Students Pitch Business Ideas to University Community
The University’s Pompea Business Plan EXPO was the culminating event of an innovative course that brings together students across all disciplines to develop solutions to real-world problems, create business plans, and pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.
January 8, 2021
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Ashley Fiorianti ’24 wanted to create something positive during what has been a challenging and stressful time for so many. She and her roommate developed the concept for ConnectUs, a company that would help those suffering from loneliness and depression during the coronavirus global pandemic.
Since patients in care facilities have not been able to receive physical visits, she and her classmates developed a way for patients to visit with loved ones. Guests would don transparent hazmat suits, take chemical showers, and travel through a system of tunnels connecting the parking lot and safe meeting rooms. Fiorianti and her classmates recently pitched their idea during the University’s Pompea Business Plan EXPO.
“My favorite part of the EXPO was getting to do something outside of my field of study and express something I am really passionate about,” said Fiorianti, a psychology major. “I learned a lot more about the business world and how it all works. I also learned about finances and how to run a company.”
‘A truly transformational learning experience’
Fiorianti’s team was one of six that participated in the final pitch competition, the culminating event of “Business and Entrepreneurship,” a class for students in all majors to work together to, this semester, design an innovative solution to address a real-world challenge related to water, energy, food, and/or COVID-19. They collaborated to create a business plan, developing skills such as leadership and group presentation.
The teams were selected from a dozen semifinalist teams representing the 140 students in the nine sections of the class. They presented their business plans to a panel of judges that included Pompea College of Business Advisory Board members Craig Douglas ’82 MBA and Jim Betzig as well as advisory board chair Josephine Moran ’01 M.S., '19 EMBA, a member of the University’s Board of Governors.
Students also presented to their fellow students, as well as alumni, faculty, and staff – including University of New Haven President Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D.
“This program provides a truly transformational learning experience for our students,” he said. “To have the opportunity, as first-year students, to not only create – but also pitch – a business plan to a panel of executives is very unique and something students should be very proud of. I know that the skills they have learned will serve them well throughout their time as Chargers and wherever their careers may take them in the future.”
Giliana Santaniello ’24 and her teammates proposed “Allied Collaboration Marketing,” a marketing company serving small businesses. She said it was a fun and engaging learning experience.
“I liked being able to think of a business idea and develop the details with my teammates,” she said. “This experience exposed us to a professional environment in which we learned to adapt and think quickly to answer questions and accurately present information.”
‘You are all winners’
Held via Zoom, the competition included a “crowd selection” component, through an app provided by Nousium LLC (dba Funding Founding).
Brian Marks, J.D., Ph.D., course coordinator and a senior lecturer in the Department of Economics and Business Analytics as well as executive director of the University’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, noted that the app is designed to foster audience engagement and allowed students to evaluate the pitches separately from the judges. Audience members were to imagine they were provided $100,000 to allocate to the various pitches, which were then ranked by the amount of funds allocated to them. This year, the student audience and the judges agreed on the top two teams, which Marks noted is a testament to the training afforded to the students in course.
“Quid Pro Grow,” a company that would aim to reduce food waste by offering a pickup service for composting, received the highest funding and was declared the crowd favorite. Team H2O, which would address the need for safe drinking water in Ethiopia, was the team that the judges declared the winner. The winning team as selected by the judges will have their name engraved on the Pompea Business Plan EXPO Cup displayed in the Orange Campus lobby.
Charles Pompea '71, '90 EMBA, '06 Hon., who, with his wife Tamera, sponsored the program, watched the students’ presentations and announced the winner. He told the students he was impressed with their work.
“You are all winners,” said Pompea, chair of the University’s Board of Governors. “You should be very proud of the work you have done. I am very proud to be here joining you.”