Student Entrepreneurs Dream Big at INC Pitch Competition

KENNESAW, Ga. (Apr 26, 2019) — From flushable wet wipes to a restaurant where patrons dine alongside live rabbits, the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of Kennesaw State University’s students was on full display at the Igniting New Companies Pitch Competition, where five teams of students competed to receive funding for their business ideas.

Hosted by Cobb County business incubator IgniteHQ and the Michael J. Coles College of Business Robin and Doug Shore Entrepreneurship Center on April 17, the competition featured students making 10-minute business pitches to a panel of prominent Atlanta-area entrepreneurs and business leaders.

INC Pitch Competition Finalists
INC Pitch Competition finalsts from left to right: Justin Soriano, Caleb Gilbert, Caitlyn Gaugler, Chase Watts, Arshia Boroujerdi , Emerson Smith

The top prize – $1,500 in funding plus three months of free services from IgniteHQ – went to electrical engineering major Caleb Gilbert for his business Esgro. Esgro is a payment platform designed for workers in the gig economy. Rather than making funds available instantly, the application only releases payment when the contractor has completed their work.

“For me and my company, this win further validates the pursuit of our purpose,” Gilbert says, “which is to inspire other people to do what inspires them.”

Caleb Gilbert INC Pitch Competition Winner

While Gilbert was the overall winner, several other projects garnered awards from the judges, including:

  • Best Concept - $1,000 prize
    Fresh John’s Wet Toilet Paper
    Finance major Emerson Smith’s idea is to take advantage of the growing popularity of wet wipes by selling flushable wipes in rolls and packaging similar to traditional toilet paper.

  • Best Pitch (Tie) - $1,000 prize
    Moon Rabbits Café
    Developed by Management major Caitlyn Gaugler, her idea is to partner with a non-profit animal shelter to open a café where guests can also purchase time to spend with adoptable rabbits. The concept is similar to cat cafes popular in Japan.

    Blazing Jay Wheels
    Justin Soriano, a Political Science major, developed a program to educate and empower disabled children through the study of literature.

  • Achieving Finals - $250 prize
    TopLayer
    The two-person team of Entrepreneurship major Chase Watts and Management major Arshia Boroujerdi pitched an online collaboration tool for non-digital documents.

“The INC Pitch Competition was an excellent opportunity for our students to transfer classroom knowledge into real-world business launch plans by presenting their ideas to successful entrepreneurs and investors for feedback and support,” said Greg Quinet, Executive Director of the Shore Entrepreneurship Center. “Events like this assist students with the desire to develop new businesses that will ultimately enhance future economic development for Cobb County and the State of Georgia.”

Kennesaw State faculty chose the five finalists out of 30 video or written pitches submitted during the qualifying round in March. The final round involved in-person pitches to the following panel of judges:

  • Mark Hubbard, President and CEO of IgniteHQ
  • Dana Johnson, Executive Vice President of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce
  • Doug Shore, Former B2B media entrepreneur and a member of the Advisory Boards of the Coles College of Business and Shore Entrepreneurship Center
  • Manuel Pachano, CEO of Nu Vector Solutions
  • Bill Dallas, Retired entrepreneur
  • Dr. Terry Dockery, business scaling coach
  • Mike Davis, founder of FireSide Natural Gas
  • Lucas Rice, Chief Operating Officer for LDX Solutions

IgniteHQ’s sponsorship of the INC Pitch Competition included hosting the event at their Marietta headquarters, providing Hubbard and Johnson as judges, and supplying prizes. The event lines up with one of IgniteHQ’s desires to promote entrepreneurship among young people.

“Entrepreneurship at its core is about identifying problems and crafting solutions that add value,” Hubbard says. “Mastering the practical application of these foundational skills is the end to which IgniteHQ is dedicated. And with university institutions like the EC at KSU teaching students how to think like an entrepreneur regardless of what vocation they ultimately pursue, it makes those young people more successful and fulfilled in life - both personally and professionally.”

The Robin and Doug Shore Entrepreneurship Center is part of the Michael J. Coles College of Business. Its programs provide students with a wide range of experiences and classroom opportunities designed to develop their entrepreneurial perspective. Kennesaw State University has the University System of Georgia’s first Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship, including both a Major and Minor.

-Patrick Harbin

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