Budding Entrepreneur Wins Fall 2023 Bluejay Tank Competition

November 22, 2023 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

bluejay think tank

Elmhurst University junior Sophia Haraus took first place at the Fall 2023 Bluejay Tank Pitch Competition for her business idea—a plant subscription service tailored to individual tastes.

Haraus, of Westchester, Ill., won $1,500 for “PlantHeads,” a service that delivers two plants, two pots, and instructions in a monthly care package.

Haraus was one of seven contestants who competed in this year’s Bluejay Tank Pitch Competition, held in mid-October. Contestants competed for $3,000 in prize money and received feedback on their business proposals from real-world entrepreneurs. The winners planned to use their prize money to take their ideas to the next phase of development.

“I thought it was a really fun, great experience,” Haraus said. “Going into it, I thought itwould be really scary. Of course, it is when you’re up there presenting, but the judges were all really nice.”

MBA student Tobias Golberg, of Palatine, Ill., and Buenos Aires, Argentina, won second place and $1,000 for his business idea “Ez Bands,” resistance bands with buckles that contribute to safer and more efficient workouts.

Junior Lily Morgan, of Villa Park, Ill., won third place and $500 for “Hitch & Ditch,” a dating app to help users find plus-ones for events.

The other contestants were:

  • Senior Jennifer Bosas, of La Grange, Ill., who pitched “Meekies,” a business that creates high-quality, collectible plush toys.
  • MBA student Melanie McQueen, of Oak Park, Ill., who pitched the “Bluejay Chirp App,” which keeps students on task and reminds them about appointments, deadlines and events.
  • Senior Drew Medema, who pitched a mobile boat washing and detailing service called “Paw Paw Lake Mobile Boat Wash & Detail.” The business cleans the interiors and exteriors of pontoon, fishing, ski, wakeboard and other kinds of boats.
  • Senior Jessica Pavliukovecas, of Des Plaines, Ill., who pitched a user-friendly car repair app called “Tune Up” and won second place for the idea in the Fall 2022 Bluejay Tank competition.

Contestants were judged on five criteria: the judges’ first impressions about the business proposal; how well the pitch was delivered; the content in the proposal; the quality of the business idea’s digital component (a website, database, app, etc.); and each contestant’s ability to confidently and clearly answer the judges’ questions. The digital component is a new addition to the judging criteria.

“This time around, we wanted to push the envelope as far as innovation,” said Patrick Yanahan ’94, MBA ’10, Elmhurst University’s executive in residence. “So all the contestants really did a tremendous job presenting either an in-depth app, a database, or a website solution for each of their business ideas, to reflect our ever-changing, fast-paced digital world.”

The judges included entrepreneurs Dennis Timpanaro, co-founder of Gotivation; Kimberly Grotto Howard, co-founder and CMO of Gotivation and president of Grotto Marketing; student Venezia Munoz, founder of Vivid Existence and last spring’s first-place Bluejay Tank winner; and James Drury, owner of Cornerstone-edu. Alumnus and entrepreneur Quincy Banks ’00 served as a backup judge.

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