St. John’s Student Entrepreneurs Propose New Ideas at Pitch Johnny

December 11, 2019

What is the next big thing? Who will deliver it? That revolutionary idea might come from innovative young entrepreneurs at St. John’s University.

The University’s third annual Pitch Johnny competition featured students presenting their new ideas to a panel of judges consisting of professors and industry professionals. In addition to a $1,300 prize, the winner also will be given extra consideration and priority access to other opportunities including the Global Entrepreneurship Program and the Big East Start-up Challenge. 

Twenty teams composed of 30 students delivered presentations on their original start-up ideas on November 16 at The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies Farella Innovation Laboratory in St. Augustine Hall.

Students competed in several tracks, including undergraduate, graduate, women, veteran, nonprofit, and, for the first time, a high school track. Re-Live Project, an organization dedicated to providing financial empowerment to local youth, sponsored the high school track and provided prize money to three teams competing from local high schools.

“The high school track encourages the next generation of future innovative thinkers and allows students to create new pathways for financial empowerment,” observed Kevin James ’11C, ’13MBA, Assistant Dean, Associate Director of Operations for CCPS, and the lead organizer for Pitch Johnny 2019.

The competition is part of the College’s initiative to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition to Pitch Johnny, CCPS offers a minor in Entrepreneurship; a Study Entrepreneurship in Perugia, Italy; and the Design Factory, where teams of students work with sponsor companies to make sure the company’s ideas are well designed.

Carmine P. Gibaldi, Ed.D., Professor of Administration and Economics, delivered the welcoming address. “Regardless of whether you win the competition or not, a key behavior for success in entrepreneurship is perseverance,” he stressed. “All successful entrepreneurs have to keep trying.” Dr. Gibaldi noted that this year’s Pitch Johnny competition featured students from every college in the University.

Junior Winifred Edjeani took first place with her company Wekem, a nonprofit providing educational materials for children in Ghana through sales of handmade jewelry crafted by children in local villages. Winifred, a Government and Politics major, uses the money from jewelry sales to purchase books and computers for young children in Ghana without access to these essential materials.

“Education is a fundamental right for every child,” she observed.

Graduate student Jervel Plaisir, an Advertising Communication major and founder of Wave, a music streaming service for developing artists, took second place in the competition. Artists pay for promotion on the application, and it is free for listeners. It purports to be a more accessible streaming service that encourages artist interaction.

Computer Science major Mariyam Elshrief and Graduate Student Amandeep Kaur took third place with their phone application E-Z Market. This mobile platform allows users to utilize in-app maps for easier navigation during a shopping trip. By adding Apple Pay to the app, E-Z Market allows users to purchase groceries on their phone without waiting in line. 

All of the participants were lauded by Dean James for their creativity and entrepreneurship. “Our students display boundless creativity, and this competition is a great way for them to express that, and hopefully make their mark in the global market.”