4/20: Finishing the Academic Year Strong With March Firestarter

In late March, the Vanderbilt Center for Entrepreneurship hosted its final Firestarter Pitch Competition of the academic year. Firestarters are intended to be an empowering learning experience where students walk away with constructive feedback to improve their business and pitch strategy, and potentially win funding. Pitches are made to a panel of Vanderbilt alumni or local entrepreneurs and investors that are eager to help students from various schools navigate the early stages of entrepreneurship.

Judges for the March Firestarter were Ethan Fedida (BA ‘12), Co-Founder of Campfire Group, Liz Rogers (BA ‘11), Founder and Creative Director of Anacrusis, Woody Klemmer (BA ‘13), Head of Growth at Formotiv, Sam Graber, entrepreneur, podcast host, and media producer, and Alex Morton, Managing Director at Actual Insights Solutions. 

Five student teams presented their business concepts, all ranging in the different stages of business development. The five student teams included:

Cottage Software: Presented by Neil Granberry (Owen MBA ‘23) and Hunter Hodnett

The world is changing, hiring developers is hard, and finding the right expertise can feel impossible. Cottage Software is built to ease the transition with on-demand access to in-demand skill sets within the domain of software engineering. Cottage matches engineers with startups to perform tasks on a part time basis. 

Crave Gum: Presented by Faisal (Fez) Ahmed (Owen MBA ‘23)

Crave Gum gives you all the flavor, without the guilt. Recognizing a lack of effective dessert substitutes in the market, Crave Gum offers a gum assortment of your favorite dessert flavors packed with health benefits: organic, vegan, GMO-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free.

TalentED: Presented by Tyquan Morton (M.Ed. ‘22)

Morton, a former educator, recognized that K-12 educators have a difficult time changing careers and transitioning into new industries. TalentED is a solution that provides community resources like career development, and apprenticeships to help former educators transition into new tech roles or industries. 

Liza’s Loaves: Presented by Liza Moskowitz (Owen MBA ‘22)

Liza began baking challah in her home kitchen in March 2020 and has plans to turn this hobby into Liza’s Loaves: Nashville’s first challah microbakery. With Liza’s Loaves, her goal is to braid bread and build community in the Nashville area. Liza’s loaves prioritizes connecting to authentic culture through community, food, and shared experiences.

EZ Read: Presented by Alvin Eizner (Computer Science Student, Class of 2024), Rishi Saran (Computer Science Student, Class of 2024), and Aidan Simms (Computer Science Student, Class of 2024, Virginia Tech)

Many college students skip textbook purchases, despite concerns of their grades due to high financial barriers. Plus, many busy students simply do not have enough time to read their textbooks to the fullest extent. EZ Read provides simple and comprehensive summaries of student textbooks all in one place, stressing quantity and quality. EZ Read leaves out the unnecessary images, examples, and anecdotes that plague modern textbooks, giving students exactly what they need to succeed in their courses in a time-efficient manner. Apply to become a textbook summarizer here.

After tough deliberation, the March Firestarter Pitch Competition resulted in a tie between Liza’s Loaves and EZ Read. Both student groups will receive $500 in funding to help further grow their businesses. As the 2021-2022 academic year comes to a close, students are encouraged to continue to grow their ideas or create new ones that they can present when Firestarters return for the new school year.