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Honors & Awards
April 5, 2023

Announcing the Winners of This Year’s Pitch Competition

By Stiven Vasquez Nunez

On March 28, eight student entrepreneurs competed for start-up money in front of judges and the audience at the sixth annual #BuildYourDream pitch competition, co-sponsored by the Center for Entrepreneurship and the Business Innovation Club.

Jacob Meyers won first place and scored the audience prize with his streetwear and lifestyle brand, SB Studios. Stephany Portillo Hidalgo placed second with her fair-trade artisanal jewelry store, Orquídea. Third place went to Christopher Safi for his non-profit Little Golden Light, which supports child cancer patients.

The judges — Ruth Shin of PropertyNest, Joann Halpern of the Hasso Plattner Institute in New York, SFC professors Jonathan W. Williams and Monique Okumakpeyi, and former SFC professor Eda Sanchez-Persampieri, dean of graduate studies at LIM College — evaluated the student businesses based on innovation, market demand, their support of the U.N.’s Sustainability Goals and their smart use of technology.

“It was a fierce competition. All pitch contestants showed how they can create a positive impact for our society and planet with their business,” said Shin. “Some of the emerging entrepreneurs compete with large-market incumbents. It was important to show how they carve out a niche that truly sets them apart.”

Besides Meyers, Portillo Hidalgo and Safi, the other contestants in this year’s SFC #BuildYourDream competition were:

  • Hamidu Barrie, the creator of Tech Salone, a digital-skills teaching hub in Sierra Leone;
  • Elijah Challenger-Lewis, a real-estate developer with a more sustainable approach to land leasing, and his company, Galloway Developments;
  • Jenny Duong, the founder of the sustainable clothing and tailoring company Jay’s Closet;
  • Billy Pavlou, the founder of the youth athletic coaching and training business Next Level NYC; and
  • Tyla Tynes, the founder of Pro-Choice Vending, LLC.

“The #BuildYourDream pitch competition is one of many initiatives led by the SFC management and IT department that help students develop entrepreneurial skills and invite them to unleash their creativity while thinking about how technology is changing business models,” noted Dennis Anderson, chair of the management and IT department at SFC.

“One area we focus on is how students can contribute to a more circular and inclusive economy with their businesses. Our student entrepreneurs think about how they can shape the future of their communities and our global society with their ideas,” commented assistant professor of management and IT Katja Schroeder, the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.

The SFC Center for Entrepreneurship also hosts a #BuildYourBrand workshop series, which teaches students to use digital and social channels for brand building and positioning.

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