WP Students Present Ideas for Socially Responsible Businesses in First Pitch Fest

First place winner Fabio Sorial (center) with (left to right) judges Nicole Neal ’04, Carlos M. Lopez ’09, Professor Ana Cristina Siqueria, and judge Mark DeZao ‘84

Eight University students representing a wide variety of majors won prizes in the first Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship Pitch Fest, held by the Center for Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Cotsakos College of Business.

“We are excited to support our students from all Colleges and majors via awards, seed grants, and interaction with experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders who served as judges,” says Ana Cristina Siqueira, associate professor of management and director of the Center for Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Students were invited to pitch their ideas for new businesses that provide products, services, or innovations while also improving social conditions for diverse communities and incorporating sustainable practices. Each student or team of students presented their ideas in person to a panel of three judges, all William Paterson alumni with extensive business and entrepreneurial experience: Mark DeZao ’84, owner of D3 Footwear Consulting and former vice president, development and product design, for Easy Spirit; Carlos M. Lopez ’09, co-founder and CEO of Tropical Juice Bar and Caribbean Station Restaurant; and Nicole Neal ’04, owner of a finabcial service business and co-author of the children’s book, Seize the Day: Leila’s Big Adventure.

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Pitch Fest finalists (left to right) Konnan Perez Roquel, Rohit Rauniyer, Fabio Sorial, Helen Yousaf, Tai Walker, Sereniti Catoe, Angela Grace George, and Ashtin Sanchez

The judges were impressed with the presentations. “The students were all very comfortable presenting, and their project concepts were all innovative and thought-provoking. They had some very inspiring ideas!” said DeZao.

Lopez concurred. “Attending the pitch fest at William Paterson was invigorating; witnessing students present their business plans ignited a sense of excitement and hope,” he said. “Reflecting on the event, I'm convinced that expanding such programs could foster even more entrepreneurial spirit among students, enriching both the University community and beyond.”

Fabio Sorial, a sophomore from Egypt majoring in biotechnology with a minor in business, won first prize fand a seed grant or his app Mom Care, which provides pregnant women, especially those pregnant for the first time, with important dietary and nutritional information and a pregnancy symptom tracker. The app represents a digital solution promoting innovation and efficiency while minimizing environmental impact.

Second place and a seed grant went to Rohit Rauniyer, a sophomore from Nepal majoring in computer science with a minor in math. Rauniyar developed Sajha Notes, an e-learning platform that provides Nepalese high school students with free supplemental study materials in a variety of subjects using technology. Rauniyer also recently won third place for Sajha Notes in UPitchNJ, a statewide pitch competition.

The team of Sereniti Catoe, Angela Grace George, and Ashtin Sanchez, all first-year nursing majors, won third prize and a seed grant for their proposal for Greenbreath, which would use advances in stem cell technology to bioengineer human lungs and expand the number of lungs available for transplant through a cost-effective and sustainable solution.

Three students received seed grants for their projects. Helen Yousaf, a senior graduating this May with a degree in medicinal biochemistry and a minor in public health, received a seed grant for her business proposal, “Gulaab: From Thread to Red Carpet,” which would connect local women and skilled workers in rural India with prominent Indian designers and stylists to produce sustainable, high-quality outfits for celebrities attending Indian film and TV awards.

Tai Walker, a senior majoring in leadership and professional studies who expects to graduate in August 2024, received a seed grant to develop Integral.ly, an online platform that would provide adult personal and professional development courses to a diverse population.

Konnan Perez Roquel , a first-year finance major, received a seed grant for KOmedia, which would create a network of marketing managers from diverse national origins and geographic locations capable of offering marketing services to companies in the United States.

The goal of the Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship Pitch Fest is to contribute to WP’s positive socioeconomic impact by encouraging students to develop ideas that enhance economic, social, and environmental conditions and benefit an inclusive array of stakeholders. For more information, please visit: https://www.wpunj.edu/ccob/csrei/social-impact.