2019 CEBIpitch


read about the 2019 winners

About the CEBIpitch Competition

The Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (CEBI) hosts an annual pitch competition to help grow and nurture startups within the College of Business Administration's entrepreneurship program.
Applicants must be an entrepreneurship major or minor to qualify. Teams are accepted as long as one student is an entrepreneurship major or minor.
Once selected, six finalists participate in a three-month mentorship program to prepare for the live pitch event. In total, $30,000 will be awarded at the live CEBIpitch event.


2019 CEBIpitch Finalists

CEBI 2019

Carrie Esser

Makeup Madhouse

The Back Story

Carrie Esser has always considered herself artistic. When she started wearing makeup in high school, Esser found an opportunity to combine her love of art and passion for makeup and body painting.
“I began doing body painting as a hobby and then realized I could turn it into a business,” Esser recalled. “I started out by putting myself in a category with other makeup artists, but soon realized I am not necessarily in that category. I do not target individual client bookings, but look for projects with large companies, non-profits, start-ups and organizations.”

What Makes the Business Unique

“The ability to use humans as a canvas and telling a story through it makes my business unique,” Esser said. “I am able to create an emotional connection with an audience that inspires them to remember the message.”

Future Goals

Esser, who graduates in May, hopes to have projects and contracts scheduled with companies and organizations upon graduation and to continuously be growing Makeup Madhouse.
“In five years I would like to be located in Ohio, but traveling the world for body painting projects or relocate to a city like Los Angeles where I can establish Makeup Madhouse and build my company. By this time, I want to be working on celebrity music video sets and professional photo shoots for marketing campaigns and magazines.”


Nano and Matt
Nahuel Gorostiza, Matthew King, Samuel Owens, Seth Ranzinger, Cameron Croghan


The Back Story

Nahuel Gorostiza and Matthew King, both members of a Kent State fraternity, founded GreekDoor with the goal of helping to ensure the safety of attendees of Greek-sponsored events. GreekDoor uses a digital system to check guests in at events and check them out once they leave.
“We have seen numerous counts of fraternity chapters across the nation being shut down due to three main issues: sexual assault, drug use and alcohol abuse,” King said. “We saw a problem and we have come up with a solution.”

What Makes the Company Unique

“Currently there is not another application similar to GreekDoor on the market,” King said. “Our team is comprised of current members or alumni of fraternities. We believe this gives us an advantage when discussing possible expansion with universities.”

Future Goals

GreekDoor’s goals for the next year include finding a full-time developer and have a Beta version of the application by the spring of 2020. Over the next five years, the company hopes to expand across the Midwest and Eastern regions of the United States and partner with organizations such as Green Dot and Uber.


Kathryn Gray

Handmade Hoopla

The Back Story

Kathryn Gray found inspiration for her business through her hobbies. Growing up, she always enjoyed making crafts and has even incorporated crafting into gatherings with college friends.
“I discovered that most people enjoy crafting when all the supplies are in front of them and someone is telling them how to make something, but often times people hate the preparation work of figuring out what to make, buying supplies and then struggling through written or video directions,” Gray said. “Through my business, I want to make crafting convenient so people can have fun rather than feeling frustrated.”

What Makes the Business Unique

“Handmade Hoopla is designed for any skill level – someone with very little crafting experience can enjoy the experience and leave with something they are proud to display. We are different from other craft kit companies because we focus on the fun, social experience of crafting with friends,” Gray explained.

Future Goals

Gray graduates in May and hopes to run Handmade Hoopla as her full-time job. Immediate plans include launching craft boxes that can be mailed directly to customers. The box contains all the supplies and easy-to-follow instructions to complete a project.
Further into the future Gray hopes to expand into making themed boxes for various events and holidays. “I am looking forward to putting my entire focus on the business and seeing how it can grow and develop,” Gray said. “I would love to branch out and partner with local businesses to exhibit at a variety of vendor-based events such as craft fairs and bridal shows.”


Linden Lehner

Linden Lane Artworks

The Back Story

Artist Linden Lehner has always enjoyed researching and visiting art galleries, but never had an experience that made her want to go back. In an effort to bring an upbeat atmosphere to the art gallery experience, Lehner decided to start her own company.
In 2018, Lehner founded Linden Lane Artworks, an art agency that sets out to disrupt the traditional methods of selling art by connecting a variety of local artists to the community. Artists can rent pop-up exhibit spaces to sell their work through available retail spaces.

What Makes the Business Unique

Linden lane is a traveling pop-up gallery, giving the community a sense of fresh new looks in different spaces. “The concept is to have artists pop up in businesses and open spaces that are well-researched and populated with their target market in mind,” Lehner said.

Future Goals

In the next year, Lehner hopes to establish a LLC for her business, increase marketing resources and establish relationships within local communities to create hot spots to display her clients’ work. “I see a lot of opportunities for these pop-up galleries,” Lehner said. “I think the biggest opportunity is to change the mindset of the industry. Instead of traditional methods of selling art, I can provide a revolving storefront that displays artists’ work that corresponds with that area’s customer demographics. As time goes on, adding technology and futuristic experiences will add a new twist to these spaces.”

William Matthews, Zach Mottershead

Southern Comfort Kitchen

The Back Story

A New Orleans native, William Matthews missed the hospitality synonymous with southern cooking when he came to Ohio. He began making family recipes for himself and eventually started cooking for his teammates and friends.
“Everyone loved my cooking, so I decided to turn it into a business so more people could experience the food and the culture of New Orleans,” Matthews explained. “In August of 2018, Zach Mottershead expressed an interest in partnering with me to help take the business to the next level.”

