Not often do students find a professor willing to push them to go the extra mile, while also going that extra mile themselves. Dr. Isabelle Monlouis did just that when she threw an external event just for ENI Students in her Entrepreneurial Thinking for Startups class. The inaugural Business Model Pitch Competition brought together both sections of Monlouis’ class to pitch businesses that they incubated in ENI 3101.
The event room filled with nervous students as they dined on catering by NaanStop.
The first to present were the founders of uPet, a pet rental service aimed at those who are undecided about adopting a new pet. uPet also placed top 5 for their presentation in the $100,000 Atlanta Startup Battle, setting the bar high for the ENI 3101 pitches.
Throughout the competition, Monlouis kept a wide smile on her face witnessing the growth in her students.
“I saw something in them and I saw something in their business ideas that I don’t think they saw.” said Monlouis, “Sometimes when they have to pitch an idea that’s bigger than themselves and have a community that reflects back the idea of what they’re trying to accomplish, then all of a sudden they understand that it’s possible.”
The groups presented in order of industry, with industries like social entrepreneurship, hospitality and more being pitched. Judges Robert Hatcher, Richard Welke and Jeff Levy asked tough questions to gather just how thoroughly the students had developed their business models over the course of the class. The students answered the questions skillfully and comprehensively.
When it came time for judges to deliberate who the top three winners would be, students took the time to vote for the “Big Idea” award, the only award of the night in which the ENI students would be able to pick. The results, however, shook the room when the votes came in and the results crowned the sole founder of ZenSpend, a financial management app that utilizes behavior modification research to keep users liable for their spending, hopefully reducing frivolous spending and impulse buying. Antionette Kennedy was chosen as the winner of the “popular vote,” despite being the only presenter of the night to pitch alone and without a PowerPoint presentation. The product clearly had made an impression.
“I was really shocked. This is only my second time pitching this,” said Kennedy.
When the results from the judges came back, the founders of Social Square took first place. uPet and The Perfect Package placed second and third, respectively. First place winners took home $500, while second took $250 and third took $150.
Two co-founders of Social Square, Michael Carter and Nephthaly Leonidas, participated and placed in the uVenture Social Challenge together, and credit their ENI 3101 class with teaching them how to think like an entrepreneur.
“Our understanding has shifted, we look at the world in that [entrepreneurial] way now,” Carter said. “Even if you didn’t start a business, if you apply for a job, you should know what a value proposition is, what you offer, what your significance is.”
The students also demonstrated that these businesses were not just class projects. They will be launching their businesses, tweaking their models, building prototypes and growing their business ventures to larger scales.
“We’re launching our prototype this quarter, which will help us with customer discovery,” said Leonidas.
“We’re definitely in the works. We’re writing our original content, and just building relationships,” said Carter.
As for the future of this event, it will continue to occur every semester for not only Dr. Monlouis’ ENI students, but all sections of ENI 3101, meaning this event will continue to grow as ENI grows, and ENI professors will inspire more students to finally launch that business idea they’ve always had, but didn’t know how to launch.
by Jasmyne Moody