They led with jokes and statistics, paraded out props and parried verbally with the panel of alumni business leaders who'd gathered to judge them. But ultimately, only one team of student entrepreneurs could claim an oversized, $3,000 check and the title of BizPitch '17 champion.
The Shark Tank-style event, held Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Elaine Langone Center, challenged six groups of students, each with ideas for start-up companies, to pitch their business plans within five minutes, with cash prizes awarded for the best presentations.
This year's teams, which were encouraged to place a new emphasis on socially responsible products and services, pitched businesses that would link hungry students to independent delivery drivers (BU Bite), potential volunteers to nonprofits in need of help (Reachout), and people seeking storage with individuals who have space to spare (Next Generation Storage).
They advocated for new shopping opportunities to enhance Lewisburg's downtown (Pop-on-Market) and environmentally responsible, individualized clothing restyling and reuse (Selvage).
And a one-man team took center stage laden with oversized, overweight duffel bags, his load lightened by a product he's already manufacturing.
"The Shoulder Savior is a simple solution to the pain and discomfort caused by carrying heavy bags," he told the judges, hoisting a bag to demonstrate his product, which is similar to the pool noodles that he said hockey players sometimes modify into makeshift shoulder-strap padding.
However, Lazarczyk pointed out that his patent-pending product is covered with washable fabric that can be customized to match team or gear colors.
"It's stylish, durable, reusable, unique and effective," he added, explaining that he would use the prize money to partner with a new manufacturer and build the inventory he sells to sporting-goods stores and at hockey tournaments.
Pitch Strategies Vary
Not to be outdone visually, team Selvage brought a model in an updated prom dress front-and-center to demonstrate how unused clothes that clutter closets could be custom-redesigned, with the goal of reducing waste.
And Madison Fink '18, majoring in environmental geosciences, used humor to convince the judges that her team, Next Generation Storage, deserved the top prize.
"How many times a day do you think about storage?" she asked, before answering her own question. "I'm guessing never." However, as the laughter faded, she and partner Erin Ditmar '18, a chemical engineering major, explained that connecting people who need to store items with others who have space would save resources and build community.
BU Bite, which seeks to bridge the gap between hungry students and restaurants that don't deliver via a network of freelance drivers, impressed with a well-researched proposal, while Pop-on-Market — winners of Fan Favorite and Social Media Star awards — brought out the big guns, displaying quotes from representatives of brands such as Tommy Hilfiger to support their proposed storefront, which would feature pop-up shops showcasing a rotation of brands.
Reachout, which developed an app that would make it easier for volunteers to connect with nonprofits, won a new Change Maker award for their socially responsible concept.
"BizPitch showcased outstanding student entrepreneurs during Global Entrepreneurship Week," said Steven Stumbris, director of Bucknell's Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which directs the event. "Each team has the potential to not only drive economic growth and create jobs, but to create change in the world."
Prizes Invest in Student Entrepreneurs
Helping to potentially advance those goals was a series of large checks, signed by Bucknell President John Bravman and waiting on easels at the finals.
After sequestered deliberation, the judges awarded the third-place check for $1,000 to Next Generation Storage, while Selvage claimed second place and a $2,000 prize.
And the winner of this year's BizPitch?
That was probably decided when judge Richard Pisano '82, president of Citrus and Allied Essences Ltd. and founder of Trilogy Essential Ingredients, gamely hoisted one of Lazarczyk's duffel bags to test the Shoulder Savior.
"It needs to work," Pisano pointed out, slipping the strap over his shoulder before declaring, "It works."
A few minutes later, Lazarczyk carried off his oversized bags — and a correspondingly large, but much lighter, check for $3,000.
For complete coverage of BizPitch '17, including a video streamed live during the event, visit the SBDC Facebook page.