Center of Innovation & Entrepreneurship hosts pitch competition

Maria Ly
Staff Writer

Students battled in a pitch competition where they tried to convince a panel of judges to choose their business as the winner of a $500 cash prize at the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Nov. 21. 

The pitch competition was a part of Global Entrepreneurship Week to help Minnesota State University, Mankato students network and gain insight about their business ideas. 

Yvonne Cariveau, the director of the CIE, personally donated the prize money for the competition as she wanted to inspire young entrepreneurs. 

Cariveau said, “I asked a couple of my friends in the business community if they will consider sponsoring the competition and they weren’t willing to do that, so I thought about it and I said you know I should put my money where my mouth is. I’m a member of the business community, I have my own business, I believe in young entrepreneurs, why don’t I just put my own money in this time?” 

The competition was open for all students in all majors. 

The judges ultimately ended up awarding the prize money to existing business, “LacedbyFaz”, by MNSU student Fazi Abulazere. LacedbyFaz started in her parent’s basement when she was in high school as she used any of her leftover money and free time making wigs and lashes. 

Now, as a junior in college, she has expanded to selling products, from custom colored wigs to luxe lashes, around the world through her online store. Her business continues to grow as she recently hired brand ambassadors to promote her business through social media. 

However, she wants to continue expanding and adding new products such as men’s wigs. With the $500, she plans to use it to take more classes and expand her knowledge so she is able to create more quality products as well as using that money to increase her inventory. 

She hopes to help the community with her talent and donate her wigs to people who need them such as cancer or alopecia patients. 

Although there could be only one winner, Cariveau hopes students were able to network with one another, gain feedback about their current ideas and pitches, and introduce them and motivate them to join other competitions such as the Big Ideas Challenge or Minnesota Cup. 

Cariveau said, “It’s an opportunity to get motivated and get out and share your idea and start talking about your idea to other people. That’s the first step to improving your idea. So, getting out of your room and out of your head and getting out and sharing it, it’s where you start learning from other people and thinking about it and getting good feedback that helps you improve it.” 

Among the other competitors, was Fadumo Mohamed with her business “Budget Books”, an affordable textbook alternative for students. Budget Books is a non-profit business that encourages students to donate their textbooks and renting them out for a low price. The business will be distributed through Student Government and will help students who see textbook prices as a limitation to pursuing their degrees. 

Hannah Perez and Hannah Bade, pitched their business idea “Socks in a Box”. Over $10 billion worth of socks are lost to the dryer each year with millions of people struggling to find a matching pair for an important event. Perez and Bade hope to solve this problem with their socks subscription box for the everyday person. 

The subscription is to come with two average pair of socks of their choice and one surprise pair. With their business, one will never have to stumble around their rooms searching for a matching sock that probably got eaten up by the dryer. 

Boluwatife Gbadebo hopes to help graduate students with her non-profit business. She hopes to get graduate students to volunteer in the community as a personal shopper. This will help them get out of their houses, network with the community, and help someone in need. 

Juan Daviol pitched his business idea that he came up with after travelling abroad and noticing that it was difficult to find the same craft seller from the day before when walking the streets. He wants to create an app where you can find a nearby craft seller in the area, look beforehand at their products, and make it easier to buy products from the seller through the app using the exchange rate in real time. 

Keerthana Sadasivan wants to help K-12 schools help at risk students and improve education with her business idea “Data Driven Intervention”. She wants to create a data analytic software so teachers and schools can access what areas certain students fall behind in and help these at-risk students before it’s too late. 

This software will help schools allocate resources to where they’re needed. It can also answer the question of whether the problem is with the staff as the data will allow them to see if several students are falling behind in a subject. This can encourage schools to increase their teacher training to help them be better educators. 

Agol Akot wants to give people an affordable at-home nail salon with her business “Agol Nailed-It!”. She wants to cater to college students with capped prices so they can still feel beautiful without breaking the bank. 

Alejandra Bejarano, wants to help college athletes and colleges in increase recruiting by making a user-friendly app where coaches and players can post certain information such as stats and videos of them in their sport. 

She first saw this problem when she became part of a coaching staff and was asked to recruit. She noticed existing recruiting programs were difficult to use, and that recruiting was extremely time consuming and costly. She hopes her app will help international and transfer college athletes. 

Connor Daly, wants to spread awareness about traditional and organic farming practices and helping these farms tell their stories through his business, “Daly Visuals”. He wants to use drone technology, photography, videography, graphic design, and strategic social media placement to help these farms. 

Cariveau hopes students were inspired by the competition and take their ideas to the stage in the Big Ideas Challenge on April 14, 2020 where they can win even bigger cash prizes to start-up their businesses. 

Cariveau said, “I want them to start thinking about other kinds of competitions they can get involved in. This is just one little tiny thing that we did, and there’s other big things like the Big Ideas Challenge. I just want to introduce them to it and get them thinking that this is a way that they can go get some money to get their businesses started. To go from having zero dollars to a couple thousand dollars, you can get your patent or prototype started.”

Header photo: Boluwatife Gbadebo pitches her business idea during the Global Entrepreneurship Week Pitch Competition at the Hubbard Building Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 in Downtown Mankato, Minn. (Samuel Oluwadoromi/MSU Reporter)

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