Student Startup Wins Sobotka Seed Stage Venture Grant

Sobotka winners
From left: Yale College senior Russell Heller, Melissa Mazzeo ’20, Cyndi Chen ’19, and Jatin Batra ’19

By Matthew O’Rourke

For years, Melissa Mazzeo ’20 watched customers at her mother’s consignment shop struggle with the same dilemma: was it really worth buying clothing that their small children would soon grow out of? Mazzeo and two of her SOM classmates, Jatin Batra ’19 and Cyndi Chen ’19, thought they might have a solution: an online subscription service for secondhand children’s clothing that would allow parents to resell clothes for a credit after their children grow out of them. Their company, Hand Me Up, was born.

Now their idea has won the 2018 Sobotka Seed Stage Venture Grant, a prize offered by Yale Center for Business and the Environment of up to $10,000 for entrepreneurs who address both the needs of the market and the planet. To qualify for the prize, applicants must submit a budget, the qualifications of their team members, and a business plan that proves the startup is both commercially viable and could have a positive environmental impact on society.

Mazzeo said one of the ideas behind Hand Me Up is to encourage a “more circular model for kids clothing” that is environmentally sustainable.

“We want to challenge the consumerist culture around buying a whole new set of clothes again and again, but looking to do so on a cheaper level all while keeping these clothes out of a landfill,” said Mazzeo. “Parents sign up and get a box of clothes that will last them a few months and then they can keep it as long as they need.” 

Another student startup, The Green Gear Company, also received the grant. The company, launched by Yale College senior Russell Heller, uses bioplastic products to replace products that are currently made using fossil fuels, such as ponchos and other outerwear.