College Prep Program Idea Wins Top Prize at Fall Bluejay Tank Competition

November 15, 2022 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

The Fall 2022 Bluejay Tank winners are (from left) 3rd place winners Miftha Syed and Aaliya Khaja, 2nd place winner Jessica Pavliukovecas, and 1st place winner Angel Garcia.

Elmhurst University junior Angel Garcia took first prize at the Fall 2022 Bluejay Tank Pitch Competition with his proposal to launch a program that would prepare high school students for greater success in college.

Garcia, of Rolling Meadows, won $1,500 for his pitch, Bluejay Hatchlings: The Elmhurst Experience. Bluejay Hatchlings is Garcia’s idea for a nonprofit organization that would host summer programs for high school juniors and seniors from underserved communities. The programs would improve the students’ college experience, leading to higher graduation rates and greater employment success.

“Having a program like this on campus is conducive to inspiring students’ creativity and entrepreneurship, and I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s was one of six business concept pitches given by seven student entrepreneurs during the most recent Bluejay Tank competition, held in mid-October. The students vied for $3,000 in prize money and real-world business advice from a panel of Elmhurst faculty and working entrepreneurs. The winners planned to use their prize money to take their ideas to the next phase of development.

Jessica Pavliukovecas, a junior from ­­Des Plaines, won second place and $1,000 for her pitch, TuneUp. Her car service app would keep up with a vehicle’s health by giving reminders for regular services, diagnosing problems and finding the best repair shop in the area. The app would be free but would offer premium services, like access to a 24-hour representative, to subscribers.

Juniors Miftha Syed, of Lombard, and Aaliya Khaja, of Addison, won third place and $500 for their pitch, Instapark. Geared toward colleges and universities, the app, which would be funded by the schools, would help students find parking spots using geolocation. Using the Elmhurst U. parking lots as an example, they showed how their app would find vacant parking spots by having drivers record when they parked in or left a spot.

The other contestants were:

  • Senior James Flowers, who pitched the expansion of a low-cost community youth soccer club based on the South Side of Chicago.
  • Junior Gouthami Reddy, who pitched a Community Digital Detox Center to help lower depression and anxiety caused by technology addiction.
  • Senior Alec Goldberg, who had won third place in the Spring 2022 competition with LabelUp, an organization to support small artists and record labels.

Contestants were judged on four criteria: the judges’ first impressions and validity of the pitch, the content of the pitch, how well the pitch was delivered, and each contestant’s ability to confidently and clearly answer the judges’ questions.

The judges included professor and MBA Program Director Lawrence Brown; Dan Facchini, managing director of Innovation DuPage; entrepreneur and Elmhurst U. alumnus Erald Minga ’08; and 2022 alumnus and Spring 2022 Bluejay Tank winner Mark Picardi.

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 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.”

“The student contestants once again did an amazing job demonstrating the best of the best as far as their ingenuity and solutions,” said Entrepreneur in Residence Patrick Yanahan, who worked closely with the students to help them prepare their presentations. “They really worked hard and it showed. The folks at the E-celerator and the community couldn’t be prouder.”

Connect with #elmhurstu