Elmhurst Hosts First BlueJay Tank Competition

November 6, 2020 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

From left: Michael Foytlin ’21, Jasmine Lillis ’21 and Vanessa Sevilla ’22

A digital tool to better connect college graduates to jobs, a sensor system to help drivers at stop sign intersections, and an exercise app promoting local landmarks were among several innovative business concepts pitched by Elmhurst students during the inaugural Elmhurst Entrepreneurs BlueJay Tank Competition.

Modeled loosely on the popular TV show Shark Tank, the BlueJay Tank competition offered students an opportunity to turn their ideas into a business plan, then pitch it to seasoned entrepreneurs in exchange for valuable feedback and a shot at $2,500 in cash prizes.

During the competition, seven finalists presented their innovations virtually to a panel of successful entrepreneurs, including alumni Quincy Banks ’00 and Erald Minga ’08, and Mark Heintz and Bruce Fischer, director of the master’s program in project management. The moderator for the event, which was held on Oct. 21, was Entrepreneur in Residence Patrick Yanahan ’94, MBA ’10.

“We were very excited by the enthusiasm, energy and depth of the business-idea pitches the students presented,” Yanahan said. “We had everything from apps, to unique products, to non-for-profits and e-commerce companies, and we were impressed with each of the speakers.”

The first-place winner of $1,500 was senior Michael Foytlin, for his proposed New Age Solutions, an automated digital assistant that works through LinkedIn networking to help connect new college graduates with jobs.

“I was excited to win, and to have the opportunity to present my idea and get feedback,” Foytlin said. “It’s one thing to have an idea, but presenting it can shed light on ways to improve, plus it’s important to be able to express what you’re doing and thinking in a way that will help you gain support.”

The second-place winner of $750 was senior Jasmine Lillis, who pitched an exercise app called Walking Through History that notifies users when they are close to historical sites. The more locations users visit, the more points they can accrue to earn discounts at local businesses and restaurants.

Vanessa Sevilla, a junior, took third prize of $250 for her proposed innovation, United Leadership Pathway. The United Leadership Pathway would be a non-profit organization that develops student leaders nationally by bringing together mentors and mentees to form a community around shared interests.

The other finalists:

  • Aman Dhiman, a sophomore, proposed a traffic signaling system called Stoplight that would tell drivers at stop sign intersections when it was their turn to proceed, preventing confusion and accidents.
  • Bahareh Tabrizi, a graduate student, proposed a platform called IdeaShare where students with similar majors could gather to share information, develop skills and network.
  • Djordje Mrkajic, a junior, pitched a specialized personal training service, called Conquest Fitness, which would provide fitness, boxing and self-defense training.
  • Jared Plotka, a junior, pitched Clearance Department Chicago, a business that would find and deliver products not sold by individual sellers on Amazon and Ebay, through a technique called retail arbitrage.

“You could tell they did their homework and practiced their concepts,” Yanahan said. “The judges were locked away deciding the winners for a very long time, which demonstrates the quality and competitiveness of our students. They were all real go-getters at the event, and I’m proud of every one of them.”

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