Student entrepreneurs compete in business pitch off


Sam Dilocker

The contestants of the 2023 College-by-College Pitch Off.

Student-owned businesses had the opportunity to enhance their networking skills, along with the chance to win financial resources, during the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship College-by-College Pitch Off Finale Thursday.

Contestants competed in one of two categories, new idea or existing business, and were allowed 90 seconds to pitch their concept to judges.

Students were awarded first, second and third prizes for the two categories, as well as six honorable mention awards with prizes ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

First place winners for the new business category included Dakota Belling, a senior in mechanical engineering, and Eugene Meyer, a graduate student of industrial engineering and manufacturing engineering.

The team pitched their idea for their new device for the vaccination of large herds of cattle and said they plan to buy steel with their prize money.

“Practice was the biggest thing we got out of it [the competition], learning how to experience what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, and actually sell your ideas,” Belling said.

Belling said he was grateful to the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship for the opportunities provided to him.

First place winner for the existing business category, Cameryn Schafer, a senior majoring in animal ecology, pitched her business Neutra Cubes. These are lasting, freezable cubes of food for lizards and reptiles.

Schafer said she hopes to find a location closer to Ames as her business’s current location is two hours away.

“After the prelims, my co-founder and I had a conversation, and we actually decided that on the slim chance that this would happen, we would begin looking for a facility closer to Ames,” Schafer said.

Schafer said that pitching has given her many opportunities to learn and grow her communications skills.

“I’ve been pitching for a while; I started in October of 2001, and pitching has given me so much more than just like the monetary benefits because I’ve learned how to articulate not just in the sense of like my company, but also for myself,” Schafer said.

Schafer said she has enjoyed watching her own personal growth over the past because of the improved communication skills the competition has provided.

“In an indirect way pitching has allowed me to figure out how to communicate with people around me and establish boundaries and it’s benefited me in my company but also in my personal relationships,” Schafer said.

Henry Shires, a senior in mechanical engineering, and Pradyumna Dahal, a senior majoring in computer science, were given an honorable mention award for their app Casmium that tracks youth baseball team analytics.

Dahal said he hopes to expand their business and reach as many teams as possible with their sports analytics technology.

“We’re looking into hiring a sales slash marketing type more on the sales side, and really trying to focus on getting our product to as many teams and helping all the youth leagues as possible,” said Dahal.

Shires said that their journey through this competition and their previous experience competing in 2021 has been rewarding. He said their involvement led to the Cystarters program, which is where they began to work on the app.