BizPitch: Sparking creativity and entrepreneurship

Anna DeNelsky, Contributing Writer

What is BizPitch?

BizPitch is a startup business competition for student entrepreneurs at the University. Students are given the opportunity to present early stage ideas for new products, services or startups to a panel of alum judges to gain funding for their projects—similar to the famous reality show  Shark Tank. Contestants connect with advisers to guide them through the competition and gain access to Startup Lewisburg, also known as the Entrepreneurs Incubator, a part of Bucknell’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Startup Lewisburg provides office space in downtown Lewisburg for all levels of membership. 

SBDC Services 

BizPitch is directed by SBDC, which works to provide entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills needed to start a successful business through workshops and educational events. SBDC provides free consulting and guidance to clients. Through a partnership with the College of Engineering, SBDC offers Engineering Development Services to help student entrepreneurs bring a new product to the market. 

Steven Stumbris from Bucknell SBDC offers his advice on entering the entrepreneurial sphere: “If you have an idea, or you’re working on developing that idea, don’t be held back by that. Know that there are resources at Bucknell—myself, my team, your professors, your classmates, your friends—who will give you feedback and in the case of the SBDC bring resources to you as an entrepreneur to help you develop.” Stumbris goes on to say, that “even if you apply and you may not happen to be one of the finalists for this program, don’t let that be the finish line right there. Continue to reach out to the SBDC. Many, many other resources for entrepreneurship at Bucknell can help you far beyond the first application date or the BizPitch competition.”

The Competition

To compete in BizPitch, students must create a pitch introducing a proposed, new or recently launched produce or service. According to the website, the presentation should convey an innovative and marketable concept or venture in a concise, compelling fashion. Students are encouraged to use slides, demonstrations and other presentation materials. Application processes occur during each spring semester, with the deadline typically closing on Apr. 1. The competition is open to all full-time undergraduate students. Presenters must be students of the University, however, non-students are eligible to join teams. Each team must be at least 50% owned or founded by University students. The judges assess the pitch based on five categories: problem, market, innovation, feasibility and delivery. 7,000 dollars in prizes are awarded to the teams in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place; a “Fan Favorite” prize of $1,000 is also awarded through live voting during the final event. 

Camillo Lazarczyk ’21 won BizPitch in 2017 for his comfort accessory product for sling bags called “Shoulder Savior,” which can now be found in a couple dozen stores in New Jersey. Lazarczyk said that “the experience was really awesome and connected me with a lot of amazing alumni and really inspired me to continue pursuing entrepreneurship after graduation.” He also gave some advice for pitching: “Visual storytelling and having a narrative is definitely really important, to try and build a beginning, middle, and end to your story… the story can be created for your product as you develop your idea.”

The Judges

This year’s alumni judges are Kevin Takarada ’02, Caroline Freedman ’00, and Frank Davis ’82. Takarada. Takarada combines his love for Japanese culinary traditions and culture with his successful career in mechanical engineering to create his sushi bar MakiMaki, which has two locations in NYC. The restaurant uses sushi robots to streamline production while maintaining quality. Prior to his culinary career, he received his masters degree in mechanical engineering, worked for honda, Johnson & Johnson, and Mishuo, a Japanese investment bank. 

Caroline Freedman is the founder and CEO of an award-winning line of baby and toddler foods sold nationwide in thousands of stores. She sold her brand to a private equity firm in 2019 and joined Ceresa, a technology based start-up in Austin. Frank Davis is the President, CEO, and founder of the Horizon Group of Companies, an award-winning technology firm with clients including Honda Worldwide, The Volkswagen Group, Hyundai, and The Southern Company. He is a twice published author, a continuous improvement consultant, and a diversity advocate and member of the Bucknell Board of Trustees.

The Competitors

This year, the BizPitch competition is down to four teams: The STEM Diaries, gARments, Brave Beyond BISP and CONCH. The STEM Diaries is created by Emily Bayuk ’21, an Electric Engineering major, and its mission is “powering the future of women in science, technology, engineering, and math.” gARments is created by Mark Roginkin ’21 and Anurag Vaidya ’21, both Biomedical Engineers, and it aims to “increase retail small business sales with an augmented-reality shopping experience. Brave Beyond BISP (Benazir Income Support Program) is created by Chanzé Ahsan ’22, an Economics and Philosophy double major, and its mission is “empowering women one skill at a time.” CONCH is created by Chris Lagana ’21, Ethan Dunne ’21 and Mateo Conde ’21–Lagana is majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Dunne and Conde are majoring in Computer Engineering–and it is a mobile concierge serving linking people with places. 

All finalists presented their final “BizPitches” on Wednesday, Apr. 21. The event was held virtually for the first time, and it was live streamed through Facebook and YouTube so that all family and friends could support their favorite student entrepreneurs. 

The winners are: 

gARments – 1st place

The Stem Diaries – Runner up

Conch – Fan Favorite 

Brave Beyond BISP – Change Maker

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