SmartPitch winners pose with CUNY IVE and IBM execs. From left to right: Ronald Zorrilla, Anelisa Lauri, Christoph Winkler, Morris Sued, John Fout, Dwight Peters, Rolando Franco, Stuart Schulman and Eli Attias.
Photo credit: CUNY IVE
Five Baruch College students are changing the world as we know it with their innovative approaches to social problems. Dwight Peters, John Fout, Morris Sued, Eli Attias and Ronald Zorrilla were the winners of the CUNY IVE SmartPitch challenge in June this year and for good reason. Collectively, their services aid nonprofit fundraising, nutrition, food service, customer savings and environmental stewardship. Here's more about each of these entrepreneurs and their enterprises.
Dwight Peters was the first place winner in the competition with his company CrowdCases, a service that helps nonprofits have a customized fundraiser and consumers have a deeper connection to causes. According to Giving USA, gifts from living individuals and from bequests accounted for the vast majority of giving -- $234.6 billion or 81 percent in 2010. Peter's company exploits a trend while empowering causes and consumers alike. The ambitious entrepreneur continues to build on his company, which has just completed a new challenge for Animal Care Sanctuary.
SmartPitch runner up John Fout loves greek yogurt. Fout's pitch was his recently launched food product Sohha Greek Yogurt, a nutritious yogurt that people of all ages can enjoy. Fout's idea grew out of a frustration to find food for his daughter among what he calls "a blizzard of chemicals, preservatives and hidden sugars" placed in foods that line supermarket shelves.
"I think we need to transform our food supply to something that is much more local and nutritious", says Fout, who insists that the more we have nutritous food options, the more food suppliers will have to shift what goes into our foods.
Fout's yogurt is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, and home-made with quality milk. Fout boasts that Sohha Greek Yogurts contains no added sweetners, and made with simple, all-natural ingredients. The sweet, savory and plain flavors provide a great snack for Americans, but Fout is hoping to transform the American palate to consume yogurt how it is consumed in other parts of the world. In places like Lebanon where Fout's wife is from, yogurt is used as a complement to food instead of a stand-alone item. With the USDA recommending Americans to cut back on solid fats, salts and added sugars, Sohha Greek Yogurt may be the next big thing coming to a food market near you.
"What it comes down to is this: it is important to start out with having really nutritious food. Our mission is to really provide nutritious food. That's really the problem in the USA, our food is full of hidden sugars. If we actually just paid a little more attention to our food supply, it would make a big difference. We are trying to do what we can to help the food industry," concludes Fout.
From a pitch for nutritious food to specializing in the order and delivery of food, third prize winner Morris Sued pioneered an area not seen in New York City with his service GetKosher.com. The internet order service provides kosher food lovers choice menus from a number of restaurants around the city and has processed more than 600 orders to date. Sued, who is Jewish, saw the need in his community for a simple way to locate and order kosher food.
"Being a part of the community, I really knew what people would want and how they would want it", recalls Sued.
With his enterprise, Sued looks forward to providing great service that will soon include personalized delivery that will take time off of the hands of restauranteurs and get customers to continue to favor the brand. "When you think Kosher, we want you to think Get Kosher", says Sued.
Whereas Americans enjoy delivery, it's arguable that we also love a bargain. Coufsa is the brainchild of Eli Attias and the fourth prize winner from the SmartPitch challenge. Coufsa, which is a play on the hebrew word for "box" Koofsah, and the "cou" to associate with the English word "coupon", is a unique service that allows companies to utilize the blank spaces on packages to advertise their coupons. Attias first thought of the idea while he was still a high school student, but waited to expand the idea until he became a student at Baruch. Attias saw a more modern way to help Americans learn more about coupons available for their shopping needs. Each package with coupons on it are targeted to customers that can use the coupons in their area.
"I wanted a new way to spread the message. A package goes to a targeted person. There are millions and millions of packages shipped on a daily basis. I knew it was something that would work", says Attias.
Attias' enterprise is with the "mom and pop" store in mind. Attias seeks to build community with supporting the every day kind of stores that can get overlooked for large retailers. "I strongly believe in creating that local value for consumers", Attias explains.
Rounding out the SmartPitch winners circle is Ronald Zorrilla and his pitch, the Outdoors Project, Inc. Zorrilla's love for nature and the desire for youth to become more active, inspired him to create a nonprofit with a mission to expose NYC youth to the health and fun benefits of natural environments.
Zorrilla's passion for changing the way youth interact with nature is awe-inspiring. "Watching the new generation of today, you don't really see them playing outside. Kids are watching too much tv and eating unhealthy food. We want to change that, give them exposure to the outdoors and then protect it. You can't protect something you've never really been exposed to; a lot of kids don't get a chance to be outdoors", says Zorrilla.
The organization is currently preparing for workshops and field trips to explore nature and seek to have an impact on the roughly 1.2 million school-aged children in NYC public schools.