Finalists for the Centennial Center for Leadership’s second annual The Pitch entrepreneurial competition will present on Wednesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center. Rachel Braccini ’15, Andrew King ’14, Zachary Lerman ’13, Mimi Mahoney ’14 and Matthew Mead ’13 will compete before a panel of judges for a $10,000 grant to help kick-start his or her entrepreneurial venture.
“The Centennial Center of Leadership is proud that the rigor of The Pitch, which is a six-month process, reflects the discipline, learning and work ethic required to bring an idea to reality,” says Associate Director of the Centennial Center for Leadership, Amy Forbes. “We’re looking for a finalist who is ready to take that leap and apply what they have learned in the real world.”
This year’s innovative ideas include a touch of keyboard personalization, a call to embrace an OUTstanding you, sustainable architecture products and a service provides arts experiences for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since applying to the competition, students have worked alongside mentors in their fields to revise and strengthen their ideas, and the final product will be a polished pitch presentation.
The Pitch judges will evaluate contestants on innovativeness, thoughtfulness of strategy, viability and how well the finalist is able to pitch his or her idea. This year’s panel will be comprised of Sandy Gross ’85, founder and managing partner of Pinetum Partners, LLC; Max Henry ’78, founder and chief executive officer of Hummingbird Leadership; Bruce Kingma, associate provost for entrepreneurship and innovation and professor of entrepreneurship at Whitman School of Management and School of Information Studies at Syracuse University; Stuart Lieblein ’90, president of the Residue National Corporation; and Duncan Moore, vice provost of entrepreneurship and professor of engineering and business administration at the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester.
Attendees of the competition will be able to see the students go head to head with a rich variety of projects. Braccini will outline the power of her “OUTstanding Campaign,” a campaign that has already started on the HWS campus, which aims to increase awareness, inclusiveness and support for the LGBT community. “I am looking forward to growing as a leader, challenging myself to produce the most accurate pitch of my future organization,” says Braccini.
Business partners King and Lerman will introduce the Colleges to the concept of “SpaceVinyl,” which will allow anyone to instantly personalize his or her computer keyboard using vinyl cut stickers, incorporating unique sticker designs, logos and illustrations.
For the SpaceVinyl team, the competition is an invaluable source – teaching the pair how to effectively structure a business plan into a working model. “We have gained the necessary experience to see what it truly takes to bring an idea to reality,” says King and Lerman. “We hope that the final round will give us experience in sharing our idea to an audience, as those skills are necessary for future presentations to others – such as possible investors. Most of all, we are looking forward to displaying our passion in our company.”
Mahoney hopes to receive funding for her ambitious program “connect(ABLE)arts.” The organization will work to connect college students and individuals with developmental and intellectual challenges using art, music, and dance.
“If someone told me a year ago that I would be building the framework for a potential non-profit organization, I would have never believed them – I have already gained so much knowledge and experience, from so many influential people,” says Mahoney. “I am hoping that in the next month, I can work on putting more pieces of my puzzle together, and get more guidance from my mentors, professors, friends and family.”
Mead will bring his architectural know-how to his project, “Hempitecture.” Through the environmental design company, Mead will devote his energies to the use of industrial hemp fiber for architectural applications that supplement and replace non-sustainable construction materials.
“The entire process has been a learning experience that differs from any class I have ever taken; my sense of entrepreneurship has greatly developed, supported by the framework of the contest,” explains Mead. “I am extremely eager to share with the HWS community the value of alternative building materials that are progressively sustainable. Whether I win or lose, I hope that my ideas will contribute toward expanded ideas on how we can build in a manner that is sustainable and environmentally friendly.”
“It should be an exciting event,” says Forbes. “These finalists have worked very hard and their ideas highlight how entrepreneurial leadership can exist across many fields, industries and academic areas.”
All members of the HWS and Geneva communities are invited to attend the exciting final presentations – and see the beginning of a new initiative.
In the photo above, finalists Zachary Lerman ’13, Andrew King ’14, Matthew Mead ’13, Mimi Mahoney ’14 and Rachel Braccini ’15 pose for a photo.