A tea purveyor, an author, a prosthetics designer and an esports fan were among the entrepreneurs competing for a share of $25,000 as part of the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center's Purpose Pitch competition.
It was the second year for the event, which judged organizations on the purpose of the business mission and how it would fulfill that objective. The leadership team had to have a DePaul connection as either current or former faculty, staff or student.
AK Prosthetics, Furever Home Friends, Universala Esports and 10th Avenue Tea were given five minutes to present their pitch to a panel of four judges on May 3 at the 1871 tech incubator.
"The four finalists each had very different business ideas, but they were very passionate about their cause," says Bruce Leech, executive director of the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center. "The Coleman Entrepreneurship Center was proud to showcase these great entrepreneurs and help them move forward with their purpose-driven businesses."
Here's a look at the 2018 Purpose Pitch finalists:
Ann Foley, a College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences graduate, co-founded the company in 2015 after reading about the waste created by single-serve drink machines. She wanted to create a natural beverage with less packaging and eventually settled on an instant matcha tea powder in an aluminum shaker bottle. The product is now in 275 retail stores throughout Chicago.
"A lot of college kids use our tea because it's tiny and can fit in a backpack," Foley says. "It doesn't take up a lot of space."
Her company was awarded $15,000 in the competition which Foley says will all go toward marketing.
"Our struggle is consumer education," she says. "We would love to do videos."
Started by College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences student Adero Knott, AK Prosthetics will use augmented reality, 3-D scanners and 3-D printers to create prosthetic limbs. Knott, who is pursuing a degree in Chinese and economics, says she got the idea to start the company in 2015 after her prosthetic arm fit incorrectly after weight loss. With prosthetic limbs averaging $25,000, finding a replacement can be cost-prohibitive.
"The process of getting a prosthetic limb in the U.S. can be very frustrating especially if you don't have insurance," Knott says. "I want to create high-tech solutions and make them affordable and accessible."
She plans to use her $5,000 Purpose Pitch award to create a prototype.
The area of esports, video game competitions that often draw spectators, is gaining ground in the United States. Cities are converting movie theaters into gaming arenas and universities, including DePaul, are opening esports centers. Esteban Perez, a Driehaus College of Business student, wants to help Chicago develop its esports industry through Universala Esports, an event planning and community-centered business he hopes to open on the city's West and South sides.
"I'm trying to facilitate education and skill development through video games," Perez says. "Esports might lead them to a career in computing or design or filmmaking."
Perez plans to use his $3,000 award for legal fees necessary to launch and incorporate his business.
Savy Leiser, a graduate student in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, released in August her first two children's books in what she hopes is a long series about shelter dogs. Each book tells the story of an actual shelter dog in an effort to educate readers about social issues and help dogs in need. Leiser will donate 10 percent of her profits to animal shelters. This year, Furever Home Friends will re-release a line of stuffed animals that accompany each book.
Leiser received $2,000 in the Purpose Pitch competition, money she says will be used to host more events and increase her company's social media presence.