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Communications and Marketing

Pitch It finals in media spotlight

The Chicago Tribune’s Lake Forester newspaper covered the final round of the Pitch It competition at the Gorton Community Center on April 19.

Lake Forest College entrepreneurs make their pitch

By Mark Lawton

Most people probably haven’t considered what they would do if they became trapped toward the top of a burning highrise building.

Keil Zornow has not only come up with a solution — a single-use parachute — but would like to turn his solution into a business.

Zornow was one of eight Lake Forest College students to pitch a business idea on the stage of the Gorton Community Center on April 19.

The event, called Pitch It, was put on by the college’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation program. The eight presenters had each survived a qualifying round earlier in April.

Five judges heard Zornow’s five-minute presentation and then queried him.

“How risky is it?” asked judge Niko Drakoulis, founder and CEO of SurePeople.

“The highest risk is how close the buildings are,” Zornow said. “It’s military design. The parachutes are designed to bump up against each other. It deploys in under a second.”

Judge Paul Miller, a vice president at Grainger corporation, suggested Zornow might want to reconsider his profit margin, which he said was “pretty slim.”

Among the other ideas presented was a toothbrush with toothpaste stored in the handle, a quick turn-around supply service for restaurants when they run out of ingredients and a smart phone app that tells how crowded a business is.

Pitching potential investors has real world relevance, said Assistant Professor Darlene Jaffke, who directs the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program.

“Whether you are a small business person, or an entrepreneur or in corporate America and want to present something to your boss, the ability to present effectively is important,” Jaffke said.

Students apparently agree as the entrepreneurship has become the most popular minor on campus, Jaffke said.

“Lake Forest, Libertyville, Waukegan, all these places have (business) incubators now and they didn’t a few years back,” Jaffke said. “Corporations are looking for an entrepreneurial mindset. Schools are latching onto that and trying to train students.”

At the Pitch It event, host Dean DeBiase, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, entertained the audience by having them applaud for their favorite presentations.

Meanwhile, the judges consulted.

The big winner was Trade Defender, created by students Charles Black and Jacob Gilman. Trade Defender offers financial market data in the options market. The pair was awarded $8,750 from the Lake Forest Entrepreneurship Advisory Council toward their business idea.

In second place was GoBrush by Robbie Barker, a toothbrush that contains toothpaste in the handle. GoBrush won $2,500.

Kristina Simeunovic, who provides care packages of alternative medicines and health products through a company she named Wellnex, received $1,250 toward her business.