Students take top prizes at Elevator Pitch Competition

Pitches for a “game changing” cleat-care product and a novel fundraising platform for political candidates who aren’t independently wealthy impressed the judges for the 2023 Grove City College Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation (E+I) Elevator Pitch Competition.

Student competitors had just two minutes to make their cases for their commercial or social enterprise ideas, which could be at any stage of development, and convince the judges their ideas had both merit and the potential to turn a profit. That tight timeclock and the annual competition’s name comes from the idea that an effective entrepreneur can pitch an idea in the time it would take to ride in an elevator with a potential investor.

A pair of freshmen captured the first place spots in both divisions in last month’s Elevator Pitch Competition finals.

Ross Morrow ’27, a Design and Innovation major from McKean, Pa., took first place – and a $500 prize – in the Commercial Enterprise division with his pitch for Cleat Caddy, a cleat storage and transportation product that also deodorizes athletic footwear.

“The Elevator Pitch Competition was a great way for me to utilize my problem solving and presentation skills. It allowed me to share my ideas with the Grove City community and is a good accomplishment to put on my resume," Morrow said.

Garrett Gess ’27, a Business Economics major from Allison Park, Pa., won the top spot in the Social Enterprise Division and $500 for Grassroots Greenbacks, a political fundraising platform designed to “level the playing field” for local candidates who are left behind by today’s political funding schemes.

“It was great to compete in the EPC in front of hundreds of people and pitch my business idea. I thrive in situations where the stakes are high,” Gess said.

Three students tied for second place in the Social Enterprise division, a first for the Elevator Pitch, with each winning a $400 prize:

  • Jenna Knepper ’25, a junior Design and Innovation major from Washington, Mich., pitched Restore the Word, a prison ministry that works with incarcerated people to restore old Bibles.
  • Reagan Mays ’27, a freshman Entrepreneurship major from Knox, Pa., for Hygiene Hive, a room in schools that provides access to free hygiene products for needy kids. She also won the $100 Fan Favorite award.
  • Emma Ruby Whiteford ’24, a senior English major from York, Pa., pitched The Tapestry, an app that offers additional resources for premarital counseling and for sustaining marriages and families. She also won the $250 Social Impact Prize.

In the Commercial Enterprise division, Julia Kammetler ’25, a junior Communications Arts major from Bethlehem, Pa., won second place and a $400 prize for Scan Guard, a wristband for healthcare workers that tracks hand sanitization and health-tracking features. Sam Hogue ’25, a junior Biblical and Religious Studies major from Cranberry Township, Pa., won third place and $300 for StudentSync, an app that allows entrepreneurial college students to connect with potential buyers on campus.

"We are incredibly proud of all the students who bravely took the stage to share their ideas with the world," said Logan Hammerschmitt '16, Campus Director for the Center for E+I. "These students, along with the hundreds in attendance, both in-person and via livestream, created an exciting and competitive environment for our competition. It was a very tight field from top to bottom, and we are so thankful to our sponsors for helping to make this all possible," Logan Hammerschmitt ‘16, campus director for E+I, said.

The annual competition is open to students from all majors. Sixteen student finalists, selected from more than 130 entrants, faced off in the Nov. 15 Elevator Pitch Competition. The three judges for the finals were selected in honor of the Entrepreneurship Program’s 20th Anniversary: Retired Entrepreneurship faculty member and social entrepreneur Dr. Timothy Mech; former E+I Executive Director and Department of Entrepreneurship Chair Craig Columbus, CEO of Columbus Macro, LLC; and E+I Program Manager Lynn Bashew ’84, who has served the program in this capacity since 2008.

Dorene Powell, vice president of the Grove City Foundation, selected the Social Impact Prize winner and the Fan Favorite award was determined by a vote of the audience, both in person and online, of over 300 votes.

Sponsors include NexTier Bank + Mars Bank and the Grove City Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio.

Volunteer reviewers in the first round of the competition were:  Bob Baierl, Frances Baldwin, Chris Botting '83, Freddie Bremble '80, Mark Brody ‘83, Abigail Brothers ‘21, Craig Creaturo '92, Dan Creston ‘81, Jeff Curran ‘85, Robbie Davis ‘17, Brad Dearborn '78, Steve DeCaspers ‘98, Kris Deemer ‘90, Ellie DelTurco ‘13, Benjamin Demers ‘19, Brian Dutton, Andrew Ellison, Ruth Entwistle '07, Dean Faklis, Collin Foster '12, Julie Gahagan, Curt Given '84, Brian Gongaware '92, Victoria Hassett ‘12, Michael Hemmerlin ‘97, John Holt '84, Melissa Jacobs '92, Haley (Nerlich) Kahle ‘15, Bob Keller '73, Aaron Leitch ‘03, Beth Lepore ‘96, Jeff Lininger ‘87, Darla Livermore, Kim Marks, Beth Marraccini ‘96, Dean Marraccini, Paul Marshall ’78, Wendy Marshall ‘81, Lauren Marts ‘10, Glenn McDonald ‘75, Heidi McDowell, Scott McDowell '87, Mitchell McFeely, Alan Mesches '71, Ronald Miller ‘75, Elisabeth O’Brien ‘16, Lou Palumbo, Robin Parsons, Michael Pentz ‘06, Tiffany (Bicek) Rice ’18, John Romain '85, Charles (Bob) Scott '72, Alissa Sgro '96, Kelly Shields ‘97, Stephanie Slezak, Steve Solman '96, Cameron Suorsa ‘21, Ron Templeton ‘12, Ann Thomas ’93, Jack Thomas ’89, Daniel Thompson ‘12, Lesley Winfield '92, Brett Yusiewicz. 

For more about The Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation, visit

Students take top prizes at Elevator Pitch Competition

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