Student entrepreneurs test their pitch skills at annual competition

April 3, 2014

Interested in learning more about the Rouge River Watershed? Looking for a new way to design a t-shirt?

Student entrepreneurs’ passions were on display as they pitched solutions to these and other ideas during the Elliott Initiative Business Idea Pitch Competition on Wednesday, April 2. Students from the College of Business, College of Engineering and Computer Science,  and College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters participated in the event.

“It was a very safe environment, which enabled me to pitch an idea that I was passionate about,” said contestant Chandar Balakumar.

Judges included entrepreneurs and business developers from the Detroit area. They gave contestants advice and feedback on their pitches. Judges and participants had a networking session following the prize ceremony to continue conversations of the great ideas presented.

“You just never know if the next Mark Zuckerberg is sitting in this room tonight about to present the next billion dollar idea,” said College of Business Dean Raju Balakrishnan. “This type of event shows how innovative our students are. The hands-on experience gained from participating will help them succeed no matter what career path they choose.”

Three of the ten proposals won a cash award to help develop their ideas. Pitches were judged on a variety of factors: Clearly describing the business idea, demonstrating knowledge of competitors, identifying consumer/market for product and conveying passion for their idea/product.

The winning pitches were:

  • Veterans Refuge Network, pitched by Andrew Turner, Laura Chirio, and Jamie Turner, receiving $1,500: The Veterans Refuge Network provides a place for counseling and treatment  for veterans coming home from active duty, to receive support as they transition to civilian life.

  • DineRoll, pitched by Jasmine Rostkowski, receiving $1,000: This mobile app will allow users to find local restaurants, viewing menus and customer reviews to help them decide where to go for dinner.

  • River Rouge Watershed App, pitched by Usha Kadayla and Jeff Muller, receiving $500: This phone app will allow users to take a self-guided tour of the Rouge River watershed, based on the tour given by Dr. Orin Gelderloos.

For more information on the Elliott Initiative Business Idea Pitch Competition, contact College of Business Associate Professor Joy Beatty by email:

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