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Undergraduate, 2023
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Spring 2024 Capstone Competition Showcases Outstanding Student Entrepreneurial Ideation as Culmination of Business School Experience

Professor Kostakis posing with students in team VitaFlow

The excitement was palpable throughout the Whitman School of Management on April 26 as members of the Class of 2024 presented their Capstone projects representing the culmination of four years of business school education. Forty-three groups participated, but, in the end, it was team VitaFlow that took first place in the Spring 2024 Capstone competition.


VitaFlow team members Rachel Eagle ’24, CEO; Julia Dickman ’24, Anne Gullo ’24, Deva Patil ’24 and Jenny Tang ’24 were presented with first place by Interim Dean Alex McKelvie and Director of Experiential Programs Erin Draper, who coordinated the event along with Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship David Park. The team’s innovative product was 100% organic tampons infused with iron, Vitamin C and Vitamin E to help restore vaginal health and solve other issues associated with menstruation, including painful periods and iron deficiency. VitaFlow targets young, urban professional women 18-24 and female natural wellness subscribers 25-45—which is approximately 22.7 million consumers. The team’s faculty mentor was Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice Alexandra Kostakis.


“We are so grateful, not only to share a business concept that we are proud of but to also know that others, outside of this group, believe in our idea, as well. Throughout this past semester, a lot of passion and energy was poured into VitaFlow, and being a women-owned company where we can truly understand the comfort, convenience and peace of mind this product can bring consumers has transformed this project into a solution for a real need for women around the globe,” says Eagle. “I am so proud to have worked alongside my group members, who each brought something unique to the table that became essential to our final outcome. Currently, our team is set to meet with a couple of industry experts in women’s healthcare to explore potential next steps, and we are excited to see where this concept can take us.”


Second place went to WaveClear, a team made up of Joanna Lisman ’24, CEO; Jacob Allen ’24, Shannon Gamble ’24, Dao Ming Lin ’24 and Jack Rose ’24. WaveClear’s business concept uses NASA-patented technology in a microwave decontamination system (MDS) that kills bacteria in residential well water. Fifteen percent of people in the U.S. depend on well water, which often contains microbial contaminants. The company targets residential well water users age 50-plus, which totals approximately 6.25 million households. WaveClear’s faculty mentor was Professor of Entrepreneurial Practice Ken Walsleben.


Third place was presented to Picklez, a team proposing a subscription-based social networking app for pickleball players to build a community in a fun, safe and competitive environment. Members of the team included Rebecca Carr ’24, CEO; Jordyn Pompey ’24, Daniel Solis ’24 and Josh Stanton ’24. The sport of pickleball has grown 223% in the last three years, and its popularity has seen 36.5 million people pick up a paddle. The Picklez app will allow individuals to find others interested in the game, keeping the emphasis on an enjoyable, social experience. Pickelz’s target audience is the 18 to 65-year-old market with an emphasis on Generation X. The team plans to pull in additional earnings by marketing apparel and a pickleball paddle. PIcklez’s faculty mentor was Adjunct Faculty member Marie Adornato.


Honorable mentions were presented to HomeMore, comprised of Jack Collins ’24, Zoe Van De Cloot ’24, Aidan (Stan) Karaba ’24 and Kaden Warner ’24, an idea that puts homeless people into hotels with vacancies, benefitting displaced people and filling empty rooms at pre-negotiated costs; and AlcoSense, made up of Umelkayer (Uma) Yusaf ’24, Zhuoyuan Gu ’24, Peter Freeman ’24, Riley Gallagher ’24 (WSM/A&S) and Joshua Germ ’24, which created the idea for a wearable skin adhesive patch that monitors alcohol levels through sweat, helping people make healthier decisions regarding overconsumption


Each semester, the Capstone course is taught by faculty from Whitman’s Department of Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises (EEE), who challenge teams of students to create a concept for a new service, product or business model that could be executed in the “real world” and includes a novel approach to creating economic value. The idea must be scalable and able to achieve $3 million in gross revenue within the first five years and investment from an outside source that exceeds $100,000.


Several dozen alumni entrepreneurs, faculty and other entrepreneurial professionals judged the 43 teams in small groups at the start of the day. This whittled the slate down to nine semi-finalists, each of which gave 90-second elevator pitches in front of judges Traci Geisler ’90 (A&S/NEW), director, Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries; David Eilers ’80 (NEW), adjunct faculty, Syracuse University’s Innovation Law Center and MBA programs; and Indaria Jones, program manager, Whitman Couri Hatchery. Scores from these judges were combined with the results from audience voting, as well as scores from judges who completed a full review of their business plans, to determine the Top 5. Those selected were EmberArmor, HomeMore, Picklez, VitaFlow and WaveClear.


The finalists gave 15-minute presentations and held  Q/A sessions in front of judges Kimberley Boynton ’13 MBA, professional board director and former president and CEO of Crouse Health; Blake Brossman ’98 (VPA), founder, PetCareRx Inc.; Lee Buttolph ’15 M.S., ’16 M.S. (NEW), chief operating officer, Ultivara, and president of “5 Things” Consulting; Mikaela McShane, communications director, NASA Technology Transfer Expansion; and Robert (Bob) Hornung ’87, president, EVO Systems LLC.


“Capstone is always such an exciting day at the Whitman School, as we see lessons in entrepreneurship come to life through ideation, hard work and the concepts of business learned over the past four years. I am so proud of the work of all of our senior Capstone competitors and appreciate the mentorship of the EEE faculty instructors, as well as alumni, staff and other industry partners who have supported them over this semester-long process,” says Interim Dean Alex McKelvie. “All the business ideas presented represent the entrepreneurial spirit that runs through the halls of the Whitman School, and Capstone is an experience I’m confident these students will remember as a hallmark of their time here. Congratulations to our Capstone winners and every team that competed in the Spring 2024 Capstone competition.”

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