'Rise to the Challenge' Winners Announced
May 4, 2017
Contact: Office of Government and Public Affairs
The M. Scot Kaufman Auditorium on the University of Baltimore campus was filled to capacity and humming with enthusiasm during UB's annual "Rise to the Challenge" Pitch Competition, held on May 3. At the end of a highly charged evening of student presentations before professionals judges, two winners emerged:
In the category of "Aspiring Business Ventures," Brittany DeNovellis, a candidate in the M.S. in Nonprofit Management and Social Entrepreneur program, joined with her team members to win $1,000 for their business idea, Project Kitchen X. The company would be Baltimore's first and only community-driven, worker-owned kitchen cooperative focused on empowering refugee and immigrant women by tapping into their passion for cooking, self-expression, and creating community. Project Kitchen X also won the Crowd Favorite award of $500. This award goes to any of the businesses pitching ideas that the audience believes in most.
In the category of Existing Business Ventures, Mustafa Wahid, a candidate in the MBA program, won $5,000 for TransitioningU, a new student-centered solution designed to address the multi-billion attrition problem plaguing U.S. universities. Wahid competed in other competitions, but this year he was determined to win. The UB Entrepreneurship Fellow sought out the advice of outgoing Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation manager, John Zuknick, early in the academic year to gain some insights on how to improve his pitch.
Now in its fifth year, "Rise to the Challenge" featured presentations by seven finalists, each aiming for prize money and professional services to launch or grow their businesses. This year one of UB's "rock star" entrepreneurs, Takia Ross, B.A. '11, founder of Accessmatized, an in-home professional and affordable make-up service company, revved up the crowd and made the entire night a memorable celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit.
Since Ross's win in 2016, she has gone on to win the $10,000 top prize at the National Urban League's 2016 Small Business Matters Entrepreneurship Summit for her start-up business Pretty Mobile, an on-wheels version of her traveling make-up services company, Accessmatized. Most recently, she was awarded another $10,000 in a Shark Tank-style event hosted by Salisbury University's Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation Shore Hatchery.
Others who participating in this year’s event included:
Aspiring Business Ventures
- Brian Kochesfahani, B.S. in Business Administration major, for his company, BLOX by Brian Kochesfahani.
- Kelsey Griffin, Lucas Wooleyhand, Cristian Villalobos, all B.S in Simulation and Digital Entertainment majors, for their business idea, Coverstone Studios.
Existing Business Ventures
- Hiba Mohammad, B.S. in Business Administration major and Entrepreneurship Fellow, for her company, Asli.
- Ryan Schuman, a candidate in the MBA program, for his company, PlayMore Entertainment.
- Shane Yeager, B.S. in Business Administration major and Entrepreneurship Fellow, for his business, ShortKlips.