December 15, 2012

Second Annual SharkFest Makes a Huge Splash at JWU

By: Katie W. Taylor
Imagine you have an idea for a business.
You take your idea, turn it into a reality and present it to your peers and industry professionals in a sixty second elevator pitch. They like your idea so much that you walk away with $5,000, incubator space at Johnson & Wales' Entrepreneurship Center, personal mentoring and coaching to help you develop your business and marketing plans, legal and accounting advice and various other types of business support from the Small Business Development Center at the Downcity campus in Johnson & Wales University.
This was the dream that 152 students and alumni pursued during the course of this year's SharkFest competition. From those candidates, fifteen were chosen to pitch their idea for the grand prize stated above on Wednesday December 12, 2012 at 1:30 in Schneider Auditorium. Out of those fifteen candidates, five would be chosen as the winners and recipients of the life-changing prize.
There were five categories to compete in: Culinary/Hospitality, Business, Social Ventures, Technology, and Alumni entries. This year's esteemed judges included Dale Venturini of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association; Roland Boucher, CPA a JWU alum and CFO of the Cardi Corporation; E.J. Smith, a managing partner of Richard C. Young Investments; Angelo Pitassi, another JWU alum and a co-founder of Health ID Profile; and Kelly Ramirez, the executive director of the Social Venture Partners of Rhode Island.
SharkFest competitors came from a wide array of backgrounds and majors. The first competitors were the Alumni. Nicholas Eaton , who pitched his idea via live webcam to make Kombucha mainstream started off the competition and was followed by Danilo Quinonez, Eric Weiner and Marc Stimpson.
General Business came next and included Gbessay Boima, Kathleen Gallagher and a business trio- Jessica Funa, Madison Hannon, and Reed Tighe. In the Social Ventures division, Brandon Monti, Melanie Morgan and Gabriella Calzolari competed for their cause. The Culinary/ Hospitality students did not fail to impress with their three contestants, Markiquse Chess, Terazha Pitts, and Julius Searight and were followed by the last two competitors, Taylor Niver and Max Zaklow-Leepson of the Technology school.
In between the showcases, a few presentations and speeches were made, the first of which by John Robataille, director of the Larry Friedman International Center for Entrepreneurship. He encouraged students and guests at the event to believe in themselves and shared that “ideas without execution are hallucinations.” Mark the Shark, Dr. Erin Wilkinson and Ryan Shlan made an appearance as well to talk about everything NSO has to offer.
Dean Lapham and Anna Bandkau of Nalari Health, Inc. and Pay it Forward took the stage next to introduce students to what they were doing in the community and presented the school with a generous $2,000 donation.

Lastly, Tim Silva, the 2011 SharkFest winner and co-founder of the Radish food truck that can be seen around Providence took a few moments out of his extremely busy schedule to speak on the importance of staying in school. He told the audience that having a business is “a lot of work” and that it's all about education. He also made a generous donation of $200 to the school before he ran back out of the auditorium to continue cooking in the food truck.

After all of the presentations and elevator pitches were complete, the judges tallied up their scores and named the winners:


Alumni
Eric Weiner

Idea Name: “Foodtrucksin.com”
Concept: A website dedicated to giving foodies up-to-date locations of their local favorite food trucks


Business

Jessica Funa, Madison Hannon and Reed Tighe

Idea Name: “Mod 3”
Concept: An adjustable shoe that can transform from a flat to a high heeled shoe; “I don't have to adjust to the shoes, the shoes adjust to me!”


Social Venture

Brandon Monti

Idea Name: “The True Monti”
Concept: Creating T-shirts and apparel that would be sold to fuel art and entrepreneurial programs to educate youth.


Culinary/Hospitality

Terazha Pitts

Idea Name: “Royal Twyn's”
Concept: A dessert cart (“not a food truck”) that sells cake, pie and other dessert pops. All of the desserts would be on a stick.


Technology

Taylor Niver

Idea: A “University App Suite”
Concept: A personalized array of apps that universities could provide to their students to give them more information about transportation, events, and other announcements. It is planned to launch this summer.


This year's SharkFest was a huge success, not just for the winners. Each finalist received space in the Freidman Center to work on their endeavors and were given access to mentors and coaches to advise them on their business and marketing approach.

The judges were very pleased with all of the contestants who took the stage. When asked about what he thought of the event, Mr. Boucher marveled at how far JWU has come remembering that there was only one building when he attended school here.

All of the contestants await the results 
The winners were all very excited for their future. Ms. Pitts, a senior and member of DECA not only won in her category, but was also selected by popular vote from the audience to go to the 2012 DECA International Career Development Conference in Anaheim, California.

Culinary/Hospitality winner Terazha Pitts with Mark the Shark after the competition.