University Celebrates Entrepreneurial Spirit With CougarPitch Finalist Event

Published on November 22, 2011

Winners Recognized in Faculty, Entrepreneurship Student and Student Categories

Students from the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship who competed in the entrepreneurship BBA category celebrate after placing in the top three. Pictured from left are third place winner Stephanie Han, second place winner Carl Garbutt, first place winner Randy Hannemann, and Prof. Alan Lish.

Pre-nursing student Grace Toledo won first place in the student category with her idea of creating a better study guide for the national nursing exam.

Three members of the University of Houston community now have a chance to see what began as an idea transformed into a real business after being named the category winners in the final round of CougarPitch.

Presented by the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the C. T. Bauer College of Business, CougarPitch is in its inaugural year as the campus elevator pitch competition. Thirteen finalists competed last week in three categories — faculty/staff, entrepreneurship student and student — with each giving a two-minute pitch in front of a voting audience.

Pre-nursing major Grace Toledo was named first place winner in the student category, pitching her idea of a website that offers better tutoring materials for the nursing exam. The study guide offered now could be improved, Toledo said, proposing that the tutorial she created that has helped her and classmates pass the exam be brought to market.

Bauer entrepreneurship student Tatiana Reznick pitched her business, Culinary Synergy, which helps co-workers improve teamwork in the office by putting them in a kitchen and preparing meals as a team.

Toledo earned a $1,000 prize, giving her a leg up in starting her business. “I don’t have a laptop, so I’ve been working off the computers on campus and my desktop at home,” she said. “Winning this competition will help me buy a laptop and help my business reach its full potential.”

Each contestant brought unique ideas and perspective from different industries and business proposals, ranging from a non-profit mentoring program that pairs returning veterans with mentors to help attain a job, to creating an educational game from a textbook, and even software to detect phishing emails before they strike, showing that entrepreneurial endeavors are limitless.

“At the University of Houston, we think it’s very high time that we expand our entrepreneurial efforts well beyond just the Wolff Center Entrepreneurship and invite those from all facets and entry levels within the University of Houston system to participate and share an idea,” said Ken R. Jones, the center’s associate director.

Over 200 UH students and faculty participated in the first year CougarPitch, with 104 making it to the second round and 13 making it to the finals.

Thirteen finalists made their pitches to a panel of judges on Nov. 17 with the hope of winning a $1,000 grand prize to further their prospective businesses.

“I think CougarPitch is a great event because it gives everybody an option to get their idea out there,” said Alicia Brade, a finance major who placed second in the student category. “Everybody has ideas and everyday there’s a new innovation coming out and this gives University of Houston students options to put their idea on the table.”

By Amanda Sebesta

2011 CougarPitch Winners:

Faculty Category:

1st: Dr. Rakesh Verma, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Houston
Pitch: Phishing email detection software

Student Category:

1st: Grace Toledo, Pre-Nursing major
Pitch: Nursing Exam Study Guide/ Tutor program

2nd: Alicia Brade, Finance major
Pitch: Forefront Technologies

3rd: Kyle Kamerbeek, Political science major
Pitch: Tie the Knot wedding venue

BBA ENTR Category:

1st: Randy Hannemann, Entrepreneurship major
Pitch: The Heroes Mentor

2nd: Carl Garbutt, Entrepreneurship major
Pitch: iTow it

3rd: Stephanie Han, Entrepreneurship major
Pitch: Weave-a-Diva