Georgetown Entrepreneurs Win $155,000 in Prizes at Annual “Bark Tank” Event
It is worth investing in Georgetown student and alumni businesses that focus on doing well by doing good, according to Ted Leonsis (C’77, Parent’14, ’15), founder, chairman, principal, and chief executive officer of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, and a team of expert entrepreneurs at Georgetown Entrepreneurship’s Bark Tank Pitch Competition held Tuesday, Oct. 27, at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
Inspired by the business pitches, Leonsis announced that the total amount of the Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize would increase this year so that the students and alumni had more funds to grow their ventures.
“These kinds of events are filled with passion and people,” said Leonsis. “The power of their ideas and leaving behind more than what you came with is so inspirational. This generation is very focused on doing things the right way, which is breathtaking. Therefore, we want to ensure you are rewarded.”
Also, Leonsis underscored Georgetown McDonough’s focus on business and society, as well as the value of its Washington, D.C. advantage.
“We have seen on the campus of Georgetown that creating your own business is a positive career choice,” said Leonsis. “Also, we see this triple-bottom-line ethos, for which Georgetown McDonough is becoming known. Activating this entrepreneurial spirit across Georgetown can make this university one of the most important universities in the world located in one of the most important cities in the world.”
Button Helper, KnoNap, and Project Olas each won $30,000 of the Leonsis Prize at the competition. Button Helper, founded by Robert Bolen, an undergraduate alumnus, allows people of all abilities to dress themselves with ease. KnoNap, founded by Danya Sherman (MBA’21), is a cocktail napkin that is capable upon saturation of detecting specific date-rape drug presence. Project Olas, founded by Rebecca Cox (SFS’23), offers conversational Spanish language tutoring taught online by moms in the Guatemala City Garbage Dump community.
“I created Button Helper eight years ago for a friend’s son who struggles with Cerebral Palsy,” said Bolen. “It allowed him to dress himself with dignity, independence, and ease. We partnered with the top minds at MedStar Georgetown Neurology and the McDonough School of Business to bring this empowering product to a wider audience. We sold 22,000 boxes since releasing last year and were fortunate to win the Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize this week.”
“I am so grateful to leave the competition with capital that will support our efforts in combating drug facilitated sