Entrepreneurial Institute

NYU Female Founders Fellowship Launches with 12 Fellows

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New fellowship further strengthens the Institute’s reputation as a launchpad for female founders, providing training, mentorship, and loan-alleviation grants of up to $50,000 to select Mark & Debra Leslie Fellows. Meet the 2021 cohort!

To further its already strong commitment to supporting gender equity among budding entrepreneurs, the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute announced a new Female Founders Fellowship last October and the program formally launched early this year. 

The program provides each Female Founders Fellow with the following support:


  • Training: Fellows will have access to comprehensive startup training and mentorship through The NYU Entrepreneurial Institute’s programs. 
  • Coaching & Mentorship: Fellows will receive dedicated support from expert startup coaches and paired with specialized mentors.
  • Network of Female Founders: Fellows will be invited to participate in monthly community events, an annual full-day Female Founders Forum, and have access to a network of 120+ external mentors and funders.
  • Loan Alleviation Grants: Fellows will have the opportunity to apply for grants between $5,000-$50,000 to help alleviate the financial burden of building a startup, enabling more NYU founders to pursue their ventures after graduation. Selected grant recipients will be designated Mark & Debra Leslie Fellows.


The Spring 2021 Female Founder Fellowship cohort includes:

Paige Anderson (Steinhardt '22)
Founder, HealthBoxed 

Paige has a passion for health and wellness and is on a mission to improve the health of America’s workforce, one healthy snack at a time. Paige is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and studies Nutrition and Dietetics at the Steinhardt school.

HealthBoxed is a healthy snack box delivery service that functions as an employee wellness program, helping businesses improve the health of their employees, contributing to lower health insurance costs and enhancing overall productivity.


Ann Andrews (Stern '22)
Founder & CEO, Techfunic

Ann is an accomplished Technologist with 18 years of experience in the Enterprise Data Space and an Entrepreneur who recently founded an Ed-Tech startup created a marketplace for children in the US and international student tutors. She is pursuing an Executive MBA with the Stern School of Business at NYU.

Techfunic (formerly Arithfunic) is a live fun and interactive education program connecting children ages 6-15 in the US with international student tutors. We aim to make personalized tutoring affordable to every child, increasing the proficiency of our children in Math & Coding.


Caitlin Ellen (Stern '22)
CEO & Co-Founder, Sabai Design

Sabai Design allows young professionals to purchase sustainable furniture without sacrificing on price, style, and convenience. This is achieved by domestically producing flat-packed furniture that put both sustainability and affordability first.


Jade Kearney (Steinhardt ‘20)
Co-Founder & CEO, She Matters, Inc.

Jade is a recent graduate of the Steinhardt school at NYU, majoring in digital media design for learning.  Her professional background is in education and professional development. Jade is a wellness expert and has certifications in yoga, Ayurveda and mindfulness. Her passion is wellness education to Black and Brown communities throughout the United States.  Jade is certified in diversity and inclusion management and enjoys conducting seminars on the importance of diversity and mental wellness.  Jade is a mother, partner and motivational speaker.  She currently resides in Harlem with her daughter and fiancé. Jade is also a Mark & Debra Leslie Fellow and was was awarded a loan alleviation grant.

She Matters is an online/offline platform designed to address postpartum anxiety and depression in Black Women. We offer community, culturally relevant resources and culturally competent therapists and mental health care professionals that we certify through our certification program.


Sutton King (College of Global Public Health ‘20)
Co-Founder, ShockTalk

Sutton King, MPH, Afro-Indigenous of the Menominee and Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. She is an Indigenous Health Advocate, Researcher and Social Entrepreneur dedicated to developing and scaling innovative solutions to improve Indigenous health equity across sectors. Sutton is a Mark & Debra Leslie Fellow and was was awarded a loan alleviation grant.

ShockTalk seeks to decrease adverse mental health effects in Native American and Alaska Natives by connecting users to Native therapists trained and experienced in cultural humility through a telebehavioral and wellbeing app focused on healing unresolved historical and intergenerational trauma.


Thanisha Pariage (Wagner '20)
Founder and CEO, KinNect Careers

Thanisha (she/her) is the Founder and CEO of KinNect Careers as well as the Recruiting and Hiring Manager at Bronx Defenders, a public defender organization that provides innovative, holistic, and client-centered criminal defense, family defense, civil legal services, social work support and advocacy to indigent people of the Bronx. Thanisha is an attorney and former public defender. She received her MPA from NYU Wagner, her JD. from UConn Law, and her BA from Hofstra University in Public Relations with a minor in Music.

