Estelle Sips; Wharton MBAs Crowd-Fund for School: Scene

At a concert last night at the Darby, Estelle performed everything from Madonna's "Borderline" to her "Wonderful Life." The audience did most of the singing on her hit "American Boy." Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Hip-hop’s glamorous starlet Estelle crooned last night at the Darby -- everything from snippets of Madonna’s “Borderline” to her smooth-rap “Freak” to her first hit, “American Boy,” which the audience sang for her.

Then she popped a magnum of Rosa Regale and gave a toast to a wonderful life, launching into her song by that title. The chorus goes, “Hey! I’m winning today.”

Kevin Liles, her manager, and Mike Kyser of her label, Atlantic Records, sat in a center booth watching with approval.

Estelle and Rosa Regale have become an item since her album “All of Me” was released in February.

It started with the music video for “Thank You,” in which a waiter pours the Italian sparkling red wine imported by Banfi Vintners. Then came sampling at a pre-Grammy event featuring her charity, the All of Me Foundation, and at some of her shows. There were Twitter and Facebook mentions, too, all culminating in a one-year endorsement deal giving the brand the right to Estelle’s image for marketing purposes.

Stacy Jones, chief executive officer of Hollywood Branded Inc., initiated the relationship.

“The reason why Rosa Regale wanted to work with Estelle is that the brand tested really well in an urban demographic,” Jones said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “And Estelle has a clean image, a healthy persona.”

The crowd assembled last night, on a stop of the Rosa Regale “Invite Only” tour, seemed to fit that profile.

Among them: Bryce Shaw, general manager of design firm Holly Hunt; Ann Akiri, who works in marketing for Ben Sherman; Dwayne Williams, an emergency-room physician, and DJ Kevin Young.

One guest advised not to drink more than two glasses of Rosa Regale or you’ll get a headache.

Wharton MBA

Paying for a Wharton MBA is about to get a little easier. Try, on average, $30,000 easier, said David Klein, chief executive officer and co-founder of CommonBond, an eight-month-old startup applying crowd-funding to the MBA student-loan market.

CommonBond is offering a fixed, annual rate of 6.24 percent on MBA loans. Federal Stafford graduate-student loan rates are 6.8 percent for the first $20,500 and 7.9 percent thereafter.

No wonder the company had little trouble gathering a few hundred MBA students together at a midtown loft for a party on Aug. 2.

“I’m at the event because I want to support an organization that is brave enough to challenge an industry that has been overburdening students,” said Will Morel, who is entering his second year of Wharton.

Testing Ground

In the CommonBond model, the lenders are graduates of the same school of the students they fund. Lenders are required to invest a minimum of $50,000 for the promise of a nearly 5 percent return.

Wharton, the alma mater of the founders, is the first testing ground.

“We chose the name CommonBond because we’re incorporating a community component into the financing to achieve the goal,” Michael Taormina, co-founder and CFO said.

Klein said the company is on target to raise $2 million from 5 to 15 Wharton alumni, to fund 40 Wharton student loans this year. The borrowers will be 2012 graduates refinancing loans (who conveniently start repayment in December), and second-year students. In the near future, the company will expand to other Ivy League schools with MBA programs.

Of course the model relies on MBAs remaining credit-worthy and finding high-earning jobs.

The founders of the company have also decided to fund an African child’s schooling for every MBA student they fund. That was the hook of this party, which took in $6,000 to send 19 children to the African School for Excellence. That number will be in addition to the 40 the company hopes to send through its first round of loans.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Mark Beech on music, Ryan Sutton on dining.

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