On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Belmont students competed in the Thomas F. Cone Sr. Center for Entrepreneurship’s Business Pitch Competition. The winners of this year’s competition are Javier Castellon Villanueva in first place, Jess Finney in second place and Charlotte Harrison in third place. The People’s Choice Award went to Alex Becker. The pitch competition promotes student business initiatives by allowing them to give a one-minute, shark tank-style business pitch to a panel of judges with the first place winner receiving $2,000, second place receiving $1,000, third place receiving $500 and People’s Choice Award receiving $250. Each of the winning students will use the prize money to grow their businesses.
Villanueva wants to use the first-place prize money to advance his business, Elementary.ai, which is an online AI driven program helping guide students through complex subjects like calculus by offering simple yet in-depth solutions to their questions. While the program was initially developed as a resource for homeschooled students, Villanueva dreams of one day expanding his business to the private school network.
Second place winner Finney is excited at the prospect of using the money to grow the business she runs with her sister. Recognizing that the coffee and tea market is a booming industry in Nashville, and also believing chai tea has become detached from its cultural roots, her business Chechi’s Chai hopes to reinvigorate zeal for authentic chai in Nashville. She dreams of one day opening a brick-and-mortar store which will employ and empower Indian women.
Harrison, third place winner, is looking to use her money to expand her small art design business, Peyton Jane Design. While her paper products are currently popular in the on-campus store House Of — which is a student-run, community-focused retail experience — Harrison hopes to expand her business to local paper goods shops soon.
Winner of the People’s Choice Award prize Becker wants to expand his brand, Neurodivergent, which is a personal training business for the creative mind. He focuses on creative physical and mental well-being and believes that artists should not operate under the mindset that they need to suffer to be successful. His work aims to prioritize mental well-being in the creative community.
Judges included three Belmont alums: Clark Buckner, co-founder of Relationary Marketing; Sarah Beth Perry, founder of With The Band; and Ryan Reisdorf, Entrepreneur-in-Residence with the Cone Center and founder of Placemat.
Along with the three judges, Belmont faculty and staff applauded student entrepreneurs who were brave enough to pitch their ideas before the crowd, calling attention to the diverse range of business ideas represented, from online shops to artist management and development, security consulting and creative freelancing work. “We were blown away by the amazing pitches at our competition today,” said Executive Director of the Cone Center for Entrepreneurship, Elizabeth Gortmaker. “Our student entrepreneurs were incredibly prepared and poised and shared inspiring business ideas. The Cone Center for Entrepreneurship was thrilled to open up a second pitch competition this year due to the growing number of student entrepreneurs applying to pitch. We can’t wait to see what these students do next!”
This competition was a precursor to the larger business pitch competition that will be held in March. The Thomas F Cone Sr. Center for Entrepreneurship aims to help all student entrepreneurs regardless of major to exceed in their business plans.