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EcoPal team takes Whiteboard Pitch Contest

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, Matthew Hodgkin, Graduate Assistant at the Foster Center for Student Innovation, hosted the White Board Pitch Contest. Five individual students and one group of four students had five minutes and a whiteboard to pitch their business ideas.

The pitches were judged by Matthew James, co-founder of CourseStorm, a class registration software, and Emma Wilson, creator of Odigo, an odor-eliminating composting kit. The prize for the winning pitch was $100.

The first pitch was given by the group of four students who have begun developing an app called EcoPal. EcoPal allows users to track their environmentally-conscious decisions and compare them to those of other users. Computer science students Jacob Hall, Brenton Wilson and Stanley Small and marketing and management student Megan Howes created the app.

The four-person team won Wednesday’s contest after coming from another victory at the America East Hackathon at the University of Massachusetts.

EcoPal would feature a feed that lists the environmentally-friendly actions taken by others in the community based on five categories: water, heat, transportation, recycling and electricity. The app also features the ability to create challenges that earn you points.

In order to monetize EcoPal, the students plan to find advertisers who make environmentally sustainable products. The users could then get discounts on the products using points they earned on the app.

The purpose of the app is to “provide a community to explore environmental actions of others…focused on active engagement in the community to support environmental consciousness,” Small said.

John Laperle, a UMaine finance student, pitched his idea for “Jonny’s Hardwood Cutting Boards and Care.” Laperle described his company as a “one-stop shop for all your cutting board needs,” including oils, conditioners and cleaners for the upkeep of the cutting boards.

Laperle manufactures the cutting boards himself and says he is looking to hire a few more people to increase production.

“A board is a ‘piece of sawed lumber,’” Laperle said, citing the Merriam-Webster definition, “There’s a reason it’s called a cutting board and not a cutting plastic.”

After Laperle’s five minutes were up, James suggested bringing one of the cutting boards. Laperle had originally planned to bring a cutting board, but the rules of the contest were strict.

“You get five minutes and a whiteboard,” Hodgkin explained.

Christopher Demarchi, UMaine pre-engineering student, pitched an up-cycling educational non-profit called Up and Out. The business would involve engineering-art cross-discipline projects for children.

By teaming up with junkyards and schools, Up and Out would coordinate art projects using recycled materials. Demarchi explained that he was interested in getting students engaged in STEM and art.

“We’re going to need a lot more engineers and a lot more artists,” Demarchi said.

“Because the profit margin is so huge, you can reduce the price,” Demarchi explained when James asked how he planned to monetize Up and Out.

He plans to sell the art on Etsy and possibly through a larger distributor.

Rebecca Hatt began her pitch with an introduction that took up much of her five-minute period. Hatt’s idea for a business, called “A Few Good Apples,” would do social media, website management and lesson planning for talented individuals looking to pass on their skills.

“You can come to my company and say ‘I’m good at this,’” Hatt explained.

The service would cost $500 to $1,000, based on customizable features.

“I would have liked to hear your initial concept a little earlier in the pitch,” Wilson said.

James explained that the idea seemed somewhat broad and suggested focusing on one value.

Tristan Harvie, a marketing student, pitched “Harvey’s Hope for Hunger,” a nonprofit farm that raises rabbits to feed the homeless.

Harvie explained how one of the biggest obstacles would be the stigma Americans have toward eating rabbits. He also explained how outsourcing the butchering would be expensive, but that the fur, feet and blood can be sold as byproducts to help cover the costs.

Harvie plans to distribute the meat to soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

This event was previously held in 2011 and 2012.

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