re-entering the workforce,” said Tiffany. “When people don’t have jobs, they’re far more likely to relapse into criminal activity and wind up back in jail. We’re trying to break that cycle by providing a pathway to employment and hopefully success.”
Microsoft Surface Product Marketing Manager Sohana Punithakumar, a Forté fellow with an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management, said she was proud to sponsor the inaugural pitch competition because Surface is a great device for MBAs and entrepreneurs alike.
“The best sponsorships are the ones that satisfy a business objective while helping to fulfill our mission,” said Sohana. “I believe Surface is the best laptop for MBA students because it’s super light and powerful, and its pen and touch capabilities comply with professors’ flat device policies. Moreover, Surface is committed to supporting female entrepreneurs, just like Forté.”
Arrion said she was “very pleased” with the success of the Power Pitch, which attracted 19 entries from female-led entrepreneur teams representing 16 top business schools, and received positive feedback from conference attendees.
“A lot of students in the audience said the presentations inspired them to be entrepreneurs in the future,” she said. “Next year, word of the competition will be out on the street at our partner schools, so we’re definitely looking forward to seeing an even bigger response in 2017.”