HPU students earn start-up funds at Annual Elevator Pitch Competition

High Point University students pitched their business ideas to a panel of judges and earned thousands of dollars in start-up funds during the annual Elevator Pitch Competition on Nov. 15.

The annual competition is part of HPU’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, an international initiative that introduces entrepreneurship to young people across the globe. There were 15 students who competed this year for funding to launch their companies or continue developing their business plans. At the competition, four businesses were recognized and awarded start-up funds.

Vivian Love won first place and received $7,000 for her business, aircierge, which she described as a virtual concierge to elevate guest services for Airbnbs. For $29, a customer gets an easy-to-use cube that uses artificial intelligence to generate a guide for any of the 4 million Airbnb hosts across 100,000 cities worldwide in 40 different languages. For the host, aircierge can streamline guest services while providing incentives for better reviews, Love said. She recognized a need for this product while attending a sporting event in Spain, where she didn’t want to miss any attractions.

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“Studying abroad changed my life,” said Love, a senior entrepreneurship major from San Francisco. “I was so frustrated, and I knew there was something I could do about it. We’ve been working on aircierge for about a year now. It’s been such a journey. I’m excited for next year. It’s finally time we’re able to put this out into the world. I can’t wait to go to an Airbnb in South Africa, in Colombia and all over the world and see an aircierge there. I’m overjoyed and incredibly grateful right now.”

Second place and $5,000 was awarded to Gena Ghandour, a sophomore psychology major and entrepreneurship and philosophy minor from Charlotte and Jasmine Bennett, a sophomore interior design major from Bramwell, W. Va. Their business, Reach the Bar, offers a gym accessory designed to help short people access weight training equipment more easily.

Reeve Fatuova, a Class of 2026 entrepreneurship major from Ramsey, N.J., took third place and earned $3,000 for her business BUSTZ, a quality sports bra she developed for women athletes.

Three students tied for fourth place and earned $1,000 each for their business development.

Quinten Barrial, a senior business administration major and entrepreneurship minor from Atlanta presented LOAI, a product development company that fellow entrepreneurs can join to participate in a monthly call to help generate ideas and facilitate product development.

Alex Berger, a senior sport management major from Gladwyne, Pa., presented Sports Matching, an app for 18- to 35-year-olds who want to play pick-up sports but lack a platform to connect.

Julia Thackston, a senior entrepreneurship and marketing double major from Surf City, N.J., presented The Stall Pocket, a 5×7-inch stainless steel package to adhere to the inside of bathroom stall doors in public restrooms to provide a convenient and sanitary place for cellphones.

The Rock Star Rookie Award and $2,000 was presented to Maura Malichio, an entrepreneurship major from New York City for her Retreat app. Malichi said the app is designed to help cellphone customers wean from constant use of their phones and encourage personal interactions. Gary Simon of Simon Jewelers sponsored the award for a second consecutive year.

In addition to Simon Jewelers, sponsors included Troy Knauss; Steve and Jackie Bell of The Bell Foundation; the HPU Business Accelerator Fund; FirstPoint, Inc./Guilford Merchants Association; and the Bailey and Trey McKee Entrepreneurship Fund.

This year’s judges were Brent Allen, founder and general partner of Carolina Acquisition Partners; Daniel H. McCollister II, president and chairman of McCollister’s Global Services; and Amanda Steele, managing director of Crawford 1031 Advisors.

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