By Lucas Slosser-Mclean | Feb. 14, 2020Print | PDF
“Picture this…” these words marked the beginning of many of the finalists’ pitches at the 11th annual PepsiCo Pitch Competition. Hosted by Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, the competition is a highlight of the first-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program as part of the BU121 ‘Functional Areas of the Organization’ course.
The competition aims to strengthen students’ communication and persuasion skills, introducing them to the ‘art of the pitch’, a critical skill used every day in the business world and throughout the BBA program. The competition gives students the opportunity to share a new business idea to theoretical investors during a two-minute elevator pitch.
“The Pitch Competition is one of the smartest initiatives Laurier has launched,” said Lazaridis graduate David Chilton, who sponsors the event with PepsiCo Canada. “It’s very hard to succeed in life, to truly make a positive difference, if you can’t persuade. You must be able to inspire people. To connect with them. To have them listen to you. To have them trust you. The combination of a compelling narrative and an infectious enthusiasm opens doors. Opens them wide.”
Chilton was formerly on CBC’s Dragons’ Den and is a bestselling author of “The Wealthy Barber” series.
The day started with semi-final presentations to teaching assistants and alumni judges. The semi-finalist pool was made up of the top two contestants from each lab section – 96 out of nearly 1,200 first-year business students competed in the semi-final round. After each of the six judging panels deliberated, the top 12 finalists were selected.
“The pitch is a great opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge in a creative and different way while also practising an essential business/life skill. It’s exciting to see them put their minds, hearts and personalities into this project!”
The finalists presented their pitches to a panel of expert judges, including alumni and executives from PepsiCo Canada, to determine who would be crowned the PepsiCo Pitch Competition champion. Students were judged on the structure and delivery of their pitch, how they connected with the judges and how persuasive they were - overall, were the judges sufficiently intrigued to invite them in to hear more.
This year’s expert judges included:
A common theme in this year’s pitch competition was sustainability, with many contestants pitching eco-friendly ventures and products that focused on environmentally sustainable alternatives to essential everyday products.
“The pitch is a great opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge in a creative and different way while also practising an essential business/life skill. It’s exciting to see them put their minds, hearts and personalities into this project!” said Leanne Hagarty, course instructor for BU121.
As part of the Pitch Competition, high school students were also included to take a sneak peek into the first-year BBA program. This event included campus tours, watching the PepsiCo Pitch Competition finals, and a reception to connect with faculty, Laurier ambassadors, and current students. Future opportunities will be shared on the Lazaridis School social media accounts for prospective students.
Before announcing the winners, Schnarr delivered a short keynote address on his Laurier experience and journey towards co-founding AWAKE Chocolate. Schnarr shared his own “pitch” experience, attributing part of AWAKE Chocolate’s success to the exposure and reception they received after pitching on Dragons’ Den. He also shared four tips for starting a venture:
1st Place - Ria Badiani “Clix”
2nd Place – Kyle Chang “Home Eats on the Go”
3rd Place - Ticoon Kim “Magic Meal”
Finalists each received a $400 scholarship. The first-place finalist received $800, second place $700 and third place $600. Traditionally, the top three finalists earn interviews for co-op or summer internships with PepsiCo Canada, however, this year’s finalists all impressed PepsiCo Foods Canada judge Moncur, VP of HR, who, in an unprecedented move, extended the guaranteed-interviews to all 12 finalists.
Laura Allan, Assistant Professor of Policy and Executive Director of the Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation said, "Every year the bar gets raised on this competition. We are always so blown away by the quality of the pitches and more importantly so proud of our students!"
Thank you to the BU121 teaching assistants for mentorship, guidance, dedication and commitment to students’ success.
Thank you to PepsiCo Canada for its commitment to our first-year BBA course and for hiring our students and graduates.
Thank you to David Chilton for his co-sponsorship, support, and encouraging message.
Thank you to our panel of judges for their time, support, and valuable feedback.