“The Pitch” Top 10 Named – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

“The Pitch” Top 10 Named

Ten semi-finalists have been chosen in The Centennial Center for Leadership’s first-ever entrepreneurial contest, The Pitch, which will give one finalist up to $10,000 to put his or her idea in action. Students submitted non-profit and for-profit entrepreneurial ideas earlier this month, and judges poured over the entries to select the top 10 proposals. Each of the chosen semi-finalists will be paired with an alumni or alumnae in his or her related field, who will act as an entrepreneurial mentor, assisting students in strengthening their proposals before they are submitted for reevaluation on Jan. 25. The field will then be narrowed to up to five finalists who will compete in a culminating event on Wednesday, Feb. 29.     

“We were excited by the ideas that were presented,” said Director of the Centennial Center for Leadership Susan Pliner. “We are really pleased with the student response in our inaugural year of the contest.”

In total, there were 29 proposals, encompassing individual entries as well as team proposals; a total of 58 students contributed their entrepreneurial ideas to The Pitch. Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Tom Drennen took an early interest in the contest and tied a class project in his Environmental Economics 212 class to The Pitch, which spurred student interest.

Inspired by this year’s campus-wide theme of the Power of an Idea, students were asked to develop an innovative idea. After careful selection, one emerging entrepreneur will be presented with up to $10,000 to put his or her idea into action. The winner of the competition is required to begin work on his or her project immediately after selection.

The semifinalists were announced on Friday, Dec. 9 at the Centennial Center for Leadership. The students and teams selected and their proposed ideas include:

  • Isaias Garcia’12 and Braden Barrett ’12: “SWAG,” a financial literacy program for youth, which includes a mentoring program.
  • Brandon Tothero ’12: Repurposed Furniture Company. An industrial designer, Tothero would repurpose metal and wood into custom furniture.
  • Lauren Schwarzenberg ’12: Online Community to Enrich Education through Design, which is an online forum that connects artists and designers with educators to help make requests for projects, share resources and create innovative curricula.
  • Sara Wroblewski ’13: One Bead Project. Modeled after Livestrong, this non-profit would sell glass bead bracelets to raise money for a school in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Katie Paige’14 and Anna Dorman ’14: Green Water Proposal, a non-profit with a comprehensive plan to decrease water use on campus.
  • Marcela Melara ’12: Environmental Liaison and Automated Recycling Assistant (ELARA), a networked kiosk to inform users how to sort their waste correctly.
  • Samuel Singer ’14: TRAIN Gum. Singer would create an all-natural, organic chewing gum.
  • Whit Welles ’13, Carl Schmidlapp ’12 and Potter Hodgson ’13: Improving Single Serve Coffee Market. The team seeks to develop K-Cups made from recycled materials for Keurig-style coffee machines.
  • Melody Acosta ’12: Edible Sculpted Cake Toppers/Decorations. Acosta creates personalized, edible toppings for baked goods and caters special occasions.

“You all made it really easy and very difficult,” Pliner told The Pitch semi-finalists at an information session on Monday, Dec. 12. “The process was rigorous and the selection committee had to make a number of difficult decisions to narrow it down to the top 10. The next round will be even more intensive.”

The Pitch event will be open to the entire campus. Each finalist will have the opportunity to present a four-minute pitch to a panel of entrepreneurial judges on Feb. 29. Judges will then decide on the grant winner, who will be announced that evening.

In addition to Pliner, the evaluation committee is comprised of Pre-Business Adviser and Assistant Professor of Economics Warren Hamilton, Professor of Sociology Jack Harris, William Smith Associate Dean Lisa Kaenzig, Director of the Salisbury Center for Career Services and Professional Development Brandi Ferrara, Associate Director of the Centennial Center for Leadership Amy Forbes; and Greg Woodworth, a local entrepreneur and founder of Stony Brook Wholehearted Foods. 

Pliner and Forbes stressed that in the next stage of the contest it will be critical for semi-finalists to transform each idea into an action-ready plan. Students will work with their entrepreneurial mentor to develop their strategic approach, budget needs, and proposal timeline. 

“These mentors present a great opportunity for students,” remarked Forbes. “Even if they are not selected for the final phase of The Pitch, it is a great experience to work with a mentor and to solidify ways in which they can implement their innovative ideas.”

The photo above was taken of the 10 semifinalists in The Pitch as well as faculty and staff who are participating.