Matthew Nusom ’23 is the winner of the Todd Feldman ’89 and Family Pitch Contest for his sustainable design company SymBio.
With more than 500 people tuning in virtually, Matthew Nusom ’23 pitched his sustainable design company SymBio live from HWS’ Seneca Room, becoming the winner of the Todd Feldman ‘89 and Family Pitch Contest. Nusom’s company reimagines the dining experience to help people manage their landfill, recycling and organic waste. President Joyce P. Jacobsen presented Nusom with a $10,000 grant to make his vision a reality.
SymBio’s first product is a lunch tray that uses color-coded sections and indicative letters for composting, recycling and landfilling, allowing diners to place items on their tray based on how they will need to be disposed of after the meal. Nusom has designed both a reusable tray and a compostable tray made of sugarcane fiber.
“We bridge the gap between good intentioned humans and broken systems to provide sustainable solutions that better the world. We have created a revolutionary lunch tray that acts as a physical tool by which students can build healthy habits that will serve them well throughout their lifetime,” Nusom pitched. “They are human-focused and reduce the amount of waste going to landfills without overcomplicating or over-engineering the process.”
Nusom, a member of the Colleges’ Debate Team, has already created strategic partnerships with local educators and companies, including: a schoolteacher at Geneva West Street Elementary School, sustainability-education company Impact Earth, and waste solutions company Closed Loop Systems, founded by Jacob Fox ’16. In the future, Nusom envisions schools, hospitals, airports and other institutions will use SymBio products.
Todd Feldman ’89 offered welcome remarks from his home in Los Angeles, Calif. Feldman, an entrepreneur who has spearheaded ventures in garment and soft goods, entertainment and real estate, met with each of the finalists in anticipation of the event to help them workshop their ideas.
This year, HWS celebrated the 10th anniversary of The Pitch. The Centennial Center launched the entrepreneurial leadership competition in 2011 as part of a yearlong focus on the theme “The Power of an Idea.” Since then, Director of the Centennial Center Amy Forbes says, the contest has shown the importance of cultivating student ideas and how “any one of them can change the world.”
This year’s judges, who are all entrepreneurs and past contestants of the competition, selected SymBio because of the timing of the opportunity – NY State’s Food Donation and Food Recycling Law and a ban on polystyrene, single-use foam will take effect in January 2022 – and the immediate impact $10,000 will make toward launching his entrepreneurial vision. Nusom says that with the grant he will be able to produce 5,000 units of his reusable trays and begin distributing them to school districts throughout the Finger Lakes and Rochester, N.Y.
The judges included Ato Bentsi-Enchil ’17, Mattie Mead ’13, Sam Solomon ’17 and Sara Wroblewski ’13, who have each founded entrepreneurial ventures in their post-graduate careers. Three of the judges are the founders of companies they launched during the HWS Pitch. They tuned in remotely from Accra, Ghana, Ketchum, Idaho, Geneva, N.Y. and Boston, Mass., respectively.
The other finalists included: Jack Fell ’21, who pitched Grassroots Partnerships, a community-based policy initiative; Alexandria Knipper ’21, founder of CanAdapt, a multilingual online cancer connection community; and Meghan McKenna ’21 and Marie Charlotte Carrau ’21, who pitched Re-Use Thread, a textile-recycling company.