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‘Funderdome’ appearance by LI startup was months in the making

From left, Sarah Wandursky, Laurie Russo and Melissa

From left, Sarah Wandursky, Laurie Russo and Melissa Wandursky, of Laura Alison Design, Aug. 10, 2017, in Huntington. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Huntington startup could soon be seeing a lot more business thanks to a slated appearance Sunday on the ABC television series “Steve Harvey’s Funderdome.”

Laura Alison Design, maker of the HoodiFit — a combination hoodie-scarf/sports towel — will be featured as a competing entrepreneur on the 9 p.m. show.

The series pits pairs of entrepreneurs against each other to vie for up to $100,000 in seed funding. Unlike ABC’s popular seed-funding show “Shark Tank,” winning businesses are decided by a vote of the studio audience.

Laurie Russo, a Huntington hairdresser and founder of Laura Alison Design, said Thursday she has been sworn to secrecy since she taped the episode in October.

Russo started the business eight years ago when she decided to make her daughters a variation on an infinity scarf for Christmas by adding a hood. After getting requests to make more, Russo secured a patent and went into business with her daughters, Sarah and Melissa Wandursky, to sell the product online. They sell cold-weather versions in addition to the sport towel model.

“We didn’t actually find out that they were airing our episode until June,” said Russo, who was contacted by the show last year after producers saw a Kickstarter she had launched for her product. After several months of back and forth, Russo and her daughters were flown to Los Angeles for the taping. “I can’t believe Sunday it’s really happening,” she said.

Russo’s product “is a great idea for in and out of the gym,” Leslie Garvin, executive producer of the show, said Thursday in a statement. “The opportunity to appear on ‘Steve Harvey’s Funderdome’ win or lose, is a great way for people to get the word out.”

Russo said landing a spot on the show was “a really grueling process,” but she’s hopeful the national exposure will give her home-based business additional sales opportunities. “This is not about winning or losing. We’re getting national exposure. Everybody’s a winner.”

Phil Rugile, director of startup co-working space LaunchPad Huntington, said he hopes the startup’s appearance on the show “will really jumpstart their growth.” Russo has been an active member of the entrepreneurial community Launchpad works to cultivate, Rugile said.

The co-working space will host a party for the company in advance of the Sunday airing, he said. Rugile added that the process of getting on the show accelerated Russo’s “level of professionalism” and “branding of the company.”

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