OIE Alumni Feature: Dulceology

NVC 2019 Winner & Dulceology co-founder, Edith Leiva, reflects on building a business and the resources at OIE she utilized

July 9, 2024

Dulceology NVC Winner picture

In 2019, Edith Leiva was a GW masters student studying design at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design when she found out about the New Venture Competition. After stumbling across a flyer and then hearing a NVC presentation during her prototype class from the OIE team, she was intrigued. Since 2013, Edith and her sister, Andrea Nicole Leiva had owned an online Etsy shop called Dulceology where they sold alfajores, a traditional cookie from Latin America. 

“We wanted to recreate the recipes that my grandma used to make, so we started baking from a very young age and one of the recipes that we found in her cookbook was called alfajores…that’s what essentially started this business,” Edith said.

With their shared interest in entrepreneurship and a long time passion for baking, the two sisters finalized and submitted their video pitch for Dulceology - only 5 minutes before the application closed. 

“We made it barely on time and then I remember we were so excited and we had no idea this was going to take off,” and little did they know what the future had in store for them.

After moving on to the first round, they worked tirelessly to improve their idea with the help of their OIE mentor. “He really helped us develop the business and helped me gain confidence,” Edith emphasized how much he encouraged her to continue in the competition and pushed her to overcome any challenges. 

As Dulceology advanced to the next rounds of NVC, Edith was busy balancing both her masters’ work and the business’s rapid growth. Each time they pitched, they were able to effectively demonstrate their increase of sales and popularity of the product.

They also worked with OIE’s Bob Smith in the early stages and then-mentor Mangesh Wadegaonkar to help finalize the last details of their business plan before the final round.“It was energizing to be around the team, there is so much knowledge and so many resources…we had many questions and they helped us move forward,” Edith said.

In the final round, Dulceology won first place in the “New Ventures Track” as well as the “Best Art and Design Student Prize” and “Best Food & Beverage Industry Venture”. Edith graduated with her masters in May of 2020 and then in September of that year, Dulceology opened up their brick and mortar store in Baltimore in the midst of the pandemic.

Now nearing their fifth year anniversary, Edith looked back on the support she received from the OIE team. 

“We were able to learn so much…it [NVC] gave us all the tools that we needed and helped us answer the questions you wouldn’t know otherwise. There is no blueprint on how to start a business,” she adds, “There are so many surprises…and there are so many ways you can easily get discouraged and I think just having someone check-in made it super nice.”

Edith shares this advice to aspiring GW entrepreneurs: “I think if you have a calling in your heart and you have this passion for something and maybe it has been a childhood dream or maybe it is something you strongly believe in… I would say give it a try. I think the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at GW is a perfect place, it is a safe place where you can talk to someone and get feedback, listen to the feedback, tweak it a little bit, and adapt it to your business.”

Check out Dulceology’s website to order some sweet Latin-inspired treats or their Instagram here.