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April 25, 2011

CONTACT: K.E. Schwab



‘Elevator Pitch’ paves way for SRU business management major


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Sam Paladin, a Slippery Rock University, a business management major with his own Pittsburgh-based business, has found the road to success may be paved with sealcoating after winning the $1,500 top honor in SRU’s School of Business’ Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator's 2011 "Rock the Boat" Elevator Pitch Competition.

Paladin will use his winnings to expand his Paladin Sealcoating business.

Competition prizes totaled $2,500.

            Paladin was selected from five finalists by a three-member panel that heard two-minute “elevator pitches” for products and business ideas. The pitches were followed by three minutes of questions.

            Paladin proposed expanding his firm, which provides residential and commercial asphalt sealing services during the summer. He told judges about the expansion possibilities and said he would use the money to help purchase a second truck.

            “I started the business last summer and have primarily worked in sealing driveways at private homes. If I had a second truck, I could send someone out to solicit new business, while the other truck continued to service existing and repeat customers,” he said.

            “I work with my brother Joel, and it is a great summer job,” he said. However, Paladin says he doesn’t expect to stay with his business after graduation. I hope to eventually go into sales. Maybe I will sell the company to my brother,” he said.

            Joel Paladin is a 2010 SRU management graduate.

Ashley Kennedy, an accounting major from New Castle, Nathan Hunkele, a finance major from Gibsonia, and Chelsea Nugent, a marketing major from Pittsburgh, took the $750 second place award for their presentation about “Green Acres,” a company that would sell lawn fertilizer, but require less mowing.

Cara Udy, a music education major from Grove City, received third place, $250, for her plan for “Once Upon a Time,” a women’s formal wear rental company she has proposed for the Pittsburgh area.

Honorable mention honors went to Craig Cowan, an environmental geo-science major from Allison Park, who promoted “Green Drives,” an organization that would provide electric car rentals on university campuses, and Melissa Herron an economic major from Simsbury, Conn., and Katie Fitzgerald, a marketing major from Venetia, who offered plans for “Go Go Groceries,” an idea for a custom grocery delivery service.

“The term ‘elevator pitch’ reflects the practice of entrepreneurs who pitched an idea to potential investors while riding in an elevator. There are stories of entrepreneurs identifying high-rise buildings where wealthy individuals maintained offices on the upper floors. They would enter the elevator at the same time as the targeted individual and pitched their idea as the elevator ascended. A convincing pitch could result in a more lengthy discussion and eventual financing to start the business,” said Richard Grimm, associate professor in SRU’s School of Business and managing director of SRU's Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator.

The SRU program was as much about strengthening communication skills as actual business development, Grimm said. The judges looked at the actual presentations as well as the feasibility of the proposed company. “They basically evaluated each presentation by how convinced they were to invest in the business by the end of the pitch,” he said.

The SRU program was as much about strengthening communication skills as actual business development, Grimm said. The judges looked at the actual presentations as well as the feasibility of the proposed company. “We wanted participants to make sure they included all of the information potential investors would need to make a decision,” he said. 

Preparations for the "Rock the Boat" competition began fall semester with a series of SEA-sponsored workshops.

“We had 15 registered business ideas for the competition and held an elimination round April 12,” Grimm said. Judges in the elimination round were John Buttermore, assistant professor in SRU’s School of Business, David Culp, professor in the School of Business and chair, and Abbas Noorbakhsh, School of Business professor.

Katrina Quinn, assistant professor of communication, and students in SRU’s Public Relations Student Society of America organization worked with the would-be and budding entrepreneurs to hone their final-round presentations.

Judges for the final competition included seasoned entrepreneurs and executives.

The judges were Tania Bikerman, a serial entrepreneur and president of TMB Consulting in Pittsburgh; Dennis McGlone, a former steel-industry executive from Slippery Rock; and William Ringle, of the Callidus Group in Pittsburgh and a former specialty steel- industry executive.

Ringle also instructs entrepreneurship workshops and is a Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation certified FastTrak provider.

Prizes for the competition were provided by the SRU's President's Office and Douglass Thomas of Thomas Construction in Grove City.

"These donations were a critical component of the competition's success,” Grimm. “SEA is state grant funded and is not permitted to use its funds in such competitions, so outside sources were required to offer prizes.”

“The payoff for such support can be enormous as students are encouraged to develop ideas into businesses that result in regional economic development and employment opportunities,” he said.

In addition to the pitch competition, SRU’s newly established Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator, located in Eisenberg Classroom Building, offers entrepreneurship workshops.

SRU’s School of Business will begin offering entrepreneurship courses and is working toward an entrepreneurship major or minor open to students interested in knowledge needed to begin a new businesses. 

SEA offers a variety of free tools to assist students in developing a business idea. SEA has obtained a license for "Pitch-then-Plan," an online software program that helps individuals develop a basic business plan even if they lack a formal business education. SRU’s SEA program also works to incorporate sustainability into any business concept.

"SEA is one of the very first entrepreneurship centers that can assist in integrating sustainability architectures into a business plan. Dr. Frances Amatucci, associate professor in the School of Business, and I co-authored a paper on the topic. It will be published in the summer edition of the ‘Journal of Strategic Innovation and Sustainability,’” Grimm said.

“SRU has leading experts, innovative programs and a long history in sustainability that easily establishes it as a major force in sustainability entrepreneurship. Next year's elevator pitch competition will require contestants to demonstrate evidence of sustainability architectures in their pitches. SEA will provide the expertise and resources to assist them with this process,” he said.  

Also on the drawing board for next year is a February, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education-wide business plan competition in Harrisburg.

“PASSHE is committed to building a culture of entrepreneurship throughout the 14 university system,” Grimm said.

For more information about how to start a business, elevator pitch competitions, business sustainability, or the PASSHE business plan competition, visit the Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator Web site at:, or call 724.738.4374.


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.