KinNect Careers is dedicated to connecting formerly incarcerated individuals with employment opportunities. We address the common pitfalls on the consumer and producer end like resume generation and DEI considerations. With adequate support on the employer and user side of the market, formerly incarcerated individuals can attain and maintain stable employment.


Rina G. Patel (Gallatin ‘20)
Founder,  SHE

Rina is a trained facilitator, mediator, speaker, and writer. She is the Founder and CEO of SHE, a social and emotional wellness community for female identifying teens. She is also the Founder and previous Executive Director of Aahana, a non-profit organization which provides skills and resources to youth from rural communities throughout India to address economic, social, health, and education inequalities.

SHE (she.community) is a social and emotional wellness community for female identifying teens. We provide social and emotional life skills training, coaching, mentorship, and peer to peer accountability.


Phantila Phataraprasit (Law ‘20)
COO & Co-Founder, Sabai Design

Sabai Design allows young professionals to purchase sustainable furniture without sacrificing on price, style, and convenience. This is achieved by domestically producing flat-packed furniture that put both sustainability and affordability first.


Nikki Powers (Stern '21)
Founder, Nourish & Refine

Nikki created a small line of all-natural products to help nourish her own skin back to good health. Soon after applying the body oil to the irritated area, the rash cleared and her skin became smooth and hydrated. From that time forward, she began sharing the benefits of her organic oils to calm stressed skin. Nikki continues to share her self-care practices and the benefits of using all-natural products. She makes each product with care, and by hand, in her home studio in Old Town Alexandria.

Nourish & Refine is a self-care wellness brand. Their line of organic, all-natural luxury skincare and candles offer you a moment for yourself each and every day.


Laura Rocha (Wagner ‘20)
CEO and Co-founder, Dathic

Laura is a lawyer with Masters of Public Administration from NYU Wagner. She has worked as a social innovation consultant and doing research on application of digital technologies and open data to solve social and economic problems. Laura worked for over 9 years in government providing legal advice to vulnerable populations and leading public private partnerships infrastructure projects in her native Colombia. In addition to being an NYU Female Founders Fellow, Laura is a founder in Residence at the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute. Laura is a Mark & Debra Leslie Fellow and was was awarded a loan alleviation grant.

Dathic develops an AI driven data platform that offers a CPGs a comprehensive understanding of US Hispanic consumers and provides recommendations to focalize their sales and marketing strategies, online and in stores.


Vanessa Sepul-Azcarraga (Steinhardt '20)
Co-founder, Wazo

Vanessa is a 2020 graduate of Steinhardt’s Mental Health & Wellness Masters program and a 2018 graduate of the Parsons Design & Management Program. As a therapist, health coach and spiritual counselor she combines her passion for healing with her love of problem-solving, innovation and technology to creatively minimize gaps in our health systems. 

Wazo is a peer to peer mentoring program that supports college students in getting matched with fellow peers to receive individualized support through a structured 6-week program and get connected with the university resources they need.


Ashley Xie (Steinhardt '20)
Co-founder & CEO, Rooted Fare

Ashley is a daughter of immigrant restauranteurs and a 2nd generation Chinese American. She’s worked in food-related nonprofits, restaurants, and the NYC Health Department. Ashley received her MA in Food Studies at New York University and BA in Natural Sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

Rooted Fare partners with immigrant chefs to deliver essential cultural ingredients and food education tailored to Asian Americans who want to cook cultural foods they love and identify with. We’re creating a community that enables Asian Americans to reconnect and reclaim their heritage through food and facilitates a much-needed shift in celebrating immigrant chefs as dignified and integral to our culture and society.

The NYU Entrepreneurial Institute aims to better support and remove financial barriers for founders pursuing startups and set a new standard for gender equality in entrepreneurship at universities. 
Applications are welcome from any student with a demonstrated commitment to women’s issues in the entrepreneurial space, regardless of sex or gender identification as the Institute seeks to build a diverse, inclusive cohort of fellows.

For more information about the fellowship visit the Female Founders Fellowship website and for other entrepreneurship programs at NYU, visit the
NYU Entrepreneurial Institute website.