Pitch Perfect: CCSU Honors Entrepreneurial Innovation At Competition


Drew Harris

Winners of CCSU’s annual Elevator Pitch Competition pose with judges.

Kristina Vakhman, News Editor

It takes approximately 60 seconds or less to ride up an elevator – the amount of time Central Connecticut students were given to hook judges with their entrepreneurialism at CCSU’s annual Elevator Pitch Competition last week.

“The idea was to give students a chance to practice what it’s like to pitch to a potential investor or partner in a business. It’s a chance to practice public speaking in a real defined structure, 60 seconds,” CCSU Professor of Management and Organization Dr. Drew Harris said.

Stressful? Maybe, but the competition’s three winners don’t regret participating, with management senior Daniel Rivera glad his professor’s promise of extra credit pulled him into taking part.

“I really didn’t get involved in clubs or anything like that, so this was something new. I’ve never even been to the Connecticut Room where it was held,” Rivera, whose “Best Original Idea” won him $100, said.

Rivera pitched an app that incentivizes people to turn off their cell phone when in social situations. A self-described social butterfly, he came up with the idea when his friends visited his house on the weekend and wouldn’t get off of their phones.

“I was like, ‘You’re gonna come over to my house and stay on your phone the entire time?’ So I was just circling through all these ideas and I was like, ‘You know what, maybe there’s a market out there. Maybe there are people who just need that push to get off their phone,'” Rivera explained.

Winning the competition got Rivera excited to make his app come to fruition; he and his roommate have been brainstorming different incentives and his friend could develop it, he said. And he’s not the only one now thinking of making his vision a reality, fellow winner Jazlynn Rodriguez looking to jump into the beauty industry after her temporary, washable hair coloring products won her $200 toward her tuition as the best lifestyle item.

“I’m actually thinking about developing it because I want everybody to be able to use it. It’s a market that hasn’t really been touched. I can get into it,” Rodriguez said, noting that she’d have only two competitors.

The entrepreneurship and marketing double-major senior pitched a “one-size-fits-all” wax hair color that works on all types and comes out on the first wash. Only having 30 minutes to prepare before the competition, as she’d found out about it on short notice, Rodriguez got inspiration from an Instagram page that makes a similar kind of wax, but cannot be used by everyone.

“I wanted mine to be geared towards everyone. I’m a serial entrepreneur – I come up with ideas all the time – but I always want my companies to be for everyone. I don’t want it to be geared towards just one subgroup. So I was like, ‘Why not use this, but have different types?'” Rodriguez elaborated.

Management senior Brandi Durity, whose pitch won $200 for her tuition for its sustainability appeal, has explored the option of taking her idea into the real world, too. She didn’t think her reversible window blinds would land first, but to her surprise, they did.

“You have curtains and stuff to try to keep the cold out, but what about a way so that you can get the heat in?” Durity said. One of her favorite professors at Tunxis Community College helped her develop the blinds that would reverse to control heat reflection and retention to promote energy efficiency.

“Given the feedback that I got, it definitely put some thoughts in my head that maybe I should move forward with this and try to bring it somewhere and build on it,” Durity said, encouraging other students to participate in the competition. “If they think they have a good idea, it’s a great place to start with that idea. It’s definitely a great starting point and I would recommend it.”

And that’s really the essence of the Elevator Pitch Competition, Harris said: not only practice, but getting students involved in entrepreneurship, no matter what their major is at CCSU.

“If somebody has a good idea, they can just come pitch the idea,” he stated. “People around the state think of CCSU as a leader of entrepreneurial education. It’s been very important to our reputation on campus and outside the campus.”