Launch LU sends four students to “The Pitch” contest

On Saturday, April 7, budding entrepreneurs gathered to compete in Launch LU, the annual entrepreneurship pitch contest that occurs every spring term.

“It went really well,” said junior Savvas Sfairopoulos, the president of Lawrence University Club of Entrepreneurship (LUCIE), which hosted this event. “We had four teams with amazing pitches. In fact, we have two finalists that are going to The Pitch, which is basically a bigger contest that involves UW schools and St. Norbert College.”

There, the two finalists have the opportunity to present their pitches to a larger audience of about 200 and a panel of judges on Wednesday, April 11 at the Fox Cities Stadium. At The Pitch, participants will have the opportunity to win a grand prize of $50,000.

Representing Lawrence at the competition was junior Brian Mironer, who placed first in Launch LU, as well as juniors Ayomide Akinyosoye, Alfiza Urmanova, Nikki Payne and Alejandra Alarcon. Mironer created “Guido,” which is a glove that makes it easier for music teachers to teach solfege to students. Akinyosoye, Urmanova, Payne and Alarcon designed a product called “WellBell,” which is a wristband that transmits S.O.S. signals in emergency situations.

Akinyosoye, Urmanova, Payne and Alarcon are all international students majoring in economics. Akinyosoye is from Nigeria, Urmanova is from Russia, Payne is from Thailand and Alarcon is from Ecuador.

“I feel that this is a very unique opportunity for students,” said Sfairopoulos, who is a Greek native. “Especially for someone like me, an international student. Coming into Lawrence and the United States and realizing that you can do it, and that you can pitch in front of an audience to not only win a monetary prize, but develop connections with real-life entrepreneurs who will give you advice on how to proceed with your ideas—it really is an amazing feeling.”

Sfairopoulos further explained the culture LUCIE fosters.

“We want to promote the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation amongst students,” said Sfairopoulos. “Not only through the [Innovation and Entrepreneurship] program, but also through real life applications of the concepts that the professors here teach. And a great opportunity for us to do that is Launch LU.”

Sfairopoulos argues that LUCIE absolutely enhances Lawrence, adding a unique perspective to its community.

“Huge shout out to Professor Gary Vaughan, he is the mentor and advisor of our group,” said Sfairopoulos. “He basically is trying to bring business culture and start-up culture to Lawrence through LUCIE and through the [Innovation and Entrepreneurship] program. I think that entrepreneurial culture just adds to the whole liberal arts experience at Lawrence.”

Sfairopoulos makes a point to stress that LUCIE is inclusive and open to all majors.

“It’s not limited to Econ majors, or people interested in business, it’s open to anyone who wants to participate,” said Sfairopoulos.

For students who are interested in the club and the Launch LU event, Sfairopoulos maintains a clear message: “Talk to me. Or Professor Vaughan.”


Note from the Editor: Akinyosoye, Urmanova, Payne and Alarcon won first prize at The Pitch this past Wednesday, April 11, for their idea, “WellBell,” a wristband featuring an “S.O.S.” button which one can press in case of emergency, such as gun violence or sexual assault. Congratulations to our innovative peers! It just goes to show, as Alarcon commented after the big win, “the future is female, and the future is now.”