Twelve teams of Ithaca College student entrepreneurs competed in the first annual Startup Idea Demo Day on Thursday, Nov. 17, to take home a combined $6,500 in prizes.
The event, hosted by Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, gave students the opportunity to pitch business ideas to a panel of local entrepreneurial experts and network with business leaders. The judges included Michael Axelrod ’91, partner at LiquidHub; Julie Baker, co-founder of Ursa Space Systems; and John Alexander, founder of CBORD Group.
Each team had four minutes to present their idea, followed by four minutes of questions and answers with the judges. Mia Pankoski ’17 helped organize the event and said that the partnership with Rev has given students exposure to entrepreneurship as it is in the business world.
“This is a large sum of money that students are working hard for,” Pankoski said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to branch out of the classroom and into a place that’s meant for entrepreneurship to grow.”
Cory Kimmell ’17 and Meagan Priest ’18 took home the highest prize of $1,440, including a $200 sustainability award for the most impactful environmental idea. They pitched MyCo Ceiling, a non-toxic decomposable ceiling tile made from mushroom roots.
Kimmell said he has been working with mushrooms for years, and had started experimenting with different strains to create a prototype to be used for everyday life. “My business partner Meg Priest and I then brainstormed products we could apply this to and the rest just fell into place,” Kimmell said.
With the winnings, Kimmell and Priest plan to work toward patenting their product, continuing research and producing prototypes. They also plan to test the fire resistance, acoustic properties and durability of their ceiling tile alternative.
Both Kimmell and Priest are board members of the Ithaca College Young Entrepreneur Organization, and said that they want to emphasize the importance of learning from experience, no matter the outcome.
“We made it very clear to our members that there is no winning or losing, at the end of the day you are learning from your success or lack thereof,” Kimmell said.
The second highest prize of $1,000 was awarded to Ana Coulibaly ’20 for her apparel brand, Aniko, featuring handmade products that apply Western style to African fabrics. Coulibaly moved to the U.S. from West Africa at age 14, and said she loves that she can combine her background with her love for fashion.
“I've been into fashion and designing things for as long as I can remember and I love a mix of different cultures,” Coulibaly said. “That's why I started this brand.”
With her prize money, Coulibaly said she hopes to start prototyping her designs and marketing the brand.
Ten other teams shared the remainder of the prize money.