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On June 10, 2016, the Gallaudet Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program (GIEP) held its inaugural business pitch competition for deaf and hard of hearing entrepreneurs at Peikoff Alumni House on campus. Eight teams of deaf entrepreneurs presented their business proposals to a panel of judges and a capacity crowd of more than 80 in attendance. The competition marked the conclusion of a two-day event led by GIEP that aimed to infuse concepts of innovation and entrepreneurship into undergraduate and graduate academic fields at Gallaudet. Click here to watch a video recap.

“We were pleased to attract such a variety of exciting and viable business proposals from aspiring young deaf entrepreneurs, who traveled from as far away as Princeton, New Jersey and Rochester, New York,” said Professor Thomas Baldridge, co-director of the GIEP. “We hope this competition becomes a tradition at Gallaudet, one that is long overdue.”

The team of Benjamin Nzyuko, Patricia Suarez, ’14, and Nicolah Alharazim, ’02, won first place with their proposal for Cafe 1007, a deaf-targeted cafe located near campus. The runner-up proposal was Wavio, an all-inclusive sound alert/alarm system for deaf consumers by entrepreneur Greyson Watkins. Tied for the audience favorite award were entrepreneur Robin Gonzales, ’16, with her proposal, ASLFit, an American Sign Language-friendly online exercise training resource; and Mark Burke, ’94, with his proposal, Chicageaux Brewing Company.

“The competition was a great success! We applaud the efforts of everyone involved,” said Keith Doane, ’14, graduate administrative assistant of the GIEP, and master of ceremonies for the competition. “In the future we will continue to gain resources and overall support, and learn from others and our own previous experiences, which will help us produce a better competition. We were also very happy with our judges- whom were very diverse- as well as the community support and turnout. We had a much larger turnout than we expected on such short notice! The judges were very enthusiastic and supportive of the competitors, and gave great critique to each pitch. After the competition was over, the judges and competitors spent a good amount of time networking and exchanging advice and further feedback- and that’s the true spirit of entrepreneurship. Right now we are working closely with the winners to ensure that their visions are being carried to their final product or service.”

Other business proposals that were pitched in the competition included Emmanuel Jacq’s AUTMIC, an energy independent, unmanned military intermodal container meant for the security/defense/surveillance/border control market; Jabril Jaha’s proposal of eSTEAM+D, a virtual hub for deaf professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics; Colin Lualdi’s American Sign Language teaching program, Sign School; and Jai Almendarez, ’15, with his American Sign Language-inclusive fun competition program, ASL Trivia.

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