Feature Story

October 27, 2023 | By Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan senior Ava Hurd receives a $1,000 check for winning the second annual Pitch OWU competition. Presenting the funds are (from left) Matt Vollrath, faculty director of The Woltemade Center; Drew Pang, 2015 OWU graduate and Woltemade Center board member; Cliff Hurst, assistant professor of Economics and Business; Barbara MacLeod, professor of Business Administration; and Destiny Coleman, administrative director of The Woltemade Center. (Photo by John Hulkenberg)

Pitch OWU 2023

Ohio Wesleyan Student-Entrepreneurs Compete for Funds to Support Business Ventures

The winner of Ohio Wesleyan University’s second annual Pitch OWU student-entrepreneurship competition plans to create a mobile coffee café “serving joy one cup at a time.”

Senior Ava Hurd of Grove City, Ohio, a Business Administration and Psychology double major, earned $1,000 to support the creation of CHARA, a mobile coffee café that would bring its offerings directly to consumers at children’s soccer games and other outdoor events.

“Have you ever experienced being at an outdoor sporting event early in the morning because your team got the unlucky 8 a.m. game, and it’s freezing outside, and all you want is something warm in your hands and a little pick-me-up?” Hurd asked the Pitch OWU judges during her five-minute, timed presentation.

CHARA would come to the rescue, she explained, rolling through the grass and right up to fans sitting on the sidelines to provide coffee, hot chocolate, tea, and other drinks. Over time, she would like to add food, with a pre-order option. Revenue would come not only from product sales but also from an event fee charged to organizations that hire CHARA.

“What’s really going to make us most unique is our customer service,” Hurd said. “CHARA means ‘joy’ in Greek, and that’s what we’re going to strive to provide to our customers, just a little bit of extra joy every day.”

Landon Kuhn is named first runner-up and earns $750 at Pitch OWU to support the launch of ‘My Soccer Coach,’ a soccer coaching app that would grow and evolve his current coaching business, Footy Academy. (Photo by John Hulkenberg)

Hurd was one of 10 Ohio Wesleyan students pre-qualified to present at Pitch OWU, competing for cash prizes of $1,000, $750, and $500 for the top three finishers. The competition is part of Ohio Wesleyan’s Latham Bishop Ventures (LBV) program, designed to support any OWU student interested in becoming a next-generation business trailblazer. LBV is overseen by The Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship.

After the OWU students completed their presentations at the Oct. 25 event, they answered three minutes of questions posed by Pitch OWU’s panel of judges: Cliff Hurst, Ohio Wesleyan assistant professor of Economics and Business; Barbara MacLeod, OWU professor of Business Administration and managing director for Golden Seeds; and Drew Pang, product manager for Columbus-based Quantum Health. Pang is a 2015 OWU graduate and a member of The Woltemade Center alumni advisory board.

The judges awarded first runner-up honors and $750 to junior Landon Kuhn of Lewis Center, Ohio, a Business Administration major and Finance minor. An OWU men’s soccer midfielder, Kuhn sought funding to launch “My Soccer Coach,” an app that would grow and streamline his coaching business, Footy Academy, and provide clients with “a cheaper alternative to private training.” My Soccer Coach would include free sessions for players of all ages and skill levels, pathways to track their progress, and optional paid coaching sessions with video feedback.

Clint Johnson (left) and Ron Netawat and earn second runner-up honors at Pitch OWU and $500 to support the development of SoyShield. Their invention is a plant-based, sprayable polyurethane coating intended to prevent corrosives such as road salt from damaging vehicles, farm machinery, and manufacturing equipment. (Photo by John Hulkenberg)

The judges awarded second runner-up honors and $500 to juniors Clint Johnson of Urbana, Ohio, a Mathematics and Chemistry double major, and Ron Netawat of Indore, India, a Mathematics and Physics double major. They sought funds to help develop their invention, “SoyShield.” It is a plant-based, sprayable polyurethane coating intended to prevent chemical corrosives such as road salt and plant fertilizer from damaging vehicles, farm machinery, and manufacturing equipment. The clear, bio-based product promises, “Soy Strong. Corrosion Gone.”

Other students participating in the Pitch OWU entrepreneurship competition were:

  • Junior Aubrey Dunham of Minerva, Ohio, a Business Administration and Fine Arts-Studio Art double major, presenting “Just a Pinch, The grocery store to fight food waste.” Dunham seeks to create a store that sells smaller sizes and quantities of food to help control cost and waste.
  • Junior Kylie Linville of Delaware, Ohio, a Business-Marketing Concentration major and Accounting minor, presenting “Linville Consulting,” a plan to grow her existing business, which helps small businesses with marketing issues and provides platform training to make them more self-sufficient.
  • First-year student Jacob Lowery of Cleveland, Ohio, a Business Administration major, presenting “Reflex Baseball,” a reimagining of his existing personal coaching business. Lowery founded Reflex Baseball in 2020 and wants to expand it to become “the Angi’s List of the baseball industry.” With the expansion, he would register other private coaches and provide them with a turnkey solution to connect with clients.
  • Senior Melissa Murray of Chardon, Ohio, a Biochemistry and Pre-Medicine double major, presenting “Flush Fun: Potty Training Made Easier.” Murray’s product would use a safe color-changing reaction to make potty training more engaging for small children.
  • Sophomores Shlok Mundhra of Dimapur, India, a Computer Science and Quantitative Economics double major, and Dhruv Sekhawat of Delaware, Ohio, a Computer Science and Data Analytics double major and Economics minor, presenting “The Book & Bean,” a student-operated evening café.

The 2023 event, held in Merrick Hall, was hosted by Destiny Coleman, administrative director of The Woltemade Center, and Matt Vollrath, the Louis A. Simpson ’58 Endowed Faculty Director of The Woltemade Center.

“I want to encourage you to keep pursuing your ideas,” Vollrath, also an associate professor of Business Administration, told the presenters. “There are lots of resources and opportunities here on campus. … Congratulations to all the participants and the three winners!”

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s Woltemade Center at owu.edu/woltemade and more about the university’s Department of Economics and Business at owu.edu/economics.