What Makes the Business Unique

“With Southern Comfort, you are not only receiving an authentic New Orleans meal, you are also experiencing the culture hospitality of New Orleans,” Matthews said.

Future Goals

In the next year, Matthews and Mottershead hope to have their food truck established in northeast Ohio. In the next five years, they plan to expand to multiple trucks, as well as establish a brick and mortar restaurant. Immediate goals include increasing marketing efforts and equipping the food truck’s kitchen so it is ready for operation.


Mix O Matic
Wesley Thomason, Kyle Woost


The Back Story

It started with Kyle Woost noticing people waiting 15-20 minutes for a drink, while he was working in the bar and nightlife industry. It was just an idea at first, then co-founder Wesley Thomason came in and saw the opportunity and growth that the business could achieve. This sparked creativity in Thomason to develop and build a fully functioning automated liquor dispenser company.

What Makes the Business Unique

“Our machine is unlike any other because of our fully customized point-of-sale that is specific to our product,” Thomas explained. “Mix-O-Matic stands out from its competitors due to its versatility, affordable price and bar data analysis capabilities.”

Future Goals

The resources and tools provided by Kent State allowed Woost and Thomason to connect with key business people in the industry to create a fully sustainable business. Mix-O-Matic has already been contracted to place equipment in five different bars in the Kent area. The company has developed a partnership with Heartland Payment Systems and a manufacturing company in Cleveland, Ohio to bring the product to life. Over the next few years, the team plans to further innovate the design of Mix-O-Matic to include more features tailored to the specific needs of customers.


Jaynanne Sheehan


The Back Story

Solving problems in everyday life is how many entrepreneurs discover their start-up idea. This was the case for Jaynanne Sheehan’s PlateMap concept.
“After discovering I had a gluten allergy, I noticed that information about food allergies was not easily accessible and I struggled to understand what I could and could not eat,” Sheehan recalled. “This got me thinking about ways this could help other people who have food allergies, and most importantly children, as it is incredibly difficult on the whole family when a child is diagnosed with an allergy. I envisioned my phone becoming a food detection device that would alert people if an unsafe food was detected.”
Sheehan conducted research and discovered that a scanning tool is being introduced in the market and decided to further pursue her vision for helping those with allergies by expanding on this technology.

What Makes the Business Unique

“The goals of PlateMap are to educate children in order to create good habits as they grow up and eliminate high-cost emergency room visits from accidentally eating the wrong foods,” Sheehan said. “The information about food allergies is scattered across numerous websites and can be intimidating. Having all information based around a child’s specific allergy readily available is exactly what some parents I have talked to find appealing.”

Future Goals

Sheehan’s first goal is to see PlateMap being used by a Beta group in Northeast Ohio. In five years, she envisions PlateMap used by families all over the country. She will obtain this by connecting with support groups for families with children having allergies like FARE – the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to food allergy awareness, education, research and advocacy.
“I would like to see PlateMap used as an educational tool for children to get involved in their health and to help parents feel in control of the allergy,” Sheehan said.


2019 CEBIpitch Judges

Shampa CEBI
Shampa Banerjee

Chief Product Officer, Eros Digital at Eros International

Banerjee leads Eros Digital, the streaming platform for the largest integrated film studio of India. Prior to Eros Digital, Banerjee turned around the social collaboration platform Socialtext, the first company to deliver social software to businesses, driving growth by 40 percent and collaborating with the CEO to a successful sale to the $1.4 billion tech fund Bedford Funding. Banerjee holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Kent State University and masters degrees in physics from Case Western Reserve University and the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. She serves as a board member for the Association for Corporate Growth Silicon Valley and previously was a Board Advisor for Wist and Minio Social Games. She is also a mentor at NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center.


DeLuca Dolan CEBI
Renée DeLuca Dolan

Founder and President, Contempo Communications

Renée DeLuca Dolan is Founder and President of Contempo Communications. She is a member of the Kent State College of Business Administration National Advisory Board and serves as co-presenting sponsor of the Home-plate Celebration event for Northeast Ohio Adoption Services. In addition, she is on the board of the Warrensville Heights Chamber of Commerce. DeLuca Dolan graduated from Kent State in 1988 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in telecommunications.


Floyd CEBI
Tina Floyd

Senior Vice President and General Manager, Consumer Foods, The J.M. Smucker Company

Floyd is responsible for the Consumer and Natural Foods Strategic Business Areas and is a member of The J.M. Smucker Company Executive Leadership Team. She formerly served as Vice President and General Manager, Away From Home, and has been with The J.M. Smucker Company for 24 years. Floyd earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Kent State University in 2003 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in marketing from Walsh University.


Solomon CEBI
Michael D. Solomon

CEO/Founder, XYZ Color Science

Solomon has been involved in early stage technology companies and emerging growth companies as an entrepreneur, investor, senior manager and board member. Early in his career, he owned the youngest of Apple Computer's independent representative firms from 1980 to 1984, the period when Apple grew from $100 million to $1.4 billion in annual sales. In 1985, he became the original vice president of sales and marketing with Aldus Corporation in Seattle, which launched the desktop publishing industry through its PageMaker software. Solomon has provided leadership to companies including Collabra, Telocity, Flycast and eShop. He served as a partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures from 1996 to 2002. From 2005 to 2010, he served as CEO of Audyssey Laboratories of Los Angeles. In 2010, Solomon started his latest company, XYZ Color Science, Inc., which seeks to revolutionize the way color is displayed on display devices. He serves as the Board Chairman of Within 3 Corporation, a Cleveland-based medical industry software company and is a member of the Kent State University Board of Trustees. He graduated from Kent State University in 1974 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree.