Student entrepreneurs make an impressive impact at 21st annual Charlotte Venture Challenge

Student entrepreneurs make an impressive impact at 21st annual Charlotte Venture Challenge
Monday, May 2, 2022

The 2022 Charlotte Venture Challenge provided the proverbial cherry on top of a year-long process during which student entrepreneurs honed their business or project ideas, streamlined their plans and perfected their presentations in preparation for pitching their ideas. The goal: Win support that will help transform their envisioned enterprises into reality.  

A total of 24 individual and team entries made up of 29 students from six academic colleges competed for awards and an opportunity to continue with their ideas, create minimum viable products (early-stage versions of a product or concept that are further developed through feedback) and extend customer discovery. In the end, eight individual entrepreneurs and two teams received awards. 

The impact of 49er Impact 

New this year was the option to participate in a semester-long pilot, 49er Impact: Road to Charlotte Venture Challenge, a credential program through which students learned to identify a problem and develop a value-generating solution for it. This spring, participants developed entrepreneurial thinking skills through integrative and iterative learning. The program includes networking and mentoring opportunities, interacting with community and campus leaders, asynchronous learning modules and in-person workshops. Throughout the course, milestones were recognized with modest cash awards and prizes, providing affirmation for the students’ accomplishments and motivation to persevere. Sixteen students completed the program to earn the credential. 

“Particularly impressive were the innovative solutions the students developed to make a positive impact in the world,” said Devin Collins, director, Ventureprise Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center. “Despite the uncertainty they endured due to the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, students managed to remain focused and committed to devising solutions to enduring problems. We’re very proud to be nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs destined to make an impact wherever they decide to live and work.”

Students submitted proposals in three categories: 49er Impact, Pitch Only (for those unable to participate in 49er Impact) and 49er Foundry (for those returning from previous competitions to highlight their ideas’ progress). They had the opportunity to engage with members of the campus and general community and discuss their projects at the annual Charlotte Venture Challenge campus event April 20. 

The competition’s judges were graduates of the Inclusive Leadership Academy, a partnership between Ventureprise and City Startup Labs, and the Small Business Development and Technology Center, which includes alumni, program participants and community leaders. Those awarded support, and their ideas with links to their recorded, virtual pitches, are: 

49er Impact Category

Diana Nieto, senior, biology/Bryan Lopez Villanueva, sophomore, business
Grand Prize, $3,500
Operation Education serves as a central hub for Latinx/Hispanic students and their parents to bridge the gap between them and higher education. 

Jayna Butler, junior, health systems management
Second Place, $1,000
Break the Stigma of Food Insecurity works to solve the extreme disconnect between utilization of food security resources and the need on UNC Charlotte’s campus.

Quinn Bero, junior, organizational management
J. Chris Murphy Award, $500
Partitioned Lifting Platforms fills the gap in the home gym equipment industry for affordable and right-sized lifting platforms with a less expensive, partitioned lifting platform that can be assembled and disassembled into three pieces while maintaining product quality.

Naomi Nikita Thammadi, M.S., data science and business analytics
Graduate Category, $500
You've Got This pairs career and job search resources with existing resources in the University Career Center and Center for Graduate Life to provide a complete package of general and industry-specific career advice to help graduate students build confidence as they enter the job market. Services will include workshops that can be accessed anytime from anywhere. 

Nitika Bhatta, senior, psychology
Undergraduate Category, $500
De-Stress is an app designed to help manage daily stressors for young adults 18-24, factoring existing barriers and gaps that prevent users from accessing the resources they need. 

Imogen Anderson, sophomore, business
Crowd Favorite, $600
Fashion Sustainability is a campus-based platform designed to provide students with the information and resources to become consumers of sustainable products, particularly in regard to fashion, to combat the negative effect of “fast fashion” on the environment.  

Pitch Only Category

Sasha Sembur, sophomore, political science
Gladiolus is an independent, nonpartisan news company focusing on hard facts and no opinion that will provide reliable news on Instagram, allowing users to access a variety of credible articles on current events, upcoming elections and other topics.

49er Foundry Category

Adonis Abdullah, M.S., data science
First Place, $1,000
Hot Route Analytics is an online data analytics provider empowering amateur sports teams to be more competitive and increase their winning percentage. A group of data scientists and sports fans have collected the deepest amateur sports database, tested predictive analytic tools through pilots and partnerships with over a dozen college and semi-pro teams, and bundled them within an online platform, HomeTeam.

 Allison File, junior, mechanical engineering/Samra Kanwal, junior, management information systems, operations, supply chain management, history 
Second Place, $750
Girls Who Launch is a multifaceted social organization empowering middle school girls with the confidence and entrepreneurial mindset to become future change makers. 

 Xuan Truong, M.S.W.
Third Place, $500
The Disability Cultural Center will offer the disability community at UNC Charlotte – and those who want to learn more about their friends and peers with disabilities – a centralized space for rest, community and learning, based on a model at 10 other campuses nationwide.  

“The hard work of all the participants indicates their desire and ability to lead, whether they entered the program with an idea or it developed through the workshops,” said Laura Smailes, assistant director, Ventureprise Innovation and Entrepreneur Center. “The fact that 93% are committed to taking their ideas to the next level says a lot about the value of the 49er Impact program. It’s safe to say we haven’t heard the last of this year’s students and their ideas.”

 For playback of the judges’ feedback and competition highlights, follow Charlotte Venture Challenge on Twitter (@CLTVentureprise), Facebook (@CLTVentureprise) and Instagram (@CLTVentureprise).