Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship Holds Virtual Angels in the Outfield Pitch Contest
Each year, the Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship holds an “Angels in the Outfield” teen pitch deck competition, which invites high school students to submit a video of an “investor pitch” for the chance to win a cash prize. Participants submit videos of their pitches to the Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship and the top 10 contenders are invited to Busch Stadium “pitch” their ideas to a panel of judges, most of whom are SLU professors or community entrepreneurs themselves.
This year, due to challenges presented by the COVID-19 lockdown, the Center for Entrepreneurship faced a tough decision: would they have to cancel the contest altogether or be able move it to an online format?
Laura Brugger, High School Program Coordinator for the Center for Entrepreneurship, wanted to let the student participants decide. When the students were asked if they would be willing to move the pitch contest to an online format, they were overwhelmingly in support.
Third place winner Amelia Chapman of Fox High School in Arnold, Mo., was grateful for the chance to participate, even though she had been looking forward to giving her pitch in person.
“The change from in-person to virtual was disappointing since I was really excited to present my idea at Busch Stadium, but I am still grateful the competition went on,” Chapman said.
Chapman, a rising high school senior, scored third place with an ingenious update of a standard clothes hanger to both improve ease of use and prevent shirt collars from stretching out. Despite her flair for entrepreneurship, Chapman doesn’t currently see a future for herself in the field, and instead plans to pursue a career in nursing, which has been a lifelong dream. However, she still appreciated the opportunity to pitch her idea to the panel.
“All in all, these SLU competitions have been so helpful in my public speaking and I enjoyed each of the three I did,” said Chapman, referencing several other high school competitions held by the Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship.
Other competition participants wrote up plans for potential businesses. Devon and Deron Titsworth, twin brothers and current students at Jennings High School, took home second prize for “Nature’s Market on Wheels,” a mobile grocery store that would bring fresh produce and other goods to St. Louisans via bus.
Their inspiration for the idea came from a desire to help others and meet a need. “In low-income communities, there are not a lot of healthy eating options or grocery stores,” Devon Titsworth said, referring to the food deserts common in several parts of St. Louis. While a mobile grocery store run by St. Louis Metro Market already circulates through parts of the city on a weekly basis, the Titsworths planned to provide service on Metro Market’s off days.
The Angels in the Outfield pitch contest was “an awesome experience despite the challenges of COVID-19,” Devon Titsworth said. “The competition is a positive influence on students to start a business.”
After the success of the virtual teen pitch competition, and with COVID-19 still affecting daily life here in St. Louis, the Chaifetz Center for Entrepreneurship is planning an additional online program for the summer. The center will host the Allsup Entrepreneurship Academy online in the last week of July. Due to the financial burdens placed on many families by COVID-19, the camp will be offered free of charge.
According to the center’s webpage, “entrepreneurs and community partners from around the country have already signed up to take part as mentors, guest speakers and team leaders for this virtual camp.”
“We are excited to use our own entrepreneurial thinking to come up with new ways to extend our camp opportunities in ways that are responsive to the current circumstances we now face due to COVID-19,” Brugger said. “I think we have a responsibility to the young people in our communities to adapt our practices to a changing world so that they can continue to have rich educational experiences. I have been very encouraged by all the community members who have come alongside us to volunteer to make that happen."