When the judges of the 2020 Pitch Contest asked this year’s winner – Nicole Wright ’20, who is a volunteer firefighter for the Hydrant Hose Fire Company in Geneva, N.Y. – how she knows her company’s product will keep firefighters safe, Wright answered from personal experience, “I’ve already worn the prototype on a fire call.”
Wright pitched Emeritus Fire Gear, a streetwear hoodie fit with a Nomex hood – an indispensable part of firefighters’ gear that provides heat and flame resistant coverage to the neck and face. With the Emeritus hoodie, firefighters will be able to wear the Nomex hood in their everyday lives; then, when they are called to an emergency, they will already be wearing an essential piece of their equipment. Trials conducted by Wright and fellow firefighters at her company have shown that the hoodie can save an average of 30 seconds when dressing for a call. Per regulation, firefighters only have two minutes to get dressed. “According to research, a fire doubles in size every 30 seconds,” Wright says. Watch the entire Pitch Contest here.
As the recipient of a $10,000 grant, Wright will secure a patent for her product, refine her prototype and begin driving sales. Wright knows her product will find a home in firehouses and with volunteer firefighters, who are called to action every day while wearing their street clothes.
Chair of the HWS Board of Trustees, co-founder of The Bozzuto Group and supporter of entrepreneurial programming on campus, Thomas S. Bozzuto ’68, L.H.D. ’18 announced Wright as the winner of the competition. In his remarks, he shared the criteria that the judges used to determine the winner as effectiveness of presentation, focus on a specific problem and creativity behind the solution. He also described Wrights’ proposal as “…imminently marketable,” with profit potential and social benefit. “We all remarked on the personal knowledge and commitment to the idea exhibited, as well as the understanding of the need and the solution,” Bozzuto said.
The other judges included project director of the Rippel Foundation Jane M. Erickson ’07, landscape architect Josephine Grayson P’18 and co-founder and CEO of PureSolo Ltd. and Murge LLC David A. Kaplan ’83.
Amy Forbes, director of the Colleges’ Centennial Center, spoke at the event. She thanked Michael ’59 and Ellen ’60 Opell for their support of the HWS IdeaLab, which has jumpstarted many Pitch proposals throughout the history of the competition. The Opells also pledged to support the HWS Student Entrepreneurship Fund. Forbes celebrated the accomplishments of past contestants, including CEO and founder Sara Wroblowski ’13, whose Boston-based nonprofit recently celebrated a fundraising milestone; and Matthew Mead ’13, founder of Hempitecture, who was named to Forbes’ “30 under 30 list” for his advances in sustainable building and design.
This year’s finalists also included:
Kathleen Liech ’22, Girls Pride Foundation: a nonprofit organization based in Northern Kenya that raises awareness to eradicate female genital mutilation by supporting women who have suffered the effects of the practice and by promoting empowerment through education. Liech intends to expand the foundation by creating a market space for women of the Samburu community to sell their beadwork.
Hannah Bini ’20, Chloe Emler ’20 and Addison Gilbard ’20, Exit 42 Media: a multimedia company focused on creating TV show scripts with a proof of concept. Initially, Exit 42 Media creates multimedia content, such as a comic book, podcast, or video series. When the project picks up an established following and proof of sales, the multimedia company then develops a script. All content emphasizes equitable gender representation, both in their scripts and behind the scenes.
Maya Weber ’20, Syndéseis: an online portal that assists in the organizational management, tracking and teaching of the networking process through mentor/counselor feedback. The name, Syndéseis, means connections in Greek. Her proposal aims to help individuals strengthen and utilize the connections they already have and those they will create.
The evening included a flash pitch competition in which contestants had ninety seconds to propose a viable business idea. Sreyan Kanungo ’23 won for his idea to create an artificial intelligence scheduling app that optimizes users’ time.