Six DePaul alumni and students pitched their purpose-driven businesses at the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center’s third annual Purpose Pitch Competition May 14.
More than 250 people attended the competition, which was held at 1871, Chicago’s tech business incubator. The event featured a unique pitch competition where founders had five minutes to present their startups’ purposes – instead of pitching investors on its profit-making potential – in front of four judges. The six companies split $25,000 in award money and were ranked from first to third place. Jessica Droste Yagan – CEO and managing partner of Impact Engine, a venture capital firm that invests in social and environmental projects—served as the keynote speaker following the pitch sessions.
“Starting a business that does good and in turn does well for all stakeholders fits very closely with our mission of the Coleman Center, and we were proud to host this competition again this year,” says Bruce Leech, executive director of the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at DePaul. “While we also acknowledge that each business had to have a strong and sustainable business model, we were very pleased to honor each business for their strong sense of purpose and mission.”
The six startups competing for the top prize included:
- First Place: Greenwood Project
Bevon Joseph, and MS in Entrepreneurship student, pitched the Greenwood Project, a nonprofit that builds a diversity pipeline for minority students to get into the financial services industry.
- Second Place: BridgeLink
Badar Al Lawati (MS '11), who is studying for his PhD, pitched his business, BridgeLink, which mediates the process of fair-employment through a platform designed specifically for refugees and employers.
- Third Place: Cloche
Ari Carter, an MBA student, and Peyton Pritikin pitched their business, Cloche, an online investment platform developed by millennial women for millennial women.
First Place: The Corner
Dianna Harris (MFA '15, MS '18) pitched The Corner, a small business incubator and collaborative space for Southside Chicagoans.
- Second Place: Wristponsible
Pitched by Kevin Sofen (MBA '16), the startup raises awareness and funds for grassroots water projects by creating a community of action.
- Third Place: Profile Peace
This startup, pitched by Evan Mahoney (BA '07), is a social media closure and memorialization service that helps social media users lay online profiles to rest.
Joseph, who began working in finance as an information technology services provider on a New York trading floor, says he plans to use his award money to implement proper infrastructure and human capital needed to support his business’s rapid growth.
“As a mission-driven business serving students from under-resourced communities and financial services firms simultaneously, we are able to bridge the gap between two parties whose paths do not normally intersect,” Joseph says. “The impact of our work can be measured in the jobs we create and the positive return on investment of our corporate partners.”
Harris says she plans to use the award money to renovate her business space and launch a marketing campaign. “The mission of The Corner is to launch businesses that have a positive impact on the community and will bring resources and good that will empower residents and create jobs,” she says. “We are so excited to pass on entrepreneurial tools to the community. We love the Southside and this is our love letter it.”
Learn more about DePaul’s entrepreneurship programs: