GCC E+I innovates, Elevator Pitch rises in spite of COVID

The Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation (E+I) at Grove City College’s annual Elevator Pitch Competition always draws a crowd, but this year the audience will be online as the pitch battle adapts to a changed world with a virtual version.

COVID-19 restrictions limiting crowd sizes and requiring social distancing forced E+I to innovate the competition this year. The move also reflects changes in business, educational and personal communication over the last eight months as meetings, classes, visits with grandma and even worship shifted from in-person experiences to conference apps such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

“This virtual format, while new to our students, gives them the opportunity to become proficient in technologies and forms of communication that are commonplace now in the business world. Opportunities like this competition will prepare them to innovate and to adapt in a world that is changing by the hour,” Yvonne J. English ’97, E+I executive director and assistant professor of Entrepreneurship, said.


The competition affords students the opportunity to develop ideas for new commercial or social enterprises and pitch them in the same way real-world entrepreneurs do to investors: quickly and convincingly in less than two minutes, about the duration of an elevator ride.

Preliminary rounds in the competition winnowed a field of 168 entries – representing individuals or teams of students from 20 different majors –to just 21 finalists. They’ll provide video pitches to a panel of investor judges via the Center’s website at gccentrepreneurship.com/elevator at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6. The online event is open to all and audience members will be able to vote online for the Fan Favorite.

The finalists, their majors and a brief description of the venture, are:

Commercial Enterprise

  • BarberStop – Nick Thompson ’24, Management & Marketing; a mobile barber shop.
  • Battle Box – Molly Van Til ’22, Communication & Visual Arts; a subscription box for monthly feminine supplies.
  • Game-Time – Hailey Weinert ’23, Management & Marketing, and Nick Gustafson ’24, Management & Marketing; an activities scheduling app for college campuses.
  • Kids Cultural Crate – Erica Kolson ’21, Management & Marketing; a kids’ cultural box creating global awareness.
  • Locate – Cole DeFillippo ’24, Accounting & Finance; a personal item locating app.
  • NewSight – Mark Wilhelm ’24, Entrepreneurship; a discreet safety system for the visually impaired.
  • PowerStrut – Olivia Nicholson ’24, Management & Marketing, and Aaron Phillips ’24, Marketing & Communication; a portable powering system for personal electronic devices.
  • PresPros – Adam Densmore ’21, Accounting & Finance; an online speech coaching/training service.
  • Sani-T Box – Judy Anne Spira ’23, Accounting & Finance; a secure place to hold personal items in public bathroom stalls.
  • (The) Safer Headband – Shelton Brower ’24, Entrepreneurship; a safety device that helps prevent soccer-related concussions.
  • sidekickk – Cameron Suorsa ’21, Entrepreneurship; a podcast production agency.
  • Stream Wizard – Kristopher Sekera ’24, Accounting & Finance; an app that helps users personalize online streaming service selections.

Social Enterprise

  • Arise Rwandan Coffee – Justin Folger ’21, Management & Marketing; a nonprofit business opportunity for globally-minded entrepreneurs.
  • Bijou – Elizabeth Hasse ’24, Entrepreneurship; electronic safety jewelry for women.
  • Generation Imagination – Luke Gilligan ’24, Entrepreneurship; a life simulation game for those with spectrum disorders.
  • G.I. Fido – Olivia Whiteman ’23, Entrepreneurship; upcycled dog accessories created by a veteran labor force.
  • Heroes for Hire – Brock Simmons ’23, Entrepreneurship; a social platform that helps find employment for military veterans.
  • Journey Art – Mark Wilhelm ’24, Entrepreneurship; a nonprofit mobile art station serving communities.
  • LifeBus – Grace Shaw ’21, Psychology & Social Work; a mobile healthcare service for rural communities.
  • tectum – Patty Jo Nickoloff ’21, Communication & Visual Arts; affordable safe tiny-home housing options.
  • Trustpup – Kellyann Baker ’22, English; an online platform offering trustworthy pet search options.

In the preliminary rounds, students presented their video pitches to panels made up of 87 Grove City College community members – faculty, staff, and friends of the College – who scored their efforts on criteria such as the business problem, the story, the solution, expansion opportunities and sustainability.

For the final round, they’ll face a panel of judges consisting of: Drew McCandless ’84, owner of Beans on Broad and retired president and GM of The Sherwin-Williams Company; Damian Rippole ’95, CFO and VP of Finance, Ebb Therapeutics; and Laura Johnson ’93, founder of Idea Rocket Consulting. Dorene Powell, Counseling and Education Professional Board member, The Grove City Foundation, will award the Grove City Foundation Social Impact Prize. Students are vying for more than $3,000 worth of prizes for their commercial or social enterprise pitch.

The Elevator Pitch Competition is one of a number of innovative programs offered by E+I that serve to enhance classroom learning. Students of all majors can participate in national and international programs that allow them to have real-world relevant experiences while integrating values, judgement and a Christian perspective.

“It is times like these that make us realize how blessed we are to have the community and alumni base that we do. Dozens of people stepped up to help us by reviewing pitches and also by judging and sponsoring the competition. We are beyond thankful that so many people were willing to be so generous with their time, treasure and talent in order to make this event possible for our students,” English said.

The competition is sponsored by Beans on Broad, Davevic Benefit Consultants and The Grove City Community Foundation. For more about the competition or E+I, visit gccentrepreneurship.com.

GCC E+I innovates, Elevator Pitch rises in spite of COVID

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