Students Pitch Entrepreneurial Ideas at Philly Competition

Photo courtesy of Rae Hodenfield


Sienna Coleman


Last week, three Ursinus students competed in the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship’s (USASBE) annual entrepreneurship competition in Philadelphia through the Ursinus U-Imagine Center.

Representing two teams—Team Trainwreck and Team Soleil—the students pitched ideas they were passionate about alongside international entrepreneurs with undergraduate and doctorate degrees. To compete for the judges’ votes in the competition, the students had to approach them, pitch their ideas, and convince them that theirs would either make money or inspire social change. Preparing their pitches along with PowerPoints, posters and business cards was a significant undertaking, but they were glad to do it.

“When you are passionate about something, it doesn’t feel like work,” said the U-Imagine Center’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Maureen Cumpstone, who is also a restaurateur and an Ursinus alumna. “Entrepreneurial spirit is about aligning your passion with your work so that you can pursue things that make you happy and create economic and social value.”

Team Trainwreck was comprised of senior Brent Garcia, a health and exercise physiology major, and junior Chase Babrich, a computer science major. Trainwreck is a “strength and fitness program aimed specifically at ultimate Frisbee players,” Babrich explained.

As part of a social media campaign before the competition, the team hosted a Frisbee tournament. They brought in twelve teams and 85 athletes from the local area, even some of the Philadelphia Spinners, to play at Ursinus. Their program would have more tournaments, host high school and youth clinics, and develop ultimate Frisbee specific strength and conditioning. Their passion for fitness, athletics and, most of all, Ultimate Frisbee led Garcia and Babrich to design their program pitch. To be part of Ursinus’ Frisbee team, which is also called Trainwreck, you can be a student at Ursinus or a member of the community. Their practices are five days a week and are open to men and women of all abilities.

“Overall it was satisfying to hear that many people thought our idea had great potential,” Babrich said. “We got lots of great ideas to mull over and consider implementing in the team.”

Garcia agreed that the experience at the USASBE competition was eye-opening.

Team Soleil, Ursinus’ second team, was junior English major Rae Hodenfield. Her mission is to combat the body negativity that is rampant on social media by Team Soleil’s pitch suggests urging peers to submit their most confident selfie along with a caption of what makes them feel confident, to promote body positivity.

“Social media is directly impacting its users, particularly women,” Hodenfield explained. “Adolescent women use social media on average five hours more than their male counterparts—in a very absorptive, passive way. This has been shown to correlate [with] body dysmorphia and depression.”

The body positivity campaign concluded with a night of confidence during which people who had been interacting with the body positivity campaign online met face-to-face, listened to live music, and played games in a positive, safe atmosphere. Team Soleil hopes to bring this campaign to the Centennial Conference and other schools nearby.

Hodenfield valued the USASBE competition as an opportunity to spread awareness and to talk to business people about the real life problem of body negativity.

“I learned how to pitch,” she said. “It was just another example of standing my ground, even when it is not necessarily easy to do so: looking people in the eye (and saying) this is what I care about, this is what I am passionate about.”

On Friday, Feb. 3, the U-Imagine Center began registering students interested in this semester’s competition. The competition will now have one track for teams with economic goals and another track for teams with goals to create social change.

The U-Imagine Center for entrepreneurial studies is open to any and all students from 7-9 p.m. during the week. There are whiteboards, a 3-D printer, and a collaborative-working space that students can use to create and innovate. Whether students want help pitching their idea at the Philly Entrepreneurship Competition, are stopping by to use the 3-D printer, or otherwise dream of changing the world, these entrepreneurs urge you to develop your passion.

“Today we need entrepreneurs to move society forward on all levels by solving very large environmental and social problems,” Cumpstone said. “[We need] businesses to be competitive in the 21st century workplace and in the global economy.”