BisonTank Innovation Pitch Competition

Featured photo: Ryan Maliszewski is shown signing “innovation”.

Following the October 24, 2018 elimination round of BisonTank Innovation Pitch competition, six teams competed in the competition’s final round on December 4. Dream Cafe, a team consisting of students Ariella Dramin, Elisha Watson, Joseph Antonio, and Matthew McQuinn, won the first-place prize of $2,500.

Dream Cafe, a student-run mini cafe that provides late-night munchies, is located within the LLRH6 terrace.

BisonTank is a collaboration between Gallaudet Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (GIEI) and Convo Relay that began in fall 2018. GIEI recruited students to participate in the competition from virtually every department across campus. GIEI worked with Campus Activities, BisonTV, and University Communications to help with marketing efforts. Some alumni offered to serve as mentors for the student teams throughout the semester.

Other prize winners included Blowout To Go (Cassie Roberson), which won the second-place prize of $1,500, FEEL Expressions (Nikola Serada), which took the third-place prize of $1,000, and MunXe (Matt Sherman and Logan Waldo), which claimed the $500 fan-favorite prize.

Hosted at Peikoff Alumni House (“Ole Jim”), Storm Smith, ’10, art director of BBDO Worldwide, served as the evening’s guest host. Judges consisted of Mark Burke, ’94, co-founder of Streetcar 82 Brewery; Gregoire Youbara, World Languages and Cultures lecturer; Jarrod Musano, CEO of Convo; Katherine Lees, co-founder and owner of dozanü innovations; and President Roberta J. Cordano.

Representatives from Convo included Melissa Yingst, ’00, community and outreach coordinator; Vanessa Scarna, ’09, sales manager; Jay Kowalczyk, ’12, creative director; and Arlene Ngalle, ’17, business account manager.

Alex Abenchuchan, ’10, covered the evening on his Daily Moth show, with the help of Javier Tabares, ’16, ASL Connect digital media specialist.

Scarna, opening the pitch competition, reminded the audience of the need to support the finalists and the deaf ecosystem. For example, the DJ, pastry chef, photographer, and awards were provided by deaf-owned businesses.

“We need to come together to promote each other, bring the best out of ourselves, and be supportive,” said Scarna.

Ryan Maliszewski, GIEI director, explained that the evening was a celebration of all six teams and their entrepreneurship spirit.

“Regardless of whether the students’ business ideas transpire or not, the most important thing is that they understand what it means to have an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Maliszewski. “This is why it is so important to teach them soft skills that translate into effective leadership, storytelling, collaboration, resourcefulness, or simply advocating for themselves in all that they do in life. Entrepreneurship teaches exactly that. The success of the event would not have been possible without the support of the entire deaf community.”

The other two finalists were Bison Salon & Spa (Thia Sandefur) and SuperPockets (Emely Rodriguez and Angie Bedoya), whom Convo awarded an extra $1,000 for their choice of a charity supporting single mothers.

It was a night to be remembered.

All photos by PhenomWorks.

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