Student entrepreneurs and their innovative business plans went head-to-head in the final round of the 2018 Stu Lieblein ’90 Pitch Contest on March 1, when winner Andrew Silard ’18 secured a $10,000 grant to fund his start-up Revolve, a social media crowdfunding platform for non-profit organizations.
With a standing-room only audience of everyone from the Hobart hockey team to faculty members, Silard and fellow finalists presented ideas and answered questions from a judging panel of professional alums in an evening that reflected months of research and development through the Centennial Center.
“I’m a big believer in the transformative opportunities offered through a liberal arts education,” President Gregory J. Vincent ’83 said. “It’s clear we have the partnership between our curriculum and co-curricular programs that allow students to bring ideas into fruition.”
The Pitch grant will cover a portion of the start-up costs for Silard’s app, which will undergo beta testing throughout the Finger Lakes area and anticipates profits within its first year. The Hobart hockey forward first began working on Revolve when he attended the Global Clinton Initiative last year.
“I was motivated to compete in the Pitch because I believe in this idea,” said Silard, who worked closely with mentor Nan Doyal P’18, president of the International Forum. “The Centennial Center has helped me refine my proposal and provided me with revisions, feedback and suggestions to develop my idea into a fundable project.”
The evening included candor and feedback from judges Julie Bazan ’93, local business owner and former financial advisor; David A. Kaplan ’83, co-founder and CEO of global video platform PureSolo and Murge LLC; Michael J. Miller ’83, P’09, president of Microbiology Consultants; and Suzanne B. Rutstein ’95, owner of juju Lifestyle Fashions.
“In taking risks, do what you love. Know that you will make mistakes,” said Bazan, who worked in finance for more than 25 years before opening Luigi’s Old World Market and Café in Geneva. “You will fail. But in that struggle, you’ll learn more than you could ever dream and achieve more than you could ever know if you continue to learn from your mistakes.”
Silard competed alongside finalists Harrison DeMaira ’19, Benjamin Greiner ’18 and Maura Moran ’18.
DeMaira, an intern for the state economic growth initiative Locate FLX, presented his business plan for Icon Influencer Marketing, a platform that connects social media content creators (YouTubers, bloggers, vloggers) with brand owners who want to run advertisement campaigns on social media. He worked closely with Michael Duggan ’92, CEO at Phillips Distilling.
Greiner, also a member of the Hobart hockey team, proposed plans for non-profit organization TalkAboutDepression.org, a resource that helps individuals provide better support to others struggling with the condition. During development, Greiner consulted with alum mentor Dr. Katherine Platoni ’74, Col. (Ret.), national expert in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a Colonel in the U.S. Army for more than 36 years.
Moran, a member of the William Smith field hockey team, presented plans for Frontier Financial, a budgeting tool for young professionals who are building a foundation for financial independence. Moran’s proposal developed through discussions with Edgeworth Economics Founder and Senior Vice President Matthew Milner ’99 and COO Patrick Byrne ’02.
“Just because it doesn’t always look sunny, doesn’t mean you can’t do it,” said Rutstein, who started her business in 2010. “If you don’t win here tonight, I encourage you to move forward and pursue these profound ideas anyway.”
Past winners include: Sara Wroblewski ’13 for One Bead, a non-profit that empowers children through leadership programming and partners with glassmakers in Kenya; Ato Bentsi-Enchill ’17 for RevisionPrep, an online educational service for students in Ghana; Andrew King ’14 for SpaceVinyl, a company bridging the gap between design and printing; and most recently, Sam Solomon ’17 for Pizza Posto, a locally sourced pizza food truck that complements the thriving food and drink industry of the Finger Lakes.
The Pitch has been generously funded by entrepreneur Stu Lieblein ’90 since 2013 to provide students with the opportunity to receive direct feedback and mentorship on their best ideas. He will continue to support the contest for one more year.