Two student entrepreneur teams won more than $5,000 in prizes and business services at Pirates Pitch, the second annual Seton Hall University Venture Fund Competition. At the contest, held on April 18, in Jubilee Hall Auditorium, five student teams pitched original business ideas in 10-minute presentations to a group of independent judges.
Megan Kelly and Ana Martinez, seniors studying public relations and journalism in the College of Arts & Sciences, won the $3,500 first place award for PR Express, a web-based business that seeks to make public relations and social media services more accessible to small businesses. The third member of the PR Express team is Adriana Gini, a student at Union County College.
Margaret Reilly, a senior in the Stillman School of Business who entered the contest solo, won the $1,500 second place award for Complementary Connections, an innovative marketing agency that fosters partnerships among products to raise brand recognition with consumers.
Additionally, the PR Express team of Megan Kelly, Ana Martinez and Adriana Gini captured the $250 “Audience Choice Award.” Members of the audience were asked to vote for their favorite finalist team, and PR Express snagged the most votes.
“All the Finalist teams did a terrific job, and the selection process was very difficult,” said Marjorie Perry, CEO of MZM Construction and Management, and one of four independent judges. “There was an abundance of talent in evidence,” added Michael Lucciola, CEO, the Firefly Group and a Seton Hall University Regent, who served as a judge. The other judges were John Coiro, Executive Director, Ernst & Young and Dan Rudd, co-founder and CEO, SureDeposit. The judges evaluated the student ideas for business start-ups based on several criteria, including originality, viability and growth potential.
“Our Pirates Pitch competition truly reflects the advantages of the Stillman educational experience,” said Joyce Strawser, dean of the Stillman School of Business. We’re fortunate to have ambitious and energetic students who eagerly embrace this challenge and our other opportunities for hands-on learning. Our alums, who provide financial support and help to mentor the competing teams, are also critical to the success of the contest. In all, it’s a wonderful collaboration of the entire Stillman community.”
“This is the second year we held the Pirates Pitch contest, and it is our best indication yet of the robust entrepreneurial spirit at Seton Hall University,” said Susan Scherreik, director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the Stillman School of Business, which organized the event. “Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur today, and Pirates Pitch gives our students a leg up to realize their dream,” she added.
The Pirates Pitch contest is open to all full-time undergraduate and graduate students. Students from other universities can also compete in the contest, as long as one member of their team is a Seton Hall University student. Scherreik noted that students from many academic disciplines participated, including business, graphic design, political science, communications studies and computer science.
The contest kicked off in January when students were required to submit proposals for business ideas. A group of independent judges, comprised of successful entrepreneurs, selected ten student teams with the best business ideas, as semi-finalists. Next, these semi-finalists made brief “pitches” to independent judges, who, in turn, selected the five finalists. These finalists teams, which received mentoring from alumni entrepreneurs and other entrepreneurs, including the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies Board of Advisors and counselors from the Newark chapter of the non-profit SCORE organization, created detailed 10 to 15 page business plans of their ideas, which were submitted in March. The judges based their decisions on a combination of the written business proposals and the oral presentations by the student teams.
“The competition was amazing,” said first-place winner Megan Kelly. “ I would have been so happy that we competed whether we won or not, because the competition gave us the push and the tools to take our idea to the next level. The fact that we actually won, though, was certainly a wonderful bonus!”
Second-place winner Margaret Reilly, a marketing major with a minor in international business, explained that her idea for Complementary Connections grew out of a mentorship with Joseph Sheridan, president of Wakefern Food Corp., which operates numerous ShopRite grocery stores. “ShopRite wanted me to find a solution for online advertising, but the traditional options we looked at were determined to be too pricey. So I suggested that ShopRite and Food & Wine Magazine provide each other with services of similar value. ShopRite provided in-store demonstrations for Food & Wine Magazine in exchange for a month of online advertising on foodandwine.com; with no money exchanged,” Reilly said. “I soon realized that this complementary-branding concept that I developed could be applied to many companies, by leveraging each other's brand equity and assets. My company's goal is to match brands with their ideal complements in order to produce the most relevant, engaging and inevitably cost-efficient marketing solutions for both brands,” she continued. Also, ‘the Pirates Pitch competition provided me with the motivation to chase my dream and see it come to reality,” said Reilly, who is also the managing director of the Stillman Exchange student newspaper.
In addition to the prize money, the two winning student teams will receive legal, accounting and other business services from members of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies Board of Advisors. First place winner Megan Kelly says that the professional services and advice the team will receive from the Advisory Board are as valuable as the cash. “ PR Express currently has 10 clients, but we plan to use the money and services that we won to create the website that we will need to officially operate under the model that we proposed in the Pirate's Pitch Competition,” she said.
Learn more information about Pirates Pitch or contact Susan Scherreik, Director, Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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