Bluejay Tank Winner’s Idea Hits All the Right Notes

May 4, 2023 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications
Four Elmhurst University students holding certificates

Bluejay Tank winners (from left) Venezia Munoz, Aaliya Khaja, Miftha Syed and Muhammad Rafiul “Rafi” Islam Zareef.

An idea for “singing” clothing earned sophomore Venezia Munoz $1,500 and first place in the Spring 2023 Bluejay Tank Pitch Competition.

Munoz mixes fashion with technology for her streetwear clothing line, Vivid Existence, which features freelance artists’ designs inspired by songs and song lyrics. The tech part of her clothes comes in the form of a Spotify code that plays the corresponding song on a person’s phone when scanned.

“Every design embodies what it means to live a unique and enjoyable life,” said Munoz, of St. Charles. “Streetwear is a form of expressing ourselves in a free manner.”

Munoz was one of seven student entrepreneurs who pitched five business ideas during the event on April 10. A total of $3,000 in prize money was up for grabs.

Elmhurst juniors Miftha Syed, of Lombard, and Aaliya Khaja, of Addison, placed second and won $1,000. Their pitch, Instapark, is an app for colleges and universities that uses geolocation to help drivers find open parking spots on campus and solves the “universal” problem of having to circle parking lots. The two first presented their app in the fall 2022 event and finished third.

MBA student Muhammad Rafiul “Rafi” Islam Zareef, of Chicago, earned the $500 third-place award. He pitched Storyboard Inc., a writing application that streamlines the creative process by keeping research, outlines and storylines in one place. The app organizes and connects writers’ ideas using timeline tools, plot strings and idea binders.

About the other competitors:

  • MBA student Hector Quintero, of Melrose Park, pitched an idea for a food truck called Ta’Cool Carnitas, which would operate in conjunction with his family’s restaurant, Carnitas Don Alfredo.
  • Sophomores Nicolas Bujan, of La Crosse, Wis., and Ethan Mason, of Noblesville, Ind., pitched their lawn maintenance service, BlueJay Ground Care, which would offer a variety of lawn care services for every season and donate part of the profits to ­­­­charity.

The panel of judges included former contestant Alec Goldberg ’23; entrepreneur, author and professional auctioneer James Drury; Grotto Marketing founder and Gotivation co-founder Kimberly Grotto; and Gray Matter Games co-founder Joe Barron. They evaluated the contestants using four criteria: the judges’ first impressions of each presentation and how well the proposal’s solution met the need; pitch content; pitch delivery; and each contestant’s ability to confidently, competently answer judges’ questions.

“We were thrilled with the high energy and great business ideas from the mix of undergraduate and graduate students this semester, and the entrepreneur judges were really blown away by the quality of the pitches,” said Patrick Yanahan ’94, MBA ’10, Elmhurst University’s entrepreneur in residence. “The program keeps getting bigger every year, and it’s nice to share the best talent from our student base with the private business sector.”

The Bluejay Tank Pitch Competition is offered by the Elmhurst University E-celerator, a resource for students interested in launching a new business or innovating within an existing one. The competition also is supported by the PNC Foundation.

“The E-celerator exists to inspire students to realize their entrepreneurial dreams,” said Martin Gahbauer, executive director of the Weigand Center for Professional Excellence. “The Bluejay Tank Competition helps bring that mission to life.”

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