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Zicklin’s MBA Business Consulting Program Helps Startup Realize Its Vision of Bringing Inclusive Design to the Masses

December 6, 2021

When you sip your morning coffee, do you ever think about the design of the mug you’re holding? Chances are you don’t—you take this simple act for granted. But imagine if you had tremors from Parkinson’s disease or were missing fingers or a hand. Would you still be able to hold the mug?  

White mug on kitchen countertop

CURVD’s mug looks like an ordinary coffee mug but can be used by people with limb differences

Those are the kinds of scenarios the founders of CURVD, a startup that designs everyday objects to make them accessible for everyone, envisioned while creating a mug that could be used by the abled and disabled alike. After hundreds of prototypes, they finally had a beautifully designed mug that looked like a regular coffee mug but could also be used by people with limb differences. The only problem was, they needed help selling it.  

For help, they approached the MBA Consulting Program at the Zicklin School of Business, which used CURVD as a hands-on case study for two teams of MBA student-consultants.  

“CURVD’s founders are talented designers with a noble cause, but they lacked the expertise in business strategy to realize their vision and take this product to the next level,” says Timothy Noakes (Executive MBA, ’21), who advises the Zicklin students on the CURVD project. “We helped them conceptualize their business model, write a business plan, analyze their competitors, build a brand narrative, and devise a go-to-market strategy.”  

Among other suggestions, the students advised the startup to approach promotional gift suppliers as a potential sales channel. CURVD’s mission and story resonate strongly with these suppliers, the students found; in addition, promotional gift suppliers can take on some of the distribution complications and expense of producing the mugs and getting them into the hands of customers. 

“I have a background in fashion design so I know from personal experience that manufacturing and supply chain issues can be a headache,” says Alessia de Francesco (Evening MBA, ’21) one of the student-consultants. “CURVD is so small that making even a few mugs is expensive. Outsourcing that piece to a larger company that can mass produce the mugs is less costly, and it frees up their time to focus on the business.”  

Five women pose with coffee mugs

Right to left: Executive MBA students Kripa Shakya, Mary Oommen, Karolina Wykowska, Joanna Wu, and Diana Rodriguez- Escalante

Two men seated at work table surrounded by coffee mugs

CURVD’s founders (left to right) Amin Hasani and Jed Tango

After the first consulting team helped CURVD align its mission with its target market and build a brand narrative, a second team provided actionable recommendations in the areas of digital marketing, search engine optimization, social media strategy, and distribution channels, to help the startup gain brand recognition and ultimately get its products into the marketplace.  

CURVD was delighted with the results.  

“The Zicklin students are top notch,” says Amin Hasani, CURVD’s co-founder. “Their thought process is very analytical. We’ve implemented all their suggestions and we’re already seeing results, week by week.”  

 “It’s a perfect fit,” agrees Jed Tango, Hasani’s partner. “We can’t overstate our appreciation for what the teams have done.”  

 As for the benefits accrued to students. working on the CURVD project gave them “tremendous” experience in both business design and client relations, notes Arthur Chivvis, one of the leading advisors to the business consulting program: “Those skills can be used in any business context, not just management consulting.”  

 “There’s a lot of talk nowadays about ESG [environmental, social, and  governance] and the idea that businesses don’t exist only for their shareholders,” adds Anthony Farina, director of Zicklin’s business consulting program. “Here’s a business that wants to serve an underserved community by making inclusive design universal. That really resonated with our students.”  

 Mary Oommen (Executive MBA, ’22), team leader for the second Zicklin consulting team, agrees: “This is an amazing product, and by getting CURVD’s story out there, we’re helping the startup go from being two guys with a passion and mission to being two successful businessmen with an expanding brand.”  

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