Innovative student entrepreneurs go to bat for funding at 2024 Spring Quinnipiac Pitch Competition

April 29, 2024

Students stand in front of judges at the pitch competition

Entrepreneurial Bobcats went to bat for funding to help take their innovative work to the next level at the 2024 Spring Quinnipiac Pitch Competition, hosted by M&T Bank Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

A supportive audience packed the Piazza on the Mount Carmel Campus on April 24 to hear five innovative concepts pitched to judges Nancy Dudchik, president of the Hamden Regional Chamber of Commerce; Jordan Lue, investments associate at Connecticut Innovations; and Frank Micalizzi, regional president of M&T Bank.

With an oversized digital clock running down the seconds, student entrepreneurs had exactly five minutes to outline their unique service or product and make a case for funding, followed by five minutes allotted to answer follow-up questions from judges.

Pitch finalists were Trey Chometa '24, representing CT Mold Remediation Specialists LLC; Meghan Crocetto '24, MBA '25, representing Project Dance, a project introducing innovative dance competitions; Russell Jackson '24, representing Fluid Sports Tech (FST), an app supporting athlete mental health; Jake Fitzpatrick '24 and Forrest Paradise '24, designers of an affordable self-opening and closing toilet seat; and Aashman Verma, of Ruby’s Creation, a semi-artificial jewelry rental model.

The annual competition, offered to undergraduate and graduate students across all disciplines, received more than 30 written applications this year. Ten semifinalists were selected and offered training and preparation assistance on the way to the highly competitive pitch-off which determined the five finalists. M&T Bank Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Director Patrice Luoma said the annual competition, one of the biggest events held with the center, presents an exciting growth opportunity for students.

“It gives us a chance to show how we can develop the students and let them use the resources that we have,” Luoma said.

Luoma thanked Hanna Hejmowksi, Quinnipiac director of operations for the School of Business Centers and Institutes; and David Tomczyk, professor of entrepreneurship and strategy, together other faculty and staff who worked closely with the center and the students. The program offered resources and workshops to help develop skills, hone presentations and make useful mistakes.

“Failure is a natural part of the process,” Tomczyk said. “There are going to be mistakes along the way. If you don’t have any failures along the way, you probably did something wrong. That’s what all of these teams have had to go through and the ones that have made it along the way are still learning, changing and growing.”

Ultimately, the judges showed support for all pitch competitors by distributing the contest’s $6,000 prize as several awards. Ruby’s Creation received $700; Project Dance received $900; CT Mold Remediation Specialists LLC received $1,100; and FST received $1,500.

The judges awarded $1,800 to mechanical engineering majors Fitzpatrick and Paradise, for their innovative and cost-effective automated toilet seat design. As Bobcats about to graduate, the co-designers and entrepreneurial partners said the financial support was arriving at a critical moment to help support equipment and material purchases for further prototype production.

“Over the past three months, we’ve amassed a great deal of momentum and we don’t want to lose that in the next weeks, with graduation coming up,” said Fitzpatrick. “Whether Quinnipiac knows it or not, they sponsored this build quite a bit by giving us a lot of printing material, allowing us access to their 3D printers, allowing us access to their machine shop, hardware, tools and measuring devices. Anything we needed, Quinnipiac had it.”

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