And the winner is ... WCU contest encourages entrepreneurs

April 23, 2017 Daily Local News, West Chester, PA

Geoffrey Chan pitches his idea at West Chester University’s version of “Shark Tank” on Wednesday. There were 17 finalists in four categories vying for more than $8,000 in funding at WCU’s fifth annual Business Idea Pitch Competition, co-hosted by WCU’s Edwin Cottrell Entrepreneurial Leadership Center and Keiretsu Forum, the world’s largest angel investor network. PETE BANNAN – DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA


By Brian McCullough, Daily Local News


WEST CHESTER >> In the end, dental hygiene won the night.

But not before more than a dozen aspiring entrepreneurs got the chance to publicly present their ideas – ones they hope will become the next big thing – at the Fifth Annual WCU Business Idea Pitch hosted last week by the Dr. Edward Cottrell Entrepreneurial Leadership Center.

“This year, the pitches were very well developed,” said Monica Zimmerman, director of the Cottrell Center. “On the university side, we are continuing the mission to encourage entrepreneurship across the region, working with groups like the West Chester Chamber of Commerce, West Chester Area School District, SCORE, and i2n (a Chester County Economic Development Council program).”

Zimmerman credited Chris Heivly, the co-founder of MapQuest and a West Chester University graduate, with the added sophistication of this year’s pitches.

“He was our entrepreneur in residence this year and he really worked with the students, asking them questions and giving them advice,” Zimmerman said. “He was so generous in sharing his experience.”

Held Wednesday in the university’s new Business and Public Management Center, the Business Idea Pitch competition was divided into four groups for the first round: West Chester Area School District students; West Chester University Undergraduate Students; West Chester University Graduate Students & Alumni; and Professionals.

It was from the last category that the winner came from: ToothShower LLC, an oral home care product founded and presented by Lisa Guenst, a dental hygienist.

Members of the Keiretsu Forum Mid-Atlantic, a co-host of the WCU Idea Pitch, and other judges selected Guenst’s pitch for the $4,000 prize. For winning, she will also have the opportunity to present at the Keiretsu Forum Mid-Atlantic’s Angel Capital Expo on Oct. 19 in Philadelphia.

Mallie Holman and Matthew Watson from the West Chester Area School District were also selected to present at the capital expo for their idea for a business that repairs wheelchairs. The first place prize for the WCASD student track is sponsored by the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce.

Twenty-one judges including angel investors, VCs, entrepreneurs, lawyers, CPAs, and other experts judged the pitches, organizers said.

The Keiretsu Forum is the world’s largest angel network, the university noted, and past winners of the pitch program have gone on to receive additional investments from their presentations at the Angel Capital Expo.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to give their pitches and for other students to watch,” Zimmerman said of the event attended by around 150 students and residents. “It also illustrates how it takes a whole group to get from an idea to a new company. People area really generous and willing to help, especially when they know it’s for a student.”

The top finishers in each category except for the school district students won $1,000 for first place and $500 for second. For the school district, first place winners received $500 while second place earned $250.

First and second prize winners in each division were:

In the WCU Undergraduate Students track:

• 1st place prize, Chris Thompson, Treasure Hunt;

• 2nd place prize, Justin Horrocks, Major Scoreboard.

In the WCU Graduate Students and Alumni track:

• 1st place prize, Virtual Individual Private Doc, Dr. Geoffrey Chan;

• 2nd place prize, Raymond Bonnett &Joshua Rudley, EVA Tech.

In the Professional track:

• 1st place prize, Lisa Guenst, ToothShower;

• 2nd place prize, Scott Bersak, Pop in Kids Club.

In the West Chester Area School District students track:

• 1st place prize, Mallie Holman and Matthew Watson, Custom Ride Wheelchairs;

• 2nd place prize, Maya Moktan, Margaux Fleming and Saundra Godshall, Chargeables.

Heivly, the co-founder of MapQuest, praised all of the contestants. He asked those watching the contest how many of them had ideas for a new product. Almost all raised their hands.

“That step between doing it and not doing it is the biggest there is,” Heivly said.

Guenst, the eventual overall winner with ToothShower, said a deep belief in the product is necessary to take it from concept to reality.

“You just have to be passionate about it and believe in it,” she said.

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– To contact Daily Local News Business Editor Brian McCullough, call 610-235-2655 or send an email to

And the winner is ... WCU contest encourages entrepreneurs