More than 90 Elon University students pitched their ideas for business ventures and social entrepreneurial opportunities, ranging from a pet rental service to a hunger prevention app, at the Triple Impact Challenge Nov. 11 in Upstairs Lakeside.
The pitch competition, sponsored by the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, aimed to promote entrepreneurship and innovation among Elon students. Even more so than previous iterations of the challenge, that included non-business majors.
“There was a lot of growth in [social entrepreneurship pitches], which is what we want,” said Kevin O’Mara, executive director of the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. “Most of the innovation in the world comes from non-business people, from people who have deep knowledge in something, and the business people help it along.”
O’Mara also expressed enthusiasm at the competition’s expansion overall. The Triple Impact Challenge began in 2013, with just 11 students participating. Now, just two years later, the event needed five rooms to showcase pitches, with a total of 46 teams presenting to 18 judges.
“The presenters did good overall,” said David Higham, adjunct instructor in marketing and a judge for the challenge. “We had a lot of them that actually had a prototype or something available, so they were able to show off more than just an idea.”
The competition was divided into two main categories, with three rooms dedicated to business pitches and two focused on social entrepreneurship. Each room had roughly nine teams present, with three to four judges awarding the top three pitches they saw. The judges were composed of entrepreneurs, Love School of Business faculty and graduates, including Burlington Mayor and Elon alumni, Ian Baltutis '08.
“The judges asked good questions that we hadn’t really anticipated,” said sophomore Connor Gress, who pitched an idea for a combined funnel and straw to make filling water bottles easier. “They asked us questions about potential problems with the straw that we really hadn’t thought of that kind of threw us off guard, but for the most part we were pretty well-prepared.”
Groups of one to four students had four minutes to present their product to an audience of peers and the judges. The following two minutes were allotted for questions. A multimedia presentation accompanied each pitch, and many groups offered research, community testimony, profit analysis and even prototypes to enhance their presentations.
Seniors Madison Tamblyn, Laura Orr, Sam Lutz and Jackie Orr, winners of one of the business groups, even provided judges with coffee insulated by their prototype of a heat maintaining coffee sleeve, called “EZ Heat.”
Tamblyn said she thought of the idea for “EZ Heat” over the summer, and was able to develop it with her group in the management course, "Innovation Dynamics." The disposable sleeve can maintain a temperature of 120 degrees in a cup of coffee for more than three hours — and that’s just a prototype.
“We partnered with Dr. Evans in the physics department, and she helped us develop the prototype,” Tamblyn said.
Other participating groups also took advantage of Elon’s resources. Many developed products in the Maker Hub, polled Elon students and local businesses and reached out to professors representing specialized areas of study.
Groups also found inspiration from personal experience. Winners of one of the two social entrepreneurship groupings, sophomores McKenzie Floyd and Ansley Hamilton, developed the app “ICan: Get Ready” to provide morning routine prompts for people with special needs.
Floyd came up with the idea from the daily help her parents provided her younger sister who has special needs. She and Hamilton worked on their concept for the entrepreneurship course, "Creativity and the Doer/Maker Mindset."
Several participants pitched their ideas as a course requirement, including senior Mathew Browne, who was part of the team that pitched “Good Grocer,” an application to connect people that have leftover food with those dealing with food insecurity. The team won first place in one of the three business groupings.
“We have to do this for our class — but if we knew this was going on without having a class requirement, we would enter because it was a great experience and something I’ve never been a part of before,” Browne said.
The first-place pitches in the other two rooms were “Gift Card” and “Reusable Food Trays.”