Getting Off to a Fast Start

By Jackie Vickery '26, November 30, 2023
Startup Demo Day gives students the chance to pitch ideas.

Six groups of ambitious IC entrepreneurs had just four minutes to pitch their start-up ideas to a panel of judges who awarded cash and something even more prized: invaluable expertise, experience and exposure.

Rev: Ithaca Startup Works hosted the annual Ithaca College Startup Demo Day in November, and IC entrepreneurs presented their business concept, market projections, potential competitors, prototypes and future goals for their company.

Rev is a business incubator and startup space in downtown Ithaca that offers helpful resources, mentorship, and training for local college students, businesses, and student-founded startups.

Before the competition began, Michael Johnson-Cramer, Dean of the School of Business, addressed the crowd and thanked those who dedicated their time to support the participating entrepreneurs.

“One of my favorite things about Demo Day is that it’s a Business School sponsored event, but more importantly, it’s an Ithaca College event,” he told the audience. “The idea that this is a community that learns together with alums, community members, and faculty, helping to grow that entrepreneurial mindset, is fantastic.”

“It’s not about the prize. The money is the beginning of the learning experience. The money is the fuel that funds the venture formation work these young entrepreneurs are going to do.”

Michael Johnson-Cramer, Dean of the School of Business

After every presentation, the judges — alumnus Peyton Hawkes, financial advisor at Hawkes Wealth Management; Denise Rosplock, a long-time sustainability and business transformation expert; and David Colin ’87, CEO of T.U.C.S Cleaning Services — had a chance to pose follow-up questions to understand the logistical and creative aspects of each company. The experience is invaluable for students.

“It’s not about the prize. The money is the beginning of the learning experience,” said Johnson-Cramer. “The money is the fuel that funds the venture formation work these young entrepreneurs are going to do.”

Learn more about each group’s project below.

Spencer Thorne ’26 and Matthew Williams ’26

Students presenting

Spencer Thorne ’26 and Matthew Williams ’26 showcase their product, MOON RABBIT on a child. (Photo by Jackie Vickery '26)

Thorne, a cinema and photography major, and Williams, a business administration major, created a company called MOON RABBIT, which produces a plush, wearable, and customizable bunny accessory. The bunny has internal sensory elements sewn inside for children with sensory processing difficulties. These elements include weight and stress relief, and temperature control.

Personalization is one of the company’s top priorities, so the plush toy has an adjustable connector that attaches to different parts of the child’s body. It’s also travel-sized, which provides the children the support they need wherever they need it.

MOON RABBIT won $600 during Demo Day. With that money, Thorne and Williams hope to transition to other design models. To build up the MOON RABBIT brand, they plan to establish a website and social media presence, where they will publish the company’s values, mission statement, product description, pictures of their product, and parent reviews. 

Kyle Goff ’25, Nick Polisi ’26, and Brendon Peau ’25


Kyle Goff ’25, Nick Polisi ’26, and Brendon Peau ’25 present their start-up company Homes 2 Hearts. (Photo by Jackie Vickery ’26.)

Peau, a writing major, and Goff and Polisi, both television and digital media production majors, presented their company, Homes 2 Hearts.

Homes 2 Hearts creates customizable care packages to connect parents with their children who are away in college. The care packages are made to reduce that first-semester stress students often feel, so that when they open the box, they feel that “college is home.”

The company prioritizes customization over variation to give the customer power over the contents inside the package.

“The parent can select things such as a specific picture and have a letter written the way they want it, all the way down to the different items in the box such as stress balls, fidget toys, and college apparel,” Peau said.

The trio are partnering with local shop Via’s Cookies, owned and operated by former Demo Day participant Olivia Carpenter ’22, to provide cookies for the packages.

Homes 2 Hearts is currently focused on local colleges, such as Syracuse, Binghamton, Cortland and Cornell. After winning $800 at Demo Day, the group plans to make a website to establish an online presence, hoping to connect with a larger audience.

“This event gave me confidence in the company and shows me that there are people that want this,” Peau said. “I had students walking up to me after, talking about how they would buy a box.

“Presenting at demo day was obviously very nerve-racking, but so exciting,” he continued. “Being able to show a group of people about the thing you are passionate about is flat out wonderful to me.”

Kian Long ’26, Angelo Sinapi ’26, and Ryan Cooke ’26

Students presenting

Kian Long ’26, Angelo Sinapi ’26, and Ryan Cooke ’26 show the judges the sole prototype for the company, Clicks. (Photo by Jackie Vickery ’26)

Business majors Long, Sinapi, and Cooke presented Clicks, a shoe design with a multi-sport aspect that aims to reduce the number of cleats parents buy for their young athletes.

The vision for their product is one shoe body and an attached clicking mechanism on the bottom to allow cleats for various sports to connect to the body, providing a cost-efficient way for the parents of multi-sport athletes to outfit their children.

The group entrepreneurs received $400, which they plan to put towards buying a sewing machine to create the body of the shoe and additional promotional resources.

Aslan Shapirov ’26 and Jack Violi ’26

Demo Day

Aslan Shapirov ’26 and Jack Violi ’26 discussing the capabilities of the product and future plans for War Weight. (Photo by Jackie Vickery ’26.)

Business administration major and wrestler Aslan Shapirov and art major and MMA athlete Jack Violi presented their startup company, War Weight.

War Weight is a weight scale for athletes whose sports require weigh-ins. It allows for automatic data entry and the ability to remotely send an athlete’s information directly to the officials through the scale itself.

Shapirov, a wrestler his whole life, was inclined to make a product that would cut costs, save time for officials, and make the weigh-in process safer for athletes. The War Weight scale has advanced features such as a touch screen to input information and a camera for user identification and to monitor cheating.

With the $800 they received, the pair plan to build up their product’s recognition through social media and collaborate with coaches, organizations, and officials who work directly with sport commissions.

“We felt the pressure of the real experience and feel more able to market ourselves in the world of entrepreneurship and business,” said Violi of the experience. “We were given some new suggestions from the judges and fellow entrepreneurs afterwards that we will take into consideration while pursuing the creation of our new product. This truly guided us into the real world of entrepreneurship.”

Kendal Burno ’26, Jake Connolly ’25, and David Diaram ’24

Burno, a legal studies major; Connolly, a communication management and design major; and Diaram, a business administration and finance major, came up with the company White Willow Delights, which they call “a sweet relief to all your pains.”

The three entrepreneurs are all athletes in high-contact sports, which inspired the creation of their startup company. White Willow Delights creates baked goods such as cookies, brownies, and granola bars made from ingredients such as ginger, turmeric, and white willow bark. Because the ingredients are proven anti-inflammatories — white willow bark contains a compound called salicin, which is similar to aspirin — but contains none of the side effects of traditional painkillers, the trio see the foods as a tasty, healthy alternative to aspirin.

White Willow Delights received $800 to help their business expand. Burno, Connolly, and Diaram hope to expand their menu and share their idea with athletes and sports medicine professionals.

Travis Jones ’23

Student Presenting

Travis Jones ’23 explains his wishes for the future of his startup company, All American Wrestling. (Photo by Jackie Vickery ’26.)

Senior accounting and computer science major Travis Jones presented his startup company, All American Wrestling, which is producing a top-notch wrestling simulation game with realistic visuals and motion capture animation.

Jones has been wrestling since he was six years old. He is a three-time captain of the IC wrestling team, a two-time national qualifier, and is currently a volunteer coach. He is also an accomplished game developer who has published over 20 online games and has two commercial releases on Steam, a PC gaming platform.

His vision for the game is to “bring the approachable but complex experience of wrestling to players with and without prior experience.

“There is zero competition. Nothing has ever been done like this to this scale. The time to do it is now,” he said. “We can bring one of the oldest Olympic sports to the next generation of gamers.”

Jones was awarded $1,000, which he plans to use to hire artists to create top-grade visuals.