From a field of 10 initial applicants, Niagara University’s College of Business Administration recently awarded cash prizes to three student start-ups in its inaugural Business Pitch Competition.
Dr. Shawn Daly, dean of the college, recognized the winners on April 2 after they successfully made presentations in front of an inspired audience and challenging panel of distinguished judges that included four Niagara alumni – Rocco Surace, Karen Howard, Bud Crumlish and Aldona Cytraus – along with Lynn Oswald, a local entrepreneurship advocate.
“We were very pleased with the enthusiasm and content that all the teams delivered,” said Dr. Daly. “We want to help Niagara students tap their creative genius and put their business training to use. This competition was set up to be a spark and it sure looks like we got the fire started,” he went on to say.
They Play You Play, founded by Alex Cleveland and Kevin Walders, was crowned the overall winners. Their company will provide stressed out couples who need a romantic or “sanity” break with a safe and educational environment for their children while they enjoy an evening out.
Second place went to the Good Neighbors Business Association, a social entrepreneurship endeavor founded by Jacob Blaisdell, Michael Fetzer, Nicholas Palisano and Jenna Roberts. This entity has been created to harness the energy and expertise of young professionals who are committed to revitalizing Niagara Falls.
Edge Up Warm Up, a business that centers on a training device to help golfers stretch out while simultaneously improving their golf swing, won third place. This start-up was founded by Mitchell Piper, Michael Meng and Chris Politi.
Along the way to the finals, the teams in this year’s competition were provided with three seminars conducted by local entrepreneurship experts. These seminars touched on innovation, business plan preparation and presentation skills. Each team also benefited from the expertise and generosity of a faculty mentor.
The three winning teams, along with several others from Niagara, were selected to compete in the Western New York Regional Competition on April 18. From there, they have the opportunity to advance to the New York state finals in Albany on April 25.
“To get through this rigorous process these Niagara students have shown the determination and intellect that defines us. I am very hopeful that one or more of our teams will advance to the state level and shine there too,” added Dr. Daly.