(Screenshot via UBalt)
Environmentally friendly apparel. DIY project parties. Guitar pedal management.
Those were the products of businesses that took home top earnings at the University of Baltimore’s Rise to the Challenge Pitch Competition in 2021.
Organized by UBalt’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the annual pitch event returned virtually for its second year with a full studio production that felt more like a TV show than a Zoom event. In the end, organizers handed out $30,000 in winnings to students and recent alumni of the Midtown university on April 22.
Nicole Mighty and her business Spiked Orchids was picked for the $15,000 most promising business prize by the judges, who included startup founders and ecosystem leaders. Mighty repurposes secondhand materials and applies sustainable manufacturing practices to make clothing and handbags. She started with a business for parents and people who lost loved ones that took cherished clothing previously worn by their loved ones and upcycled it to include in new handbags and other clothing. In 2019, Mighty said she realized the upcycling model could also serve as an answer to the fast fashion industry’s environmental struggles. We first met Mighty at the Moms as Entrepreneurs expo that year.
“We are literally redefining the value of waste and delivering high-quality goods to our customers and affordable prices,” said Mighty, who has a background in engineering and design, during her pitch.
Earning $3,000 on the night was Rebecca Thompson, who created Crate Craft & Co. The company allows people to organize virtual DIY project parties, by shipping materials and hosting live events that provide instructions, and a bit of fun. Thompson split the $5,000 prize for the top existing business venture in the competition with Mighty, and won the $500 Hustle Award from Pitch Creator, the pitch education platform created by investor Jason Tagler.
In the aspiring business ventures category, Robert Myers earned $2,000 for his idea-stage company, Switchboard Pedal Management System. It’s a tool to organize and simplify how pedalboards are assembled for guitarists.
Derek Lau of Stemtric took home $2,000 after winning the crowd favorite award, and the Baltimore Fund Award for civic engagement. Lau’s company is an online hub for mathematics courses.
Another $5,000 prize from the dean was split between a pair of entrepreneurs: Kellie Brown of social entrepreneurship crowdfunding platform SpreadKarma, and Shelby Blondell, the musician-entrepreneur who created the Shell Pick for both guitar players that play with a pick, and those who don’t.
The competition also featured pitches from Nikia Madison of food allergy resource SafePl8/Allergy-Free Grocery and Elizabeth Ogun of online writing platform Scribe.
“Although not everyone walked away with a monetary prize, I believe that all of the finalists proved to be winners this year,” said Henry Mortimer, director of UBalt’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, in a statement. “Honestly, the work that they put into this competition, amid the continued uncertainty of a global pandemic, a volatile economy, and national and local unrest — not to mention managing their ‘real’ personal, academic and professional lives in a virtual world — is nothing short of extraordinary. They’re all impressive, and it is my hope that I’m not the only one who feels that way. My wish is that each caught the attention of someone new who’d be interested in their idea or product, possibly some very influential people who can help nurture the growth of their enterprise and allow them to continue to develop as entrepreneurs.”
Watch the full event video below:
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