Four winners emerged from the University of Baltimore’s “Rise to the Challenge” Business Pitch Competition on May 1, each taking home their own “big checks” and a portion of the more than $23,000 in prize money. The annual event, held in the William H. Thumel Sr. Business Center, home of UB’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, showcases many of the UB community’s most talented and driven entrepreneurs.
Melvin Clark, III, B.S. ’20, hooked the top award in the category of “Aspiring Business Ventures,” netting $2,000 for his business idea, AMJ Fishing Gloves, which allows anglers to manage all tasks (baiting the hook, handling the fish, casting, etc.) without removing their gloves.
The winning vote in the category of “Existing Business Ventures” went to Kareema McLendon, B.S. ’20, who earned $5,000 for her eponymous fashion startup, a wholesale bridal firm focused on designing, manufacturing and selling bridal gowns for women aged 30-55.
Kevin McHugh, B.S. ’19, founder of Bloom Box, an agricultural subscription box business catering to the needs of urbanites, especially those living in elder care facilities, took home the Crowd Favorite award of $1,000.
Stuart Tweedie, B.S. ’19, CEO of Stoned Audio, a lifestyle brand offering unique, hi-fi wireless earphones online and in select physical locations, was chosen as the evening’s “Most Promising Business,” walking away with a $15,000 check. The award, established last year through the Jay Ripley Entrepreneurship Fund, is given to the student whose business, in either category, has the best prospects for growth, as determined by the judges.
As an added highlight this year, one of last year’s “Rise to the Challenge” winners, a graduate of UB’s Ratcliffe Entrepreneurship Fellows program and a rising star among the University’s many entrepreneurs, Brianna Billups, delivered the keynote address and made the entire night a memorable celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit. Billups is the founder of Fully Grown, a product-driven company on a mission to help communities eat balanced, nutritious meals.
Other finalists in the competition, now in its seventh year, included:
- Casey Loeffler, ’20, representing Lightning Cycles LLC, a full- and self-serve motorcycle oil-change, maintenance and safety service provider;
- Nicole Street, ’19, whose company, Premium RV Repair and Maintenance, a veteran-owned business, offers mobile, custom repair and maintenance for RV owners;
- Tracy Shand, ’22, founder of Licata Boutique Salon, a mobile beautification service designed for career men and women, stay-at-home moms and dads, teenagers, children, and the elderly.
This year’s all-undergraduate student cohort competed in two separate categories, Aspiring Business and Existing Business, before a standing-room-only crowd and a panel of expert judges representing the local business and entrepreneurship community, as well as the UB entrepreneurial ecosystem:
- John Cammack, managing partner, Kingcedar Holdings, LLC;
- Gretchen Legrand, executive director, Code in the Schools;
- Takia Ross, ’11, founder, Accessmatized;
- Stu Silberg ’71, executive director, University of Baltimore Foundation;
- Greg Stone ’96, partner, Whiteford Taylor Preston
The “Rise to the Challenge” competition, sponsored by UB’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, is designed to generate awareness of emerging and established innovative business ventures nurtured by the UB community.
Learn more about the “Rise to the Challenge” Business Competition.
Stuart Tweedie, B.S. ’19, CEO of Stoned Audio