Elevator pitch competition provides a lauching point for more Wukich programs

The Wukich Center for Entrepreneurial Opportunities is planning and implementing interesting new programming at Seton Hill University (SHU) next year. Announcements were made during the Spring 2012 Elevator Pitch Competition on March 27 at Cecilian Hall.Next year’s Elevator Pitch Competition will be held in the fall semester and will most likely be split into undergraduate and graduate divisions, according to director of the Wukich Center, Douglas Nelson. A more advanced business model competition will take the place of Elevator competition in the spring semester.

“The Business Model Competition will be for people who are actually thinking of starting a business someday. I think we will be one of the first schools to have this sort of competition,” said Nelson, who developed the Elevator Competition in the first weeks of his job at SHU last spring.

Business models are more detailed than elevator pitches and will require a three to four minute presentation, rather than the 90 second presentations that the Elevator Pitch Competition features.

Nelson also announced the Wukich Venture Fund, a collection starting at $50,000 for students and alumni who are trying to start a business but cannot get a loan from a traditional bank. The Venture Fund Committee will approve proposal and award money depending on the ideas.

“If you go to a bank if you haven’t made money yet, the bank will say no. We are trying to eliminate that barrier,” said Nelson.

Eventually the center is looking to provide an entrepreneur-in-residence available for appointment to help any student develop business plans.

The second annual Elevator Pitch Competition final round was April 3 with four judges from businesses in the Greensburg community. In first place, winning $1,000 for a plan to raise money for African children by selling handmade bracelets, was Bovey Masolie. In second place was Joseph Kralik and in third was Gretchen Horrell.

The first round featured ideas ranging from “Still Fit” a gym for the elderly to a shelf for exercise equipment called the “Read and Run.” An adult diaper for incontinence was even pitched.

“Doing an elevator pitch is a skill that every person should have. It is basically pitching yourself. In an interview, 90 seconds it can make or break you,” said Nelson. “Plus, all you have to lose is $1,000.”

Both idea and presentation are weighed equally by the judges, all of whom were SHU faculty in the first round.

“My advice for anyone who wants to participate in the competition is to take every opportunity beforehand to improve on your public speaking. I’ve never had an issue with speaking in front of people, but I found it hard to express myself physically to make my speeches more animated,” said sophomore Carolyn Bringe, a finalist both years of the competition.

According to Nelson, participants should care about what they are pitching and have energy when presenting.

“My advice for any students who participate in the event in the future is to try to pitch an idea for something you have a real passion for instead of just coming up with an idea, solely for the competition,” said finalist Susanne Kokoska, a grad student who pitched a personal training service.

Nearly 50 students participated in this year’s Elevator Pitch Competition. The competition was inspired by and partially funded by a grant from the Westmoreland Keystone Innovation Zone.

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