By Andrew Aguilera,
Stillman News Editor &
Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies
On Friday, April 8 at 1p.m. in the Jubilee Hall auditorium, five student teams competed at the annual Pirate’s Pitch Venture Fund competition. Pirate’s Pitch is an annual competition similar to the popular television show, Shark Tank, held at Seton Hall University.
Students generate a business idea and present it to a panel of judges. Since Stillman launched the business model competition in 2010, Pirate’s Pitch has become a catalyst for many of our most outstanding students to launch their own businesses. These students have also gone on to win other college-sponsored business model competitions both regionally and nationally.
The panel of judges consisted of prestigious entrepreneurs. They were: Sunny Bathla, Ray Hoffman, Rich McMahon, Shannon Morris, Kimberly Weisul, and Taseen Peterson.
Sunny Bathla is the founder of OSB Consulting and Vice President of Virtusa. Ray Hoffman is a host and producer of CEO Radio on WCBS Radio 880 AM. Rich McMahon is the founder of CDA Ventures and former chairman/vice-chairman of Bed Bath and Beyond. He is also a Seton Hall University Regent. Shannon Morris is the President of Sigma Group. Kimberly Weisul is an editor-at-large of Inc. magazine. Lastly, Taseen Peterson is founder of Notefuly, and a past Pirate’s Pitch winner.
The judges evaluated the students’ presentations based on their perceived ability to execute the idea and turn it into a feasible and profitable business. The student teams competed for a grand prize of $6,000 in prize money.
The event began with Advise Me College Consulting, a business that provides low-cost college consulting services to domestic and international high school students seeking to attend universities within the United States. The founder is Dominique Fortes, a junior majoring in Accounting with a minor in Asian studies.
Next in line was SeekVehic (pronounced “Seek-Veek”), a mobile application that would make the process of obtaining a ride from Uber or another taxi service more efficient. The student team consisted of Karan Patel and Justin Hernandez, two seniors from Union High School. Also on the team was freshman Austin Lopes, a member of the Gerald P. Buccino ’63 Center for Leadership Development.
Hernandez spoke about his experience in starting up a new business saying, “If you have an idea, it is all about execution, and that is not just about our company, but for all companies in general.”
The third presentation was done by Shaaliyah Lyons, a junior majoring in Sports management with a minor in African Studies and a certificate in Entrepreneurial Studies.
Her business, “Together We Conquer Life Skills Basketball Camp INC (TWC)” is a total basketball skills camp committed to inspiring young athletes to strive for excellence in all aspects of their lives. The camp emphasizes complete player development and as a result, the student-athlete not only completes high school, but also gets admitted into college with or without an athletic scholarship and succeeds while in and after college.
The fourth business idea was “HorsesDr.com”, a business created by Selene Presseller, a senior studying Marketing and Information Technology Management. Her business is a website and application designed to help horse owners make an early diagnosis of illnesses and help them to locate reputable veterinarians. Presseller has been in the competition three times and attributes a lot of her success in the competition to the mentors provided by Professor Susan Scherreik.
The final presentation was done by Christian Zeron, a senior majoring in Catholic Studies. His business “Theo & Harris”, which was launched a year ago and generated over $100,000 in sales in its first year of operation.
Winning the first place grand prize was Christian Zeron’s company, Theo & Harris. He also won the audience award of $500.
When asked about his business Zeron said, “In a market that is so focused on revenue, I am laser focused on owning people’s attention.”
Claiming the second place $3,500 prize was Shaaliyah Lyons for her business, “Together We Conquer”.
After being asked about what is next for her company, she stated, “I am going to look for grants in secure locations. Money provides something tangible for me to get started with getting a website domain and other startup expenses. Now it is about getting [the business] running.”
Professor Susan Scherreik, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, reflected on the event stating, “All of our finalists did an amazing job and all of them deserved to win. Our judges really had a tough time.”
She added, “Every year the students just get better and better.”
The event turned out to be a challenging and rewarding experience for all of the students who participated.
It provided the teams with the opportunity to execute their pitches in front of an audience and accomplished entrepreneurs.
Now, the Stillman community must wait and see how their businesses prosper in the future.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 12th print edition.
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