WASHINGTON, March 1, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- EDENS, one of the nation's leading retail real estate developers, announces three finalists for their annual Retail Challenge, a nationwide student competition for the most compelling new retail concept. This year's competition will take place on Friday, March 4, 2016, at the renowned Union Market in Washington DC. The winner will be announced immediately following the finals competition presentations.
This year's finalists are Alex Hudson (The New School, Parsons), a fashion brand catering to the 10-18 year old girl market, Rhoback (Darden School of Business, The University of Virginia), an activewear line inspired by the preppy male, and Alegria Home (The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania), an artisan invoked home décor concept.
"This year's finalists exemplify the exciting current climate in retail. All three concepts are scalable, share a strong commitment to product quality and focus on providing a standout retail experience to their customers," says Jodie McLean, Chief Executive Officer of EDENS.
The EDENS Retail Challenge is a nationwide competition designed to foster and incubate the next great idea. EDENS is committed to finding innovative and disruptive ways of doing things, and uses the challenge to invite the most passionate entrepreneurs from across the country to pitch a retail concept to a panel of industry leaders. The contest kicked off last October at universities and colleges across the country, with 15 regional finalists selected.
The three chosen finalists will appear before an esteemed panel of judges consisting of industry experts including Tara Foley, Brett Schulman and Elaine Chon-Baker (see below for additional information). The three finalists have received $3,000 and intense mentoring on their business plans to date. The overall winner of the 2016 EDENS Retail Challenge will win an additional $10,000 and the opportunity to bring their retail concept to life.
Past winners of the EDENS Retail Challenge include Follain, a collection of the most wholesome, healthy beauty brands in the world with locations in Boston and Nantucket; and Artis, a coffee roasting retailer with locations in Berkeley, California and a burgeoning wholesale business.
EDENS develops, owns and operates community shopping centers in primary markets across the country. Focusing on innovative development and redevelopment together with key acquisitions in urban areas, the company has built an institutional-quality portfolio of 136 retail centers. EDENS has regional headquarters in Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Houston and Columbia, SC. For additional information about the company and its retail real estate portfolio, please visit www.edens.com.
Jodie W. McLean is Chief Executive Officer of EDENS, one of the nation's leading private owners, operators and developers of retail real estate. With a more than 20-year tenure at EDENS, she has established herself as a key player in the company's growth and expansion to its current marketplace leadership, capitalized by blue chip investors and assets valued at $6 billion.
McLean is responsible for EDENS' strategy to move the portfolio to major urban centers, creating a portfolio of assets that are the center of community life. She was named Chief Investment Officer in 1997, President in 2002 and CEO in 2015. Overall, she has been responsible for the development, redevelopment, acquisition and disposition of more than $10 billion in retail assets.
McLean passionately believes that retail should evolve beyond a shopping experience, and advocates for connectivity to the communities surrounding the company's retail centers.
Tara Foley has always led a healthy life - organic food, exercise, and a healthy outlook. She was also a beauty junkie and upon realizing how many toxins were packed into her beloved products, she realized that she had to be part of the movement to create change - and elicit transparency - in the beauty industry. Tara began researching ingredients, brands, and the beauty industry at-large. Equipped with her learnings, she spent a summer working on an organic lavender farm in France followed by an apprenticeship at a private label skincare manufacturer in Maine. She went on to pursue an MBA from Babson College, where she won EDENS' National Retail Business Plan Competition. Tara opened the first Follain store in Boston's South End in 2013. Gaelic for 'healthy, wholesome, and sound', Follain carries over 35 spa-grade, US-made brands. Follain has expanded to include seasonal Nantucket and Wellesley, MA stores, as well as a reoccurring pop-up at Washington DC's Union Market, and e-commerce at www.shopfollain.com.
Brett Schulman is the Chief Executive of Cava Group, Inc.: a rapidly expanding fast casual restaurant and CPG brand focusing on fresh, better-for-you cuisine. Cava brings modern, authentic, and vibrant Mediterranean food to a national audience in both fast casual and grocery channels through a unique, culinary-driven brand. After spending over a decade in the investment-banking world at firms including Alex Brown, Deutsche Bank Alex Brown, and Friedman Billings Ramsey, Brett was the COO at Snikiddy LLC, a nationally distributed snack food company in multiple grocery channels including natural and organic markets, club stores and mass retailers. At Snikiddy, he helped expand the brand from conceptual stage to a multi million-dollar growth business. Brett has also consulted for a number of CPG and restaurant start-ups that fuel his combined passion for food and business. Brett is a Washington, DC native, graduate of the University of Maryland, and resides in Bethesda, MD with his wife Mary and children Sunny, Sadie and Luke. His favorite Cava dip is Harissa – he loves the gradual spicy kick.
Elaine Chon-Baker is founder and managing director of Mokja Ventures, a Washington DC-based venture capital fund that invests in local entrepreneurs with innovative restaurant concepts, Elaine has always loved food, finance, and startups. Being one of seven daughters, she bypassed the traditional path of lawyer or doctor and followed in her father's entrepreneurial footsteps. Starting at the age of 13, she taught piano lessons to beginner students for 5 years. She was always juggling multiple part-time jobs, including working at a fabric store, bookstore, and Williams-Sonoma. She spent two summers at Pee Wee's Burgers at the Maryland State Fair ― a job and burger she will never forget. While at university, she studied Chemical Engineering before starting her career in environmental consulting, transitioning to IT program management in startups and global telecom companies.
After moving to London, Elaine established a consulting firm working with fledgling eCommerce companies. In her spare time, food was a consistent passion whether she was taking cooking classes or planning events for a foodie group. After returning to the US, she became heavily involved in her community doing volunteer work, fundraising, event planning, and PR. Prior to starting Mokja Ventures, which is currently raising $5 million to support multiple concepts, she invested in several successful food and beverage concepts. She is immersed in DC's growing hospitality sector and appreciates and admires the obsessive talent and hard work of many people in the industry.