Nine HWS students have been announced as semi-finalists in the fourth installment of the Stu Lieblein ’90 Pitch Contest. The Pitch, an entrepreneurial leadership contest organized by the Centennial Center for Leadership (CCL), doubled its proposal numbers this year with applicants who are interested in furthering their entrepreneurial ingenuity.
“The selection process was challenging this year,” says Amy Forbes, associate director of CCL. “We had a really diverse range of ideas. We’re fortunate that we had a wonderful selection committee with local entrepreneurs, alum entrepreneurs, faculty and staff, who were really thoughtful in their review.”
Forbes says the contest is designed to draw out creativity from student as they compete for the top prize, a $10,000 grant to fund their idea. With innovative proposals ranging from a honey bar to a new urban school district in Rochester, N.Y., this group of semi-finalists has set the bar high in what is sure to be a tough competition.
The Pitch Semi-finalists for this year’s contest and their proposals are as follows:
- Caroline DeWeirdt ’15 – “Do You Want S’More,” an outdoors, camp themed boutique in downtown Geneva, N.Y., that serves one-of-a-kind fresh s’mores.
- Gloria Garcia ’17 and Sam Solomon ’17 – “The Honey House,” a small retail store focused on selling honey and honey-based products that will also offer a tasting bar, workshops, tutorials, cooking classes and other events.
- Liz Lunderman ’16 – “Pink Elephant,” a film production company that honors women in the extreme wilderness sports industry.
- Justin Pacione ’16 – “Water Purification System,” a saltwater purification system designed to operate entirely on clean, renewable solar energy to produce safe, affordable drinking water for communities in need.
- Jericsson Pichardo ’15 – “Rochester River,” a not-for-profit focused on creating a new urban district school in Rochester, N.Y., that provides a rigorous college preparatory based on the principles of humane education.
- Paige Pierce ’17 – “Orchard Outfitters,” a vending truck that connects students and fashion by traveling to colleges in the Northeast selling high-end clothing brands.
- Hannah Pollinger ’15 – “ARTseeGO,” a mobile application that allows users to identify architecture and convey relevant information about the building, monument or landmark.
- Andrew Silard ’18 – “Market,” an ecommerce website and application that creates an individual college market system for students to buy and sell items.
Forbes says the students are currently in the process of being paired with alum mentor who will guide them through the process of strengthening and revising their proposals for the next round of the competition in January. Students will re-submit their revised proposals to the selection committee and then have one last opportunity to “pitch” their proposals before the four finalists are chosen.
“The alum mentorship has been one of the strongest components of the contest,” Forbes says. “We’ve found it to be really essential to the maturation process of the idea.”
Also working closely with the students to provide important, practical advice throughout the Pitch workshop sessions is entrepreneur Stu Lieblein ’90, whose generous support funds the contest’s first-place $10,000 grant prize.
“Stu has been really supportive,” Forbes says. “As an entrepreneur, his insights have been really invaluable and we’re fortunate that he is so engaged with the students’ learning. He’s really eager to further the growth of entrepreneurial leadership on campus by drawing more students to the contest and elevating the quality of proposals.”
As a precursor to the competition several semi-finalists were a part of the HWS IdeaLab, a six-week incubator program to help accelerate student ideas. Those who participated workshopped their ideas with peers and also had access to the Colleges’ vast network of alums to seek out professional expertise in refining their ideas. Students were incentivized to enter the contest by the prize of $1,000 to any IdeaLab student who made the second round of The Pitch.
Finalists for The Pitch will be selected in January. Afterwards, they will begin training for the final Pitch event, which is set for Thursday, March 12, 2015. Finalists will present their pitch to a panel of alumni judges in front of the HWS community.
“We’re really excited about these eight semi-finalists,” Forbes says. “They’ve already impressed us with their energy and ambition. I think this group has already set a high standard and we are expecting a difficult decision when we must narrow the field down to finalists in January.”