The Charger Blog

Pompea Pitch Competition and Expo Offers Students an ‘Interactive’ Experience

BUSA 1000 is a hands-on course offered to students in all of the University’s academic colleges and schools, enabling them to develop a plan for a company and to pitch their business plan to the University community, as well as to a panel of judges.

December 20, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Dr. Brian Kench (far left) and Dr. Jan Jones with the members of Team CATSCAN.
Dr. Brian Kench (far left) and Dr. Jan Jones (far right) with the members of Team CATSCAN.

When Caxton Conner ’26 spoke with her friends and family about going green, she often heard the same thing: They wanted to recycle, but doing so wasn’t always easy. She had an idea – what if an app could make recycling more convenient – and, even, more fun?

This was the idea behind RecyclePro, a mobile app that Conner and her classmates developed as part of their BUSA 1000 class. During the fall semester, they created a plan for the app, which would guide users to nearby recycling and composting bins. The hope was that by making green choices easier, more people would choose to recycle and compost their waste. The app would also offer educational features such as games, enabling users to become more well-versed in environmental issues.

Students presented their posters to judges.
Students presented their posters to judges.

Conner and her teammates recently shared their idea with the University community as part of the Pompea Pitch Competition and Expo, the culminating event of the course. A celebration of innovation and creativity, the event enabled Chargers such as Conner to share their business plans with the University community.

“This was a great way to develop our teamwork skills,” said Conner, a marketing major. “Everyone did their part, and it was a great experience.”

Team RecyclePro was one of nearly two dozen teams of students from many majors and each academic college and school that took part in the event. Held at the University’s Orange Campus, it gave teams the opportunity to present elevator pitches, discussing their ideas, business plans, and the problems they hoped to address.

“I really enjoyed BUSA,” said Mattingly Creter ’27, Conner’s teammate and a music and sound recording major. “I liked that we worked on this all semester, and what we learned was through the context of this project. We applied what we learned in class, and that helped us to retain the information better.”

Team Fresh Sips with Dean Brian Kench, Ph.D., (far left) and Brian Marks, J.D., Ph.D. (far right)
Team Fresh Sips with Dean Brian Kench, Ph.D., (far left) and Brian Marks, J.D., Ph.D. (far right)
‘This experience was very interactive’

Students presented their ideas, which included plans for companies focused on technology and sustainability, sharing their posters with their fellow Chargers. They answered questions from faculty, staff, and students, as well as from several judges.

BUSA taught students how to develop a comprehensive business plan. They learned to identify a problem or opportunity, as well as their competition and their target market. They also created a financial plan, identifying how much capital they would need to launch their business.

“This experience was very interactive – especially when we started to work on our project and we pitched our ideas,” said Lauren Smith ’27, a member of Team RecyclePro. “Being a part of this will be so helpful for our public speaking, especially because I’m going into business. It’s important to be able to talk to people and to be able to present.”

‘Sense of purpose’

RecyclePro was one of eight teams that pitched their business plans to the University community in the pitch portion of the event. Charles Pompea '71, '90 EMBA, '06 Hon., for whom the expo is named, was among those who watched the pitches. He joined the audience virtually, offering his encouragement to the students.

Charles Pompea '71, '90 EMBA, '06 Hon. Looks on as Team Echo Jewels pitches their business plan.
Charles Pompea '71, '90 EMBA, '06 Hon. looks on as Team Echo Jewels pitches their business plan.

“I spent 43 years in the steel business, and if you enjoy what you do, it’s never like going to work,” said Pompea, chair of the University’s Board of Governors. “Work hard, don’t let up, and enjoy it.”

Students pitched a variety of creative business ideas, including CATSCAN, a scanning software focused on Cat machinery that aims to reduce injuries from heavy machinery use; Hemp Optics, a company offering environmentally friendly and durable eyewear; and Manu Curls, a product for curly hair that is free of ingredients that are harmful for environmental and human health.

Sheahon Zenger, Ph.D., interim president of the University, told students how impressed he was with their work.

“You should be very proud of what you’ve accomplished,” he said. “This exemplifies the sense of purpose that Chargers have. Our students come to the University with a sense of purpose like nothing I’ve ever seen. You should be commended for that.”

‘How a business should work’
The Pompea Business Plan EXPO Cup.
The Pompea Business Plan EXPO Cup.

As they pitched their business plans, students competed to have their name added to the coveted Pompea Cup, which is on display at the Orange Campus. The panel of judges, which included business leaders and University alumni, determined the winners of the poster and pitch competitions. They, too, were impressed by the students’ innovation and creativity.

Poster Competition
  • 1st Place: Elevate U
  • 2nd Place: Green Volt
  • 3rd Place: Fresh Sips
Pitch Competition
  • 1st Place: CATSCAN
  • 2nd Place: Scent Savers
  • 3rd Place: Echo Jewels

Regardless of how they placed in the competition, students say the experience was rewarding and enabled them to build important skills that they will draw on during the rest of their time as Chargers, as well as in their careers.

Leah Rubino ’27 says she enjoyed the experience. She and her teammates developed Brighter Horizons, a company focused on improving the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. They planned to begin by developing products to assist individuals who are visually impaired.

“We realized how many people are legally blind, and we wanted to make daily life easier,” she explained.

“We learned the basics of how a business should work,” added Brady Gingell ’27, a music industry major. “It was really cool to come up with our own business.”