Written by Grace Ryan, Contributor
Furman’s Paladin Pitch Competition is set to occur on Saturday, Feb. 22 and will grant the winning team up to $10,000 to launch their venture. Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship (FIE) is sponsoring the event to further develop their mission. The office’s Executive Director Anthony Herrera said the competition intends to “build a campus culture of innovation, develop student, faculty and staff talent and contribute to the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
FIE believes the Paladin Pitch is multifaceted. First and foremost, it provides students a platform to pitch ideas and products that have real marketplace appeal. Additionally, Entrepreneur in Residence Derek Pederson notes, the competition allows students to connect with regional innovators such as “community leaders, Leadership Council Members and Furman alumni that will attend the final pitch.” In that environment, “students will have the chance to hear feedback, build a network and earn potential investments from the audience.”
The first stage of the competition began with the presentation of 75 innovative ideas. Of those 75 pitches, 17 were selected to continue onto the next round. After presenting a second, more revised pitch, seven teams were invited to present at the final competition on Feb. 22. Interestingly, business majors did not dominate the initial pool of competitors. Pedersen said that some of the most successful competitors included Computer Science, Music, Communication Studies, and other majors. She added that unique academic interests bring “different perspectives and expertise to the competition.” The FIE office wanted to highlight a variety of ideas. With this format, an art and business major could team up to create a creative and prosperous business plan.
On Tuesday, Feb. 4, the final seven teams were announced. The competitors include: Lucas Bautista, Instant Lawn Care; Queen Trapp, Mother Nature’s Gifts; Mercy Fisher and Will Wagner, Table Tour; Trent Stubbs, Aconabolics; Kyle Edens and Nicole Stephenson, Scales and Tails; Sam Ybarra, Spectrum Tiny Homes; and Emily Pruitt, Izzy Michell, Mary Paisley Belk and Ellie Laxer, Twining’s High Tea Shot. Each is unique in its own way. For example, Lucas Baustisa’s Instant Lawn Care business is an app that “allows customers to order lawn mowing in 60 seconds using just their address.” How? The program uses Google Maps data to connect them with a local lawn company and immediately tells them the price of the service. Bautista compared it to “Uber, but for lawns.”
In contrast, Will Wagner and Mercy Fisher’s Table Tour is an Airbnb-type idea that allows users to search for home-cooked meals in rustic areas and then reserve “spots” at the hosts table. Wagner and Fisher were inspired one day when, after finishing a hard hike, they found the closest restaurant was over an hour away. The two came up with an idea to silence their, and others’, growling stomachs.
Marketing Manager Katherine Boda explained that this is exactly what FIE strives to foster: students creating feasible solutions to real world problems. Bautista, Wagner and Fisher’s stories are just two of the seven unique and progressive ideas taking the stage on Feb. 22. The event begins at 9 a.m. Saturday in McAlister Auditorium and includes breakfast, a networking session, and the Pitch Competition—and attendance is free. Simply visit the Furman Innovation and Entrepreneurship website to register.