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'Vermont Chill' team wins 'Pitch Your Passion'

11.07.16
By: Mark Tarnacki
Vermont Chill products

Raw material for Vermont Chill products such as beverage "koozies."

A concept for “Vermont Chill Company,” whose products “represent the culture and character of Vermont” -- think a flannel beverage "koozie" sporting a rustic wood-carved Vermont emblem -- won first place in this year’s “Pitch Your Passion” competition for Saint Michael’s students.

The winning Vermont Chill team of Ben Guilmette, Pat Leary, Colin McKeith, and Ryan Londregan received $1,000 and qualified to compete in the statewide LaunchVT Collegiate competition in February at Champlain College. This is the second year at Saint Michael’s for Pitch Your Passion, an initiative to foster innovation and entrepreneurship across campus.

Including the student finalists, more than 75 people turned out Sunday afternoon in the McCarthy Arts Center Recital Hall to hear 11 pitches by 19 students – top finishers from October’s first-round contest. Nearly every member of the Business Administration and Accounting faculty attended to support their students, as did several faculty from other departments. Several competitors represented majors other than business.

Winning the $250 Second Place prize was the “Snow Trax” proposal by Tim Costello – a “safe and social” new app for skiers and riders “on and off the snow”; while the $100 Third Place prize went to the “Sticky Steeze” team of Matt McCauley and Matt Fournaris, whose idea revolved around vinyl graphic wrappings for skis, snowboards, skateboards and long boards.

“We can be proud of each of the students and how well they represented themselves and Saint Michael’s,” said Karen Popovich, associate professor of business administration and accounting, who was the event’s chief faculty adviser and organizer. Zachary Maroon’18 and Alexander Colletta ’18 were the chief student organizers, and both rounds were sponsored by the campus Business Society.

Popovich said she was particularly pleased by “a really strong panel of judges” for Sunday’s finals. “Each had great questions that students needed to think through,” she said, adding that students also appreciated a “debrief” the judges gave at the end of the competition. “I believe their advice will be invaluable to those that continue to develop their ideas and passions,” she said.

Those judges, from both within and outside the College, were:

Alex Bertoni, director of marketing and communications at Saint Michael’s. For the better part of his career, Bertoni has worked in marketing, research and strategy in industries that include higher education, banking and finance.

Joe Pawlaczyk, associate director of Information Technology at the College. He manages the team that runs the computer network, wifi and servers and has been at Saint Michael’s for 9 years. Prior to that he spent 11 years at a Vermont-based technology consulting firm working as Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.

Greg Maguire, the senior director of legal and government affairs at Revision, a company that manufactures and sells personal protective equipment and power management solutions to U.S. and worldwide customers. Previously he was director of the Vermont Procurement Technical Assistance Center, which assists more than 600 Vermont businesses in being suppliers of goods and services for the government.

Mark Maroon, with more than 20 years in mortgage banking, from loan officer to executive management. He’s also created businesses in equipment finance, processed food and commercial real estate.

Helping to organize this year’s two rounds of on-campus competitions were Professor Marie-France Nelson of the business department and Julia Kirby, the department’s administrative assistant.

A reworking of Enterprise Plan Competition

The Pitch Your Passion competition of the past two years reworked the annual Enterprise Plan Competition (EPC) which was started in the Department of Business Administration and Accounting (DBAA) in 2000. It is partly designed to be the campus qualifying event for LaunchVT Collegiate, which is a 10-minute pitch competition among nine Vermont colleges and universities.

LaunchVT Collegiate will be at Champlain College on Feb. 19 and feature top college student entrepreneurs from campuses across Vermont vying for a spot in the finals of LaunchVT, a statewide business pitch competition offering a $30,000 first prize. The effort to create the competition aimed at college students has been led by Champlain’s Build Your Own Business (BYOBiz) Director Robert Bloch, who worked to bring nine Vermont higher education institutions together with the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Vermont Small Business Development Center.

Participants last year were Champlain College, Norwich College, Castleton University, Lyndon State College, University of Vermont, Vermont Technical College, Middlebury College, Johnson State College and Saint Michael’s.

Each participating college sponsored the event with $1,000, and additional sponsors included the Vermont Small Business Development Center, Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, and BTV Ignite.

Earlier Saint Michael’s round

On Tuesday, October 25, the initial round of the 2nd Pitch Your Passion Competition for Saint Michael’s had 33 students representing 24 individual or team pitches. Students represented a variety of majors. Pitches were evaluated by a panel of student judges, also representing a variety of majors.

 Last year’s winning Saint Michael's team, presenting at Champlain College in February 2016 for the statewide competition, was made up of Sophia Caravella along with Maroon and Colletta.

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