Students hit on great ideas in a hurry at pitch off finale


Alyssa Brascia, senior in apparel, merchandising and design, presents at the college-by-college pitch off finale Feb. 22. She won the overall first prize for best new idea for her concept of What to Wear, a website that tracks clothing featured in fashion magazines and offers links to purchase the items. Photos by Christopher Gannon.

The fifth annual college-by-college pitch off wrapped up this week with the campuswide finale, capping off two weeks of students stepping up to make the case for their innovative ideas.

The pitch off series begins locally, as students compete against fellow classmates in their college for first- and second-place prizes of $250 or $500 in one of two categories: new idea or existing business idea, for plans that have already moved past the concept stage. They get 90 seconds to make their pitch, with two minutes allowed for follow-up questions by the judges. 

Nearly 100 students gave it a shot this year. Here's a college-level breakdown of participation:

  • Business (25, the maximum allowed)
  • Engineering (22)
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences (15)
  • Design (12)
  • Human Sciences (10)
  • Agriculture and Life Sciences (7)
  • Veterinary Medicine (5)

Four prizewinners from each college faced off in the Feb. 22 finale at the Student Innovation Center, with the winners in each category taking home $5,000. Second-place finishers received $2,500 awards, and prizes of $1,000 to $2,000 were given at the discretion of the judges: Ivy College of Business dean and interim vice president for economic development and industry relations David Spalding, former Workiva senior vice president and current venture capital investor Dave Tucker, ISU Startup Factory director Peter Hong and Iowa Small Business Development Center director Lisa Shimkat.  

The overall winner for best existing business idea was Jassma'ray Johnson, a senior in psychology who founded Simply Samone, an affordable lip gloss line that focuses on Black women and uses organic, vegan and cruelty-free products. 

The best new idea winner was Alyssa Brascia, a senior in apparel, merchandising and design who proposed a website called What to Wear that offers affiliate links to clothing items promoted in fashion magazines.

Other pitch off prize winners included:

New ideas

  • Charles Yang, second place
  • Jessica Meseck, third place
  • Chloe Grote, honorable mention
  • Joel Houge, honorable mention

Existing business ideas

  • Tyler Heintz, second place
  • Miranda Keith, third place
  • Brynn Sweere, best presentation
  • Arilyn Tegtmeier-Oatman, honorable mention
  • Justin Kirschner, honorable mention
  • Sam Blythe, honorable mention

Tyler Heintz, a senior in mechanical engineering, presents his idea for a specialized brake system for drift racing cars. He won second place in the existing business idea category.


Madeline Ladehoff, a junior in entrepreneurship, talks about her idea for a dance studio with an attached gym for parents who have dropped off their children for dance lessons. A screen in the background shows the video feed of the presentation at the college-by-college pitch off finale, which was livestreamed on Facebook.


Azeez Idris, a gradaute student in computer science, pitches judges on his idea for a digital campaign to encourage people to share stories about their biggest failures.