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Stillman School of Business

Top Student Entrepreneurs Compete for $16K

Student entrepreneur Ayanna Armour.

Student entrepreneur Ayanna Armour pitching her vintage clothing startup at Pirates Pitch.

Do you dream of one day being an entrepreneur? Do you watch Shark Tank and wonder how contestants turn ideas into thriving ventures? Well, do we have an event for you! On Wednesday evening, April 3, Seton Hall University's top student entrepreneurs will pitch their innovative startup concepts to a panel of distinguished judges as they compete for $16,000 in seed funding awards and professional services.

Students, faculty, alumni, parents, and members of the community are invited to an amazing night of innovative ideas at the 14th annual Pirates Pitch Startup Competition. The in-person event, which will take place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in Jubilee Hall Auditorium, will showcase startup businesses being developed by the six finalist teams that have advanced to the championship round. For those who cannot attend in person, the event will be livestreamed here.

Attendees will have an opportunity to select their favorite finalist team and vote for the $500 Audience Choice Award. Stillman School of Business Dean Joyce Strawser will provide opening remarks to kick off the competition. Members of the Entrepreneurship Club will serve as emcees.

Jason Santos winning a prize for Pirates Closet.

Jason Santos won the $8,000 first place prize for Pirate’s Closet, his business that provides free professional clothing to Seton Hall University students.

The event is the centerpiece of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s entrepreneurship education program. "The goal of Pirates Pitch is to cultivate the ambitious drive of student entrepreneurs and provide an opportunity for them to make their dreams a reality," said Susan Scherreik, director of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. "Seton Hall University students are launching businesses as never before and this year’s contest will showcase both operating startups and business models still in development. For anyone seeking to learn how they can one day be their own boss, this event is not to be missed."

Successful alumni entrepreneurs will serve as judges at the contest. They are: Bryan Jakovcic '09, president and owner of Fusion Health; Gabino Roche,’98, chief executive officer and founder, Saphyre; Shannon D.M. Morris ,’92/M.A. ’94, managing partner, Tent Collective, and founder, The Whistle Company; and Carina Castagna ‘21/M.P.A. ‘22, founder and chief executive officer, Pesto Joe.

Judges questioning Pirates Pitch contestants.

Judges questioning Pirates Pitch contestants.

The judges will be looking for creative and innovative thinking about new markets, products and services. Also important, the teams will be judged on their perceived ability to execute their concepts and turn them into viable and sustainable businesses. Student businesses can be either for-profit enterprises, or non-profit ventures that tackle societal and community problems.

The student teams will be judged on their pitches at the event, as well as be evaluated on business plans they will create and share with judges in advance of the finalist round of the competition. Using these criteria, the judges will select first, second and third place winners. These student teams will be awarded the following prizes:

  • First Place Prize: $8,000
  • Second Place Prize: $4,500
  • Third Place Prize: $3,000
  • Audience Choice Award: $500

In addition, finalists will receive pro bono legal advice from Santomassimo Davis LLP/Outside General Counsel Solutions, the competition’s legal sponsor. Further, finalists have the opportunity to participate in the Pirates LaunchPad summer accelerator program, which offers advanced student entrepreneurs an additional $2,000 in seed funding as they continue to develop their business models assisted by faculty and alumni mentors.

The student finalists teams are: 

1. NatureFill: Maria Saitta, Bryce Miller, Jackson Vaughn, Morgan Frye, and Nalani Rios
2. AtendiVPN: Nathaniel Bikhman
3. Mirjam: Annabelle Raukete and Joseph Barrood
4. Katalyst: Michelle Lew and Miabella Espaillat
5. DocuForge: Sid Kapoor, Cameron Lloyd, and Jerry Ford
6. Refresh Me: Taylor Patnode, Madeline Matheny, Madeline Bachand, and Walker Parra

Categories: Alumni, Business, Campus Life, Education