2/24/17 | Now in its sixth year, Johnson & Wales University’s annual Sharkfest competition tests the mettle of student entrepreneurs from the business, culinary and hospitality fields. This year’s crop of entrepreneurs pitched a diverse range of business ideas. Meet the winners:
2016’s Winning Pitches
NORTH MIAMI: 2016 Sharkfest winner Thiago Rodrigues kicked things off by sharing his experience of pitching, refining and presenting Students Store It, his “big idea” for improving convenient, customized storage options for students heading home for the summer or term. Thiago focused a lot of his marketing in social media, which is a relatively inexpensive way to reach students directly.
The 2017 winning idea? James Shannon won the Grand Prize for his Better Baking Company, which promises a return to refined minimalism in baking. Shannon beat out Jesse Reichenbach’s high-end medical marijuana apothecary goods and Jasmine Williams’ app to enable students to apply for multiple scholarships via a centralized portal.
DENVER: The 3 winning concepts focused on sustainability and canny engineering.
Business Studies senior Jacquelyn Visser garnered 3rd place for In the Greenhouse, a café set in the lush environment of a working greenhouse where all the plants are for sale.
Business Administration senior Ben Kelly won 2nd place for Pikes Shadow Ranch, a sustainably-minded agritourism business offering rustic cabins and farm-fresh cuisine.
The grand prize went to Marketing sophomore Dillon Matuska’s Mag-Snap, an ingenious RV/boat door latch mechanism featuring a powerful magnetic closure that won’t interfere with on-board electronics.
CHARLOTTE: Veg Heads (Maria Meacher, Olivia Pedroff and Austin Moore) won People’s Choice for their website and delivery network designed to more efficiently connect farmers with restaurants in the greater Piedmont region.
In 3rd place, Kelsey Ives with Early Vertical Form (EVF), a therapeutic swim shirt designed to help swimmers stay in proper form while doing the freestyle stroke.
Imani Muhammad placed 2nd with Hatima, a monthly all-natural beauty subcription box tailor-made for women of color.
Alexis Greer and Jaime Phillips were thrilled to win the Grand Prize for the PolyBlender, a teardrop-shaped makeup applicator designed to seamlessly blend makeup without absorbing it (as traditional makeup sponges tend to do).
Every Sharkfest is a potential jumping-off point for students who want to pursue an idea from concept all the way to manufacturing, patenting and marketing, and 2017’s edition was no exception.
After the competition, Charlotte winners Jaime Phillips and Alexis Greer cited the major benefits of taking part: “Sharkfest helped us get our business on the move,” noted Phillips. Added Greer, “We’re meeting with a trademark and patent attorney to talk about the next steps for PolyBlender. We also are working with Enventys to prototype our invention and then to find manufacturers.”
Competing also helped them boost their presentation game. “The morning of Sharkfest definitely racked up the nerves, but after performing so well I know I could do even better next time. It’s also made me think about doing other pitch competitions in the area,” Phillips explained.
Noted Greer, “I learned to relax when pitching because no one knows our business better than you do. And if you mess up or forget something, move on like it never happened — no one will know the difference.”
SCENES FROM SHARKFEST, TOP TO BOTTOM: NORTH MIAMI PRESENTERS, INCLUDING GRAND PRIZE WINNER JAMES SHANNON (RIGHT). // MAG SNAP’S DILLON MATUSKA // VEG HEAD’S JACQUELINE VISSER // IMANI MUHAMMAD + KELSEY IVES PRESENT IN CHARLOTTE.