Pitch Competition awards student businesses thousands of dollars

Kelsee Brady, Campus Carrier Staff Writer

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With Umberger’s minor in animal science, he is able to understand and care for his crossbred cattle, like this newborn calf (above). Photo courtesy of Ben Umberger.

On Feb. 8, the entrepreneurial program’s Pitch Competition hosted its five finalists who pitched their business ideas to a panel of four judges with experience in entrepreneurship. All finalists were guaranteed a monetary award by making it to the final round of the competition. The finalists, junior Josie Hadaway, senior Ben Umberger, junior Jorie Hodapp, sophomore Harmony Petty and senior Anthea Phitides all had differing business ventures. From working with cattle to hand lettering, the competition was tough with the extremely diverse fields.

The top two prizes were a $10,000 Ford Foundation Award and a $7,500 Chairman’s Challenge Award. Umberger and Hadaway were the recipients of these awards, respectively.

Umberger’s pitch involved his cattle business, Umberger Farms, where he crossbreeds Hereford and Angus cattle. Umberger is a senior business management major with an animal science minor. He combines both degrees to practice sustainable grazing techniques with one long-term goal in mind.

“My long-term vision for it is to eventually be able to take all the ways that I raise the cows the rotational grazing in the environmental sustainability and use that to take it to other countries where they don’t have all of this knowledge,” Umberger said. “The goal is to share these techniques so that they can create an income, provide food, and reduce desertification in their grasslands.”

Hadaway’s business is vastly different from Umberger’s. She currently runs her own Etsy shop, Written by J, where she hand letters a variety of stationery and home decor. The business officially launched in May 2017, however, the journey began around a year earlier.

“I just decided to try watercolor hand lettering one afternoon, and I really enjoyed it. I had about 80 paintings within a week, and then, I just started selling them to family and friends, and it really took off,” Hadaway said.

When it came to preparation for the competition, both participants attended “pitch practices” where an M.B.A. student, David Lillie, assisted contestants in refining their pitches.

“He was really helpful in helping us hone in our pitches and align what we wanted to say with what the judges wanted to hear. That really helped,” Hadaway said.

Umberger, along with the practices, also pitched his idea to fellow students who had no background in business or animal science to insure that the pitch made sense to any audience.

Overall, both participants wanted to thank the business department, the donors who made the competition possible and Professor of Management Paula Englis, who assisted with the entire process.

“I was really impressed with the competition, and with Dr. Englis, and just that she was able to put all of that on,” Umberger said. “I think she really loves working with students who really have a passion for entrepreneurship and starting a business. So I’m very thankful and fortunate to be part of that.

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