By: Amanda Carroll, Staff Writer
Photo by Amanda Carroll/The Towerlight
In a showdown to select TU’s best entrepreneur, finalists from the Big Idea Poster Competition and preliminary round of Tiger Cage came together for the final round of Tiger Cage Wednesday, Nov. 1.
Each contestant or team had five minutes to pitch their business idea to a panel of three judges. Immediately following their pitch was a five minute question-and-answer session where the judges could ask questions to the candidates.
The finalists were Sierra Cossou, Kendall Gant, Trey Mick, Elssa Kenfack, Ken Musika, and a team of Jorge Brito and University of Maryland College Park student Roman Fuentes.
Their business ideas ranged from a local coffee shop in Talbot County, an app that discounted food that was close to expiration, a medical/legal marijuana sommelier and an organization that would provide volunteer trips to under-resourced youth.
After deliberation, the winner of the competition was Sierra Cossou, who pitched a food delivery company called “Mall Mate” that would enable mall workers to order from the food court and get that food delivered right to their store.
The idea of this business came from her own experience as a mall employee. There were times Cossou could not leave her store to grab food.
Cossou described her experience of competing in Tiger Cage as “nothing short of amazing.”
“I got an opportunity to pitch my business in front of judges who are credible and really know the ins and outs of business,” she said. “Of course, I was nervous at first but once I really got going, the nervousness went away and I was completely focused on effectively pitching my business to them.”
In winning the competition, Cossou took home $500, a Tiger Cage trophy, and first pick of a consulting package from The StartUp Nest, EdTech and Student Launch Pad.
“I plan to use the money I won from this competition and the previous one [Big Idea Poster Competition] to invest into my business,” Cossou said. “I felt even more motivated knowing that my pitch was approved by judges who are knowledgeable, experienced and successful.”
The runner-up to the competition was Gant, who received $300 and a second pick of a consulting package.
The judges for the final round of competition were Jason Weisenthal, founder and CEO of WallMonkeys.com, Brian Ellis, director of the Ratcliffe Foundation, and Angie Barnett, President of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland.
In addressing all finalists, Ellis emphasized the importance of an elevator speech for entrepreneurs.
“If we didn’t know what you were doing in the first 30 seconds, you lost us,” he said.
Rounding out a list of top five things to focus on, Ellis advised that entrepreneurs should focus on realistic startup costs, telling a story through their pitch, bringing passion to their project, and considering feasibility.
He cautioned that “most of your businesses will fail,” but that students should not let that discourage them.
Weisenthal advised that any entrepreneur should “be real with yourself.”
He had entrepreneurs ask themselves, “Do I have the skills to execute this idea? Is it reasonably priced? Even if you have the idea, are you the actual right person to pull it off?”
Barnett recommended that students focus on local issues when starting a business.
“Have a relationship and experience of how that problem exists locally,” she said.
For students interested in learning more about entrepreneurship or building a stronger skillset for building a business, they can visit the Student Launch Pad on the fourth floor of Cook Library. With workshops, competitions and an annual Demo Day, the center is a resource to any student.
Tiger Cage was hosted by Towson’s chapter of Enactus, a club that fosters entrepreneurial spirit as members design projects to overcome challenges both on and off-campus.