Eleven teams of University of Vermont students recently participated in the 2021 Annual UVM Business Pitch Competition and put their business ideas on display. The competition moved to a virtual format this year allowing students from near and far to compete for over $3,000 in prizes.
Teams from four schools across campus were represented including Rubenstein School of Environment & Natural Resources, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences / Community Development & Applied Economics Department, Grossman School of Business (GSB), and the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences / Mechanical Engineering Department. The business ideas ranged from an innovative rooftop multiple purpose co-working space, to a sustainable consignment clothing shop, a repurposed music venture, and an equal opportunity online employment platform for people with disabilities, to name a few.
A panel of judges, made up of experienced entrepreneurs, investors and entrepreneurial advisors – four of whom are UVM alumni - evaluated each teams presentations and business plans and provided feedback. The teams were:
- Lightning Blades: Donald Seib, Eli Weitzman, & Shawn Cimonetti
- ECOBoutique, LLC: Maura McDonald & Abby Hanson
- Bloom, LLC: Emma Ritson & Rusty Sugg
- StrEats: Mitchell Hutchins, Kevin MacCabe, Max Seckler, & Clark Stephenson
- Hopeful Healing, LLC: Charlie Carpenter & Jillian Goodnight
- The Glass Ceiling, LLC: Sara Spencer & Devin Spindel
- Care-Free: Alister King
- BlueRoom: Liam Handron & Tom Chivers
- Pitchfork Marketing, LLC: Elizabeth Bigelow & Reed Browning
- ABLE, LLC: Declan Mayo, Olivia Crainich, & Carlie Mashia
- Repurposed Music: Connor Fegley
The judges awarded the Most Launch Ready and Grand Prize to Alister King of Care-Free, a Grossman senior who pitched unscented body and bath care accessories. Second prizes were awarded to ABLE, LLC for Most Innovative Technology, to Repurposed Music for Best Pitch, and Pitchfork Marketing, LLC, for Most Sustainable. In addition, ABLE, LLC, also won the People’s Choice Award, selected by a live electronic vote of the attending public.
Alister King developed her product to fill a personal need and family struggle, said “I created my brand of scent free bath products because it was a niche in the market that was not being filled. I am part of a family who cannot use scented bath products and who frequently feel left out and struggle to get the products that we need.” Later going onto say “my education at UVM has taught me that if you're passionate about something and you want it, you have to be the one to reach out and start making it happen.” Many friends and family members with sensory issues now enjoy Alister’s scent free bath products.
Business senior Connor Fegley put his personal passion into his pitch idea also. As a musician and entrepreneur, he developed the brand Repurposed Music that redefines how music lessons are taught and delivered. His company provides personalized lessons, instrument rental and service, and teaches students to find their own sound. To all the entrepreneurs out there Connor shared some advice “find what you are passionate about, do what you want in this life and be a good person."
Lead faculty coordinator Erik Monsen, Associate Professor and Steven Grossman Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, said “Given the risk and uncertainty of entrepreneurship, personal experiences that build confidence and a feeling of being in control are key. To this end, pitch competitions are a great way for students to experience firsthand what it is like to present their ideas and personal passions to strangers, both at a practical and at an emotional level. And with the confidence they gain from the event, they should be less nervous and more successful when they pitch their own entrepreneurial ideas in the future."
Very special thanks to the judges:
- Sarah Kearns (Advisor, Vermont Small Business Development Center)
- Sam Cutting ‘80 (President/Owner, Dakin Farm)
- Hannah Wood '95 (Founder & Executive Director, Talent Skatepark)
- Wendy Nunez ‘85 (Partner & Chief Operating Officer, Champlain Investment Partners)
- Glenn Gottfried ‘77 (Principal/Co-Founder, South Branch Capital Partners, LLC)
and to the school faculty coordinators Erik Monsen (GSB), Dave Kaufman (Rubenstein), Trisha Shrum (CALS), and Dustin Rand (CEMS).
Additional thanks go out to our panel of local entrepreneurial experts who shared their thoughts and experiences with the audience while the judges were deciding on the prize winners: Eli Moulton of Moulton Law Group, Emily McMahon of Scout Digital, and Ryan McDevitt of Benchmark Space Systems.
An extra special thanks also go out to our local community sponsors, who all play a very important role in supporting start-ups and the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Burlington and across Vermont.
Additional thanks go out to our alumni sponsors including David Aronoff ’86, whose generous endowment provides ongoing funding for this competition, as well as Richard Bass ‘66 and Lauren Bass ’20 (SI-MBA), whose family gift is making this year’s competition extra special.
A recording of the presentation is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EnRRE3wusI
Please note, the student team Lightning Blades presented, but requested that their pitch be edited out of the video for intellectual property reasons.