Travelers passing through the Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) from February 25 to March 6 are able to experience an all-inclusive luxury lounge while waiting for their next flight. Located in Concourse A, the pop-up is the brainchild of Gabe Trumbo and David Nguyen, both MBA candidates at the Cornell SC Johnson Graduate School of Management and current members of eLab’s 2021 cohort.
Their startup, Matte Black Lounges, leveraged $25,000 won in the 2020 Cornell Hospitality Business Plan Competition, to launch the 10-day pilot at the Syracuse airport.
“The seed funding that we received from both eLab and the Hotel School allowed us to accelerate development and achieve tangible outcomes much more quickly, ” said Nguyen.
Matte Black intends to offer travelers a welcoming space to relax between flights with unlimited access to food and drink. Plus, it provides guests with a less crowded space to wait—a bonus during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are thrilled that Matte Black Lounges has chosen SYR as their launch airport with this 10-day initial offering,” said SYR Executive Director, Jason Terreri. “This serves as a tasty appetizer to our expected announcement of a more permanent lounge concept later this year.”
The lounge costs $25 for a one-day pass, while Priority Pass Members receive free entry. Guests have full access to a range of premium regional wines and beers, and snacks including offerings from local companies, Ithaca Hummus and Antithesis Foods, an eLab alumni that make Grabanzos, a healthy chocolate snack based on chickpeas. Matte Black also partnered with regional design and staging company, ReDesigned Inc, to put together the pop-up lounge.
“As soon as we began working on the lounge at SYR, we knew that we wanted to offer healthy food options that were also rooted in the community and provided a local connection,” said Trumbo.
“I got to know Chris Kirby [founder of Ithaca Hummus] through the Hotel School’s Business Plan Competition last year and was able to connect with Jason Goodman [co-founder of Antithesis Foods] through eLab this year. They were more than willing to donate product to help fellow Cornell entrepreneurs.”
The purpose of the pilot is to collect data for potential investors. If the founders can prove interest in their business model, then that plan to pursue developing permanent lounges in airports across the country. Matte Black’s founders attribute their initial success in part to the support they have received at Cornell University.
“Professor Neil Tarallo in The Hotel School was instrumental in helping Matte Black formalize our vision as we prepared for the business plan competition last year and eLab has been fantastic in helping us move the idea off of paper and into the real world,” said Trumbo.
“Cornell has been crucial in enabling us to open this lounge so quickly, both their financial support as well as the connections and resources we’ve been given access to. The fact that this lounge was able to go from concept to reality in less than a year, and in the midst of a global pandemic, speaks to the power of Cornell’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
The startup’s founders acknowledge that launching a startup as students can be challenging, sharing the following advice for their fellow student entrepreneurs:
“Often times you will find yourselves in uncharted territory and the only mentors you have to help you are trial and error. Don’t be discouraged if you face obstacles, keep pushing forward, and seldom take ‘no’ for an answer,” said Nguyen.
For more information about the pop-up, visit SYRlounge.com or follow its progress on Instagram.