European Innovation Academy gives Denorme real-world business experience
By Paul Batterson, Contributing Writer
Chloe Denorme (WC ’17) felt like she prematurely aged when she spent last July in Turin, Italy for the European Innovation Academy. The University of Alabama sophomore celebrated her 19th birthday while attending the prestigious conference, but she kept her age a secret from her four Eudwi skincare teammates. “I was conversing with people who were graduate students or graduating from college, but I was able to hold my own with them,” said Denorme, with a laugh. “I was able to understand what they were saying and offer my ideas and criticisms. They had no idea I turned 19 during the trip. I felt like Alabama prepared me for this. I just finished the first year of an accelerated (business) program and I was already up to the level of some graduate students.”
Denorme, who is part of the school’s STEM path to a Master of Business Administration degree as well as an undergraduate student in mechanical engineering, and her teammates did more than just “hold their own” against an international field of entrepreneurs. Eudwi Skincare, a company Denorme and teammates from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Michigan created in 15 days at the event, finished in the top 10 and was able to pitch their idea for a company in front of 500 entrepreneurs at the end of the event.
Denorme, who served as the company’s chief technology officer and was also the pitch lead, said speaking in front of such a large gathering was a little unnerving. “I was really worried I wasn’t going to get my ideas across correctly and the judges were going to murder us (with their ruling),” Denorme said. “I knew what I had to say; it was just a matter of saying it in front of some very important people who were there.”
The academy gave participants a chance to experience a real business environment. Eudwi, which offers a platform for small businesses from around the world to sell organic skincare products, worked with mentors like the people who designed Amazon and Skype to build their business. After the conference, the older members of Eudwi plan on being mentored by members of Silicon Valley to see if they want to continue to develop their company. Denorme, however, returned to Alabama to continue work on her degrees. “For my purposes, this was all a hypothetical exercise,” she said. “However, I’m using the experience to further my education and figure out the best way to present my own ideas into the marketplace.”
Denorme said just the chance to live abroad for a month was a great experience in itself. “Living on your own in college is one thing,” she said. “Living on your own in a foreign country is something completely different. That was one of the most difficult parts of it — getting around the area on top of having to work so much during the week. It made me the most independent I’ve ever been in my entire life.”