Ten talented high school entrepreneurs with startup ideas or fledgling businesses, out of a field of nearly 250 applicants, faced off in a "Shark Tank" style competition, the fourth annual High School Pirates Pitch, sponsored by the Stillman School of Business and its Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Seton Hall University on November 16. RoseMary Stanchak, from Hillsdale, NJ, was awarded first place, for Fresh Baked by Rosie, and Kutorkor Kotey, a Bard High School Early College-Newark junior finished in second place for Kutor's Kloset, her unisex line of accessories made from authentic kente fabric from Ghana.
"I feel that the Pirates Pitch Competition was an amazing experience where I was able to share my business idea of a cake pop bakery with a panel of judges. They were able to provide incredible feedback of what I need to make my business successful. Winning this competition has now allowed me to view being an entrepreneur in a whole new way and has made me faithful that in the future, with hard work and dedication, opening a cake pop bakery is not impossible," said Stanchak, a senior attending Pascack Valley High School.
First Place Winner RoseMary Stanchak
The first-place winner shared that she intends to attend Seton Hall in the fall in the dual degree Bachelor of Science in Biology/Doctor of Physical Therapy six-year (3+3) program.
Stanchak explained, "I have recently been accepted to Seton Hall University and I could not be any happier. Seton Hall was my top choice school. I have not yet committed to the University, but I will in the near future. From the minute I stepped on campus for my first tour I knew that this school was the one for me. There are so many great aspects of Seton Hall, but the wonderful community they have is truly amazing. With help from the great professors, I ensure that one day opening Fresh Baked by Rosie as a real incorporated business will be a long-term goal achieved!"
"It was truly inspiring to see the talent and creativity of these young entrepreneurs, who supported their business concepts with some solid analysis. I'm also so proud to see the growth in this annual competition, with each year bringing a greater number of applications from a wider geographic area," said Joyce A. Strawser, Dean, Stillman School of Business.
The high school "sharks" presented five-minute pitches, followed by five-minutes of questions to an independent judge panel comprised of alumni and entrepreneurs. The competition judges included Jill Merriman '83, business coach; Sandhya Murti, founding member and co-CEO, Blue Branch Capital Inc. and Managing Partner, Brookway Capital; Michael Lucciola '83, CEO, Firefly Group and University Regent; Bryan Jakovcic '09, founder and president, Fusion, and NJBIZ 40 under 40 outstanding young professional; and Victor Ricci '18, founder of Trend Pie and recipient of the 2018 Emerging Entrepreneur Award.
"I was so excited to be asked to be one of the Pirates Pitch contest judges and was looking forward to the day immensely. I never expected the quality of the pitches to be so professional! These high school students blew me away with their confidence, their poise and entrepreneurial spirit. They were all rockstars and I'm so happy I was a part of it!" said Merriman, a business coach who shares tips for network marketers on her podcast The Natural Networker.
The 10 student finalists submitted outstanding business ideas, or already have businesses, either for profit or in the social entrepreneurship area. All finalists received scholarships to attend Seton Hall. The first-place winner received a $2,500 cash prize plus a $10,000 scholarship to attend Seton Hall University ($2,500 annually); the second-place winner received a $1,000 cash prize plus a $6,000 scholarship to attend Seton Hall University ($1,500 annually); all other finalists received a $4,000 scholarship to attend Seton Hall University ($1,000 annually) with three honorable mentions also receiving a $50 Amazon gift certificate.
The High School Pirates Pitch is based on the Center's highly successful College Pirates Pitch Competition. The initiative is geared to teaching high school students entrepreneurship basics and idea generation as well as recognizing and rewarding students with outstanding entrepreneurial know-how. Bringing them to Seton Hall's campus also exposes them to one of the nation's top business leadership programs.
The event included a congratulatory reception on campus following the competition, where they met with corporate executives and successful entrepreneurs, having an opportunity to network and receive valuable advice for their start-ups.
"We all were deeply impressed by the caliber of creativity and passion of this group of savvy teenagers who all dream big and represent our next generation of entrepreneurial leaders," said Susan Scherreik, founding director of the Center for Entrepreneurial States.
Anjana Chamarthi (honorable mention), a Swedesboro, NJ senior from Kingsway Regional High School whose idea is "Matchie" an app that uses algorithms to suggest outfits from your existing clothes.
Tamia Harvey-Martin, a Bensalem, PA senior attending Bensalem High School, and now studying at Changzhou High School in China on a prestigious NSLI-Y scholarship, whose idea is to foster global and intercultural understanding through a social media or blog hotspot.
Stephen Laquidara, a Park Ridge, New Jersey junior attending Park Ridge High School, whose "snow Roomba" can be started from inside your home using your cell phone, and clear your drive way of snow via pre-set coordinates of the space to be cleared.
Hannah Lee (honorable mention), a Cupertino, California junior from Monta Vista High School whose idea is "PetKet – reinventing the pet grooming experience."
Claudia Pitts, a Scranton, Pa. senior, attending Scranton High School, whose idea is a Lifeguard R.A.T. (Rescue Alert Tube) that has a built-in alert system that will notify 911 in case of an emergency.
Julian Prieto (honorable mention), a Hebron, CT senior from Rham High School whose idea is "Ryde" a solar-powered electric scooter that college students can use to get around campus.
Lokeswaren Swaminathan, a Downingtown, PA junior attending Downingtown Stem Academy with a futuristic idea to build a mining spacecraft to be used to mine asteroids for resources that include precious metals. Johnathan Wong, a Paramus, NJ sophomore attending Bergen County Academies whose idea is to create AeroGarden, which sells aeroponics systems.