Now in its fourth year, JWU Providence’s annual Sharkfest tests the mettle of student + alumni entrepreneurs from the business, culinary and hospitality fields. Out of 12 finalists — including representatives from each JWU campus, and two alumni — here are this year’s winning business pitches:
First place: Blake Mitkoff, Charlotte culinary arts and food service management major, for “Inside Chef,” an online service matching individuals with chefs for private or temporary on-site work.
Second place: Matt Tortora, Providence food service and entrepreneurship major, who created “What’s Good,” a customized online network to streamline food sourcing.
Third place: Abdiel Elou and Colby Fraser, Providence engineering majors, created “The Buddy System,” a customized bracelet that syncs to a smart phone to contact friends, family members or authorities in times of distress.
People’s Choice (voted on by audience members): Luis Rivera and Becky Giambarresi, Providence culinary nutrition majors, for “Hippothecary Food Pharmacy,” a line of therapeutic apothecary goods focusing on disease progression and prevention.
Growing Ideas into Successful Businesses
Sharkfest is an opportunity to connect outstanding students and alumni with industry professionals who can help turn their business concepts into reality.
“All of the groups you see today are winners,” John Robitaille, executive-in-residence at JWU’s Larry Friedman International Center for Entrepreneurship, noted in his introduction. “They embody the entrepreneurial spirit — as well as grit, discipline and determination — that a JWU degree has come to represent."
Between pitches, Robitaille caught up with last year’s Sharkfest winner, Julius Searight, whose Food4Good mobile soup kitchen will be launched this summer.
His advice for students looking to run their own businesses? “Network, network network,” he told Robitaille. “You never know when you might meet someone who can support your dream.”
What’s Next for the Winners?
The 3 highest ranking finalists receive a stipend for $2500, $1500 and $1000, respectively, as well as office space in the eCenter, mentoring by an industry professional, and assistance from eCenter staff. "People’s Choice” winners receive a stipend of $500, along with mentoring by an industry professional and assistance from the eCenter.
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