Elmhurst University names Bluejay Tank Pitch winners

Competition challenges students to propose business ideas for cash prizes

Bluejay Tank winners (from left) Venezia Munoz, Aaliya Khaja, Miftha Syed and Muhammad Rafiul “Rafi” Islam Zareef.

An idea for “singing” clothing earned Elmhurst University sophomore Venezia Munoz of St. Charles the $1,500 first-place prize in this spring’s Bluejay Tank Pitch Competition at the school.

Munoz mixes fashion with technology for her streetwear clothing line, Vivid Existence, which features freelance artists’ designs inspired by songs and song lyrics, according to a news release. The tech part of her clothes comes in the form of a Spotify code that plays the corresponding song on a person’s phone when scanned.

“Every design embodies what it means to live a unique and enjoyable life,” Munoz said in the release. “Streetwear is a form of expressing ourselves in a free manner.”

Munoz was one of seven student entrepreneurs who pitched five business ideas during the event in mid-April. $3,000 in prize money was up for grabs.

Juniors Miftha Syed of Lombard and Aaliya Khaja of Addison placed second and won $1,000. Their pitch, Instapark, is an app for colleges and universities that uses geolocation to help drivers find open parking spots on campus and solves the universal problem of having to circle parking lots.

MBA student Muhammad Rafiul “Rafi” Islam Zareef of Chicago earned the $500 third-place award. He pitched Storyboard Inc., a writing application that streamlines the creative process by keeping research, outlines and storylines in one place. The app organizes and connects writers’ ideas using timeline tools, plot strings and idea binders.

Contestants were judged using four criteria: the judges’ first impressions of each presentation and how well the proposal’s solution met the need, pitch content, pitch delivery and each contestant’s ability to confidently and competently answer judges’ questions.

“We were thrilled with the high energy and great business ideas from the mix of undergraduate and graduate students this semester and the entrepreneur judges were really blown away by the quality of the pitches,” Patrick Yanahan, Elmhurst University’s entrepreneur in residence, said in the release. “The program keeps getting bigger every year and it’s nice to share the best talent from our student base with the private business sector.”

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 competition also is supported by the PNC Foundation.

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