Few business competitions aim for a greater purpose like the She Has a Deal competition. This event is dedicated to growing women hotel owners and developers, encouraging underrepresented minorities to step into the spotlight and pursue careers in real estate.

With a chance to win $50,000 in equity, participants learn how to successfully close hotel real estate investment deals through collaboration, mentorship and, of course, friendly competition.

Undergrad students Nadia Cismesia, Emma Toppi and Shavrina Polina in business formal attire

Nadia Cismesia, Emma Toppi and Shavrina Polina, known as Team PEN

In June, five teams from across the nation attended the 2021 She Has a Deal event in Washington, D.C., and three Broad women landed in the winner’s circle. Rising seniors Polina Shavrina, finance, Emma Toppi, finance, and Nadia Cismesia, hospitality business, took home the Viewers’ Choice Award for their pitched idea.

“It was a super empowering experience to be surrounded by women in the industry who we look up to,” Cismesia said.

Shavrina added, “We were the youngest team by far at the competition, so it really inspired me to believe that we can achieve great things in the industry.”

Both Shavrina and Cismesia are enrolled in the Broad College’s Real Estate Investment Management minor, which brought them together as Team PEN for this event. Jim Anhut, director of the minor, spoke on how cross-disciplinary collaboration is a key strength of the program at MSU.

“One of the primary objectives of the minor is to enroll and engage a breadth of majors across campus,” he said. “This competition is a magnet that helps us accomplish this goal.”

Toppi, a Financial Markets Institute scholar, added, “This is a great way to bring people together at MSU. We were all strangers before going into the competition, but we worked really well together and became friends.”

The competition, in its second year, featured pitches around new construction, adaptive reuse and conversions of hotels in vast markets across the country. The teams took on a semester-long project, investing hours of intensive education, to ultimately prepare for live presentations to C-suite judges from Hilton, Marriott International and others.

Team PEN pitched a new construction project at an existing property in Miami Beach that would offer a modern and vibrant hotel, complete with rooftop bar and pool. They chose a prime location that could not only serve Miami’s many tourists but also partner with a nearby convention center that hosts 600,000 visitors per year.

“We were tasked with sourcing a live deal and underwriting the whole process and pitching the deal to potential investors,” Toppi said. “For our pitch, we were able to strategically acquire the property through a foreclosure, so we got the land at a huge discount.”

Undergrad students Nadia Cismesia, Shavina Polina and Emma Toppi pose on the She Has a Deal competition stage with pink hard hats.

Team PEN took home the Viewers’ Choice Award for their Miami Beach hotel idea.

Shavrina added, “We chose Miami because it was impacted the least during the pandemic, maintaining a 36% occupancy rate, and offers tourists more than 200 retailers, restaurants and bars.”

“Their presentation was well rehearsed, polished and professional — boardroom worthy,” Anhut said. “This was a prime-time networking opportunity for the team. I know they made a very positive first impression upon this prestigious audience on behalf of themselves and MSU.”

For Team PEN, this competition meant more than just a chance to win. The connections and experience have been pivotal for each teammate to step closer to their career goals.

“At first I thought hotel ownership seemed unreal or unattainable, but this competition gave me a better idea for what hotel acquisition is and gave me the opportunity to intern with the competition’s founder this summer,” Shavrina said. “It’s really helping me achieve my goal of owning a hotel in the future.”

“Women make up such a small percentage of hotel owners,” Cismesia said. “So, this was important not only as women but as 21-year-olds — if we can do this now, then we can do this later in life with even more experience under our belt. The competition was a great foundation.”

For Toppi, the competition was her first exposure to hospitality business. “It helped me to see all the potential with that in the industry,” she said. “We have been able to make so many new connections and have so many new mentors — it really helps us leverage our ability to break into the male-dominated industries of hospitality and real estate.”