Wolverine Venture Battle finalists square off

Eight teams of Grove City College student entrepreneurs will face off for their share of a prize package of over $28,000 in cash plus in-kind services in the 2024 Wolverine Venture Battle (WVB).

The venture pitch contest is one of the College’s Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation’s tentpole events. Open to students from all majors, the WVB provides invaluable experience for aspiring entrepreneurs and a crucial test for their ideas.

The pitches will start flying at 1 p.m. Friday, May 3 in Sticht Lecture Hall of the Staley Hall of Arts and Letters. Hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation (E+I), the WVB is free and open to the public and will be livestreamed at gccentrepreneurship.com.

“We’ve got a record-sized prize pool of almost $30,000 and eight very different teams competing for the coveted title of Wolverine Venture Battle Champion this year. The students’ vision and ideas for making their mark on the world will be featured on the WVB stage this Friday, and we welcome everyone to join us at this exciting and inspiring event,” said E+I Executive Director + Entrepreneur in Residence Yvonne J. English ’97.

Each team will have eight minutes to make their case and another six to field questions from a panel of accomplished judges who will divvy up the prize pool by “investing” in the teams they think made the best pitch.

To make it to the finals, teams survived a rigorous evaluation by independent reviewers who scored the teams’ pitches based on criteria such as their solution to a real problem, their forecasted costs and revenue, and their unfair advantage.

Sixty-three students from 14 different majors and every class year entered twenty-two teams in the first round of the competition.

The WVB finalists are:

  • Carpenter – Ethan David ’24, Luke Mantzell ’24, and Michael Crowley ’25. Their idea fosters mentorship through woodworking projects to restore father-figure relationships in the lives of boys and young men.
  • Fortifly – Audrey Karwowski ’26, Eleni Kasianides ’26, Emma Fiscus ’25, Natalie Gilkinson ’27, Owen Gasser ’26, and Joel Riehl ’26. Fortifly partners with healthcare providers specializing in eating disorder treatment by gamifying healthy habit building within a supportive community.
  • IDwear – Caroline Dawson ’25 and Quincy Chapman ’25. IDwear offers wearable RFID solutions to improve safety and bring convenience to college campuses across the US.
  • Meet Cute – Katelyn Rose Emmons ’24, Elliott Stratton ’24, and Joey Guida ’24. A dating platform that connects compatible singles with local businesses to go on discounted first dates, with the goal of fostering real connections and reimagining online dating to benefit both the user and the venue.
  • SaaSquatch – Luke Owen ’24, David Lugo ’24, and Caleb Warrick ’24. A SaaS marketing consulting platform for the middle market powered by AI.
  • Sleek Real Estate Photography – Gus Minotto ’24. Sleek Real Estate Photography delivers friendly service, breathtaking media, and 12-hour turnaround times.
  • Striker Socks – Aly Mapes ’24, Katie Blendermann ’24, and Nate Hamel ’24. An athletic sock that relieves calf pressure and reduces ligament injuries through grips on the bottom and breathable fabric in the back.
  • Tooli – Elliot Eyre ’24. A peer-to-peer tooling, equipment, and service rental application to help users monetize their clutter while reducing tool waste.

In addition to the judges’ allocations of prize money, teams will vie for the Fan Favorite Award. The $1,000 prize winner is determined by texts from those watching the competition live and online.

New this year is the addition of volunteer mentors. experienced professionals who assisted the teams to prepare for the Battle. They are: Toby Basalla ‘98, founder of Synthelize, Mark Brody, board member, business and turnaround consultant, Benjamin Demers ‘19, wealth management client associate at Merrill Lynch, Steve DeCaspers ‘98, vice president of marketing at Brightspeed, Victoria Hassett ‘12, director of PantherlabWorks, Melissa Jacobs ‘92, partner at Jacobs Family LLP, Elizabeth Martin ‘21, client experience coordinator at The Family Office, LLC, Mark Phillips ‘09, senior research analyst at Miller/Howard Investments, and Amy Frank ‘95, academic advisor at Grove City Christian Academy.

This year the Venture Battle features a panel of Junior Judges. Thirteen students from six high schools will each be able to award a $50 prize to the team they think is most deserving.

Wolverine Venture Battle 2024 Sponsors include: Chick-fil-A; S&T Bank; Armstrong; Newton Institute; IQ Inc.; Nicklas Supply; Splash Kitchen Bath Home; Laura (Koller ’11) and RJ Fryan ’08; the Habbershon family (Tim ’81, Grant ’06, Meredith ’07, Jonathan ’09, and Natalie ’11; Dan Creston '81); the Pentz family (Mark ‘81, Cheri ‘79, Michael ‘06, and Yvonne ’06); Susan (Peshek ’81) and Peter Durfee ’80; Elizabeth (Smith ’81) and Peter Hanley; and the John '68 & Betsy Baun Charitable Foundation.

Sisterson Certified Public Accountants & Consultants, Cedric E. Lewis, JD/MBA, and Pittsburgh Web Design provide in-kind support to the winners.

This year’s judicial panel includes experienced entrepreneurs, founders, CEOs, and a variety of professionals and alumni. They are: RJ Fryan ’08, CEO of Kind Special Alloys US and Lake Park Tool and Machine; Kim Garrett ’12, owner and consultant at Better Made Brands; Justin Driscoll, director of Business Development at IQ Inc.; Darrin Grove ’91, founder and CEO of Truefit; Jordyn Kemats ’03, executive vice president and director of Sales Strategy & Marketing at S&T Bank; Mark Nicklas ’81, president and CEO of, Nicklas Supply, Inc.; Ben Nicklas ’08, sales manager at Nicklas Supply, Inc.; Wendy Mascio ’88, serial entrepreneur and GCC Trustee; Patrick Miles, senior project lead, Innovation Services at Chick-fil-A, Inc.; Josh Newton ’09, director of Technology for the Newton Institute;  Elisabeth O’Brien ’16, director of Reservations Product for IHG Hotels & Resorts; Mark Pentz ’81, owner and president of Calvin Group Inc.; Michael Pentz ’06, vice president of Calvin Group Inc.; and Brad Schake, director of Field Operations for Armstrong.

Contenders for the finals were evaluated by: Bob Baierl, Frances Baldwin, Toby Basalla ’98, Randy Beck ’85, Chris Botting ’83, Scott Brainard ’76, Mark Brody ’83, Craig Creaturo ’92, Jeff Curran ’85, Brad Dearborn ’78, Steve DeCaspers ’98, Benjamin Demers ’19, Brian Dutton, Stephen Eckert ’84, Andrew Ellison, Ruth Entwistle ’07, Dean Faklis, Collin Foster ’12, Beth Fox Lepore ’96, Chuck Gaetano ’74, Curt Given ’84, Alex Graham ’67, Matthew Hackworth ’97, Alex Halton ’20, Victoria Hassett ’12, Michael Hemmerlin ’97, Lindy B. Hitzel ’19, William Howell ’81, Melissa Jacobs ’92, Haley Kahle ’15, Bob Keller ’73, Jeff Lininger ’87, Darla Livermore, Don Lockhart, Evan Lowe ’89, Beth Marraccini ’92, Dean Marraccini, Lauren Marts ’10, Scott McDowell ’87, Mitch McFeely, Alan Mesches ’71, Trey Miller ’95, Robin Parsons, Mark Phillips ’09, Lydia Price ’13, Tiffany Rice ’18, Charles (Bob) Scott ’72, Alissa Sgro ’96, Steve Solman ’96, Cameron Suorsa ’21, Allyson Sveda ’88, Jill Sweet ’85, Jack Thomas ’89, Steve Wickman, and Lesley Winfield.

For more about the Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation at Grove City College, visit gccentrepreneurship.com.

Wolverine Venture Battle finalists square off

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