Student Entrepreneurs Learn the Value of Networking at 2017 Shark Tank Competition

Student participants in the 2017 Shark Tank Business Pitch Competition.

When it comes to being successful in business, whether you are an entrepreneur, a small business owner or a corporate leader, having a network of support is a necessity. This valuable lesson was a major theme throughout the latest Shark Tank Business Pitch Competition, which was recently held at Saint Peter’s.

The event is held annually by the School of Business at Saint Peter’s University and involves industry experts, also known as sharks, who judge students’ business pitches based on an intense rubric. This year the event was sponsored by Investors Bank and the judges included John Cannon ’89, managing director, equity sales trader for Mizuho Securities Co., Ltd.; Paloma de Leon, assistant vice president and branch manager for Investors Bank; Haytham Elgalwy, owner of The Clearport; Carlos Gutierrez, chief executive officer of Highline Point Group, LLC. and managing director of Golden Seeds, LLC; Susan Melamud, vice president of Hazen and Sawyer and SCORE mentor; Toni Ann Turco ’86, founder of Home for Good Dog Rescue; and Vanessa Quijano, business coordinator for the Jersey City Economic Development Corp.

The judges had the chance to hear business pitches ranging from hot sauce to skin care with ten presentations in total, but the final winner was Karen Castaneda ’18 of Pup Pawps, a company with a mission to create a bonding experience with pets and their owners by sharing delicious desserts.

The second place prize went to Anthony Tavares ’20 and his company Since91Clothing, which brings vintage style clothing to the new age market at an affordable price. Tavares searches for vintage street and sportswear and resells the merchandise. His passion for his business was evident in his presentation. He described the work he puts in scouring flea markets to find coveted pieces. “You never know what you will find, but you put so much of yourself into finding merchandise that when you acquire a great find, you value it that much more,” he said.

Shark Tank judges (from left) Toni Ann Turco ’86, John Cannon ’89, Carlos Gutierrez, Susan Melamud, Paloma de Leon, Haytham Elgalwy and Vanessa Quijano.

Both the first and second place winners were presented with some excellent partnership opportunities from the judges. Turco, who developed the 100 percent foster-based, non-profit dog rescue, Home for Good Dog Rescue, offered to share Castaneda’s business on her social media channels, which have more than 20,000 followers. She also offered to sell Pup Pawp products in one of her retail pet stores. Elgawly, owner of The Clearport, a clothing store in McGinley Square, knows many of the Saint Peter’s students who regularly visit his retail space. This Jersey City-native features pop-up shops within his store for specialty items and offered Tavares the opportunity to sell some of his merchandise in a vintage section of his store.

The third place winner was Buccianti Pili Pili, a hot sauce company developed by Paolo Buccianti ’20. Other companies included Creatio ex niKilo, an apparel brand represented by O’Shea Bostic. Glorgeous LLC., a skincare brand pitched by Ahmed Elzoghoby ’18. Project Nest, an educational software system developed by Robert Martin ’21; FlyCuts, an app for barber services developed by Wayaz Mirza ’18; Big Eats, a lifestyle advocacy group developed by Jah’Fear Toler ’21; Timely Wash, an app for a convenient laundry experience by Carmen Esquilin ’19; and IcedOut, a business concept for a company that would produce winter tools developed by Mahlik Aronategui ’21.

“The Shark Tank Business Pitch Competition is a great avenue for student entrepreneurs to gain hands on experience in entrepreneurship, said Judge Carlos M. Gutierrez, Jr. “The process of identifying an idea, developing a viable business plan and ultimately sharing it with an audience is invaluable preparation for the business world.”