An entrepreneurial drive and big dreams were shared among finalists of this year’s The Pitch, but it was Andrew King ’14 and Zachary Lerman ’13 who took top honors when they landed a $10,000 grant to pursue their signature idea: SpaceVinyl.
King and Lerman impressed the expert panel of judges with a crowd-pleasing pitch for their keyboard accessory company, SpaceVinyl, which produces specially designed stickers for the spacebar of computer keyboards. Already fully operational, SpaceVinyl has had a number of sales from customers on campus and is working to expand its product line.
“It’s a challenge to put six months of hard work into 8 minutes on the stage, but now we’re happier about SpaceVinyl than ever before,” said King just moments after receiving the grand prize. “Now is the time we really need to kick it into gear. We’re excited to move forward from this point on and show the world what SpaceVinyl is all about.”
Organized and hosted by the Centennial Center for Leadership, The Pitch calls for students with entrepreneurial interests to submit their best and most innovative ideas that change communities, improve systems, and deliver products or services.
The event Wednesday night marked the close of the second annual competition, but notably one that was very well-received and drew a standing-room only audience to the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center.
After plenty of hard work and fierce competition among dozens of entrepreneurially minded students, The Pitch finalists selected this year were: Rachel Braccini ’15, who presented an idea for an inclusive and positively-framed effort aimed at supporting LGBT individuals; Mimi Mahoney’ 14, who presented her idea for a nonprofit service that provides arts experiences for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities; and Matthew Mead ’13, who proposed a sustainable architecture product.
Contest judges were 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.
Remarks at The Pitch finale Wednesday night were made by Provost and Dean of Faculty Titi Ufomata, Associate Dean for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment and Director of Centennial Center for Leadership Susan Pliner; and Amy Forbes, associate director of the Centennial Center for Leadership.
In celebrating their win, the SpaceVinyl team had many to thank, including the Centennial Center for Leadership for being the backbone of The Pitch competition.
“I can’t express enough gratitude for the Centennial Center for Leadership. We couldn’t have made it to where we are now without them,” Lerman said. “Taking our initial proposal, turning it into a script and having it work as well as it did is something that took a lot of time and effort with their help. Participating in The Pitch has been an amazing experience and has really helped to show us what it takes to make an idea become a reality.”
Lerman and King also credit the 2012 winner of the inaugural contest of The Pitch, Sara Wroblewski ’13, for being an inspiration.
Making an appearance at the second annual event, Wroblewski updated the campus community on the successes of her winning idea, One Bead, a nonprofit that markets handmade recycled glass beads to raise funds to help improve education for children and adults in Africa. In addition, Wroblewski also offered words of advice to the finalists and other aspiring entrepreneurs in attendance.
“The Centennial Center for Leadership and Hobart and William Smith Colleges have given us all so many opportunities to pursue and succeed at the things we love most,” Wroblewski said. “The Colleges have proved countless times to be my biggest supporter and have gone above and beyond any obligation to make me feel that what I am doing is really important. I know regardless of what unfolds here tonight, the opportunities that you five have ahead of you are endless, and you have all of us, here to support you.”