Encouraging Entrepreneurship

By Marisa Thomas ’22, June 9, 2021
Startup Demo Day provides opportunities for student businesses to shine.

At the end of the spring semester, Ithaca College held its annual Startup Demo Day where five groups of entrepreneurial students presented their startup idea to a panel of alumni and business professionals. A total of $15,000 dollars was awarded to the contestants to help them develop their companies and cover business expenses. 

The virtual event was hosted by Brad Treat, an instructor of management in the School of Business. The judges were John Sanna 82, CEO of ScoreCommunications; Brett Smith MBA 18, executive director of advancement at the Rockwell Museum; and Marc Jones, CEO of Dreissig Apparel Inc. and Fan Hands LLC. 

Each group had eight minutes to pitch their startups, followed by a four-minute Q&A session with the panel.

“The fact that we’re given opportunities like this is moving us forward in our real lives beyond college. I couldn’t ask for something better.”

Olivia Carpenter ’22

The Harbor Lights foundation was the event’s primary donor, providing $10,000 for the event. In addition, there were smaller awards up for grabs such as the sustainability awards and the audience choice award, which was determined by event viewers.

The largest amount of money went to Olivia Carpenter ’22, who won $5,800 for her startup, Via’s Cookies. Carpenter’s company sells a wide variety of cookies using natural ingredients and has gluten free and vegan options. The company, which she started when she was in high school, also donates five percent of its profits to social justice issues.

“I feel like part of my mission here on earth is to do something better and to help people that are in the same situations I was in,” she said. “I just want to make the world a better place.”

“Winning part of the sustainability award makes me feel good because I’m actually doing more than I thought I was doing.”

Olivia Carpenter ’22

In addition, Carpenter was also awarded $300 from the sustainability award as well as $500 from the audience choice award.  

“Winning part of the sustainability award makes me feel good because I’m actually doing more than I thought I was doing,” she said.

She plans to use the money for supplies and to attend a virtual bake fest where there will be an opportunity to network with famous bakers and other industry experts. However, she added that the impact of Demo Day goes beyond the funding the students receive.

“The fact that we’re given opportunities like this is moving us forward in our real lives beyond college,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for something better.”

Emmy Bataille ’22, creator of Greenhouse Planners, a service that customizes planners using seeded paper that can be planted and turned into spices, wildflowers or other plants after it’s used, received a total of $1,850, including $100 of the sustainability award. With the money, Bataille will patent the idea and create prototypes of the seeded paper.

Being green has been part of Bataille’s lifestyle and she sees the sustainability award as recognition of her work paying off. 

“My goal was to reduce paper consumption or utilize paper consumption in a more sustainable way, a greener way, that’s better for the Earth.”

Emmy Bataille ’22

“My goal was to reduce paper consumption or utilize paper consumption in a more sustainable way, a greener way, that’s better for the Earth,” she said.

Noah Gramitt 21, Jacob Applebaum 23, and Jacob Engelman 22 started Ithaca Pickled Red Onions to focus on using pickled red onions to create healthy, tasty meal options using organic materials, locally grown onions and sugar alternatives. The trio was awarded $3,600 including $100 of the sustainability award.

The company came from Gramitt’s belated realization that, unlike him, not everyone always had a  container full of pickled onions in their fridge.

“Once I moved into an apartment with roommates, I realized that this was not normal,” he said.

With the funding they’ve received so far, Gramitt says they could manufacture about 700 jars of pickled red onions. They’ll use the funds for materials that can be used to grow the brand, such as labels. Gramitt added that the competition gave him valuable experience on articulating his company’s vision.

“It totally pushed me out of my comfort zone, but I feel like having the experience means I’m going to be much more confident.”

Noah Gramitt ’21

Issac Hadac’s ’23 idea for the Dawg Athletics line came last summer as he began posting to his social media workout account. Hadac plans on using the $2,000 he received to help with inventory costs and getting some of his products out. 

“It gives me additional funds to take action in starting my business,” Hadac said, “It’s a huge honor because it really encourages self-sufficiency, independence and entrepreneurship.”

Brendan Lebitsch ’23 founded Merger after running into an issue with his other business, Highlife Tech. He found that a lot of people would ask him about whether he knew of possible designers for their brands and products. 

“It dawned on me that there wasn’t any platform where people could find graphic designers,” he said. 

“If you really believe in the company and like what you’re doing, just do it. Bet on yourself and never look back. I think that's the biggest thing I took from it.”  

Brendan Lebitsch ’23

He plans to build a web-based application with the $1,750 in funding he received. Previously, Lebitsch had been building his brand on Instagram by posting and featuring brands, designers, and manufacturers. He felt that the experience taught him to go all in on his vision.

“If you really believe in the company and like what you’re doing, just do it,” said Lebitsch.Bet on yourself and never look back. I think that's the biggest thing I took from it.”