Team of Averett University Student Entrepreneurs win Collegiate Business Pitch Competition

Posted on April 28th, 2022 by Matt Bell

Students set path for new entrepreneurship program at Averett University

On Wednesday, April 27, eight Averett University entrepreneurship students won first place at the RISE Collegiate Business Plan Competition after they pitched a business plan for their campus communications application called Project Connect.

The initial pitch took around five minutes and was followed by 10 minutes of a question-and-answer period with the judges.

As a result, the students won a portion of a $10,000 cash prize. The money will be used toward funding the app, which students intend to use to streamline communications across Averett’s campus, then expanding it for use by other similar sized college campuses before growing the app for use by larger institutions.

“I thought the competition was amazing. I’m so glad we got to experience this and I plan on using this experience going forward. I hope the app takes off and I can continue working with this incredible group,” student Lleyton Barber said.

It was all done through the Southern Innovation Collegiate Competition. Five schools – Danville Community College, Hampden-Sydney College, Patrick and Henry Community College, Longwood University and Averett – all competed for $10,000. The pitch on Wednesday was the third and final round for the competition, which began during the fall 2021 semester when students submitted a business idea focusing on social entrepreneurship and solving a problem found in Southern Virginia. The second round consisted of submitting a written customer discovery study.

Averett’s student team, dubbed “The Founders,” were the first to take the University’s entrepreneurship course and work on such a project. The course was a two-semester commitment each student began during the fall 2021 semester, and was under direction of Business Administration Department Professor and Chair Dr. Peggy Wright and Chief Entrepreneurship and Innovation Officer John Vigouroux ’82.

The Founders – Barber, Coby Dellis, Gino Harris, Maleek Henderson, Lydie Kodio, Lotta Mattila, Morgan McKinney and Kaniyah Moore – come from a diverse background, including two international students. The group is comprised of juniors and seniors from a variety of majors including business administration, management science, computer science, sociology and computer information systems.

“The RISE Collegiate Pitch Competition was an amazing experience. This was my first pitch competition ever, and it was the most educational experience ever. I’m so proud of my Averett team and so thankful for our mentors,” McKinney said. “We have been planning our business plan since August, and it’s finally paying off.”

On Wednesday, the Founders took their app to South Boston, Va. to discuss their business plan in a five-minute window.

They began with a skit in which Barber was “missing” key events such as senior pinning, sporting events and the graduation application period.

“Guys, where are you hearing this from?” Barber asked.

In unison, the group responded to him, “Project Connect!”

Harris led the pitch with the other students remaining up front in support. As he explained to the judges, the app allows students to have a unique experience within the Averett community through an app that is for students, by students.

Following the pitch, the judges and those in attendance had the opportunity to ask questions.

Asked what made Project Connect different from other social apps, Henderson explained the app is similar to another project that didn’t make it.

“Facebook tried to create a similar application for college students in 2020. Ultimately, that project didn’t succeed,” Henderson said.

Harris explained the app is different from an Instagram or Twitter experience because it is exclusive to the Averett community and has a specific target. He went on to explain that the app is designed to be maintained by students through an internship, for example, well after members of this group have graduated.

The team received kudos from the judges for thinking beyond their time in college in terms of sustainability and longevity.

“The competition was an amazing experience and gave us a chance to create something we were all passionate about. From the very beginning it was clear for all of us that we wanted to make college studies an experience again,” Mattila said.

To watch Averett’s pitch, click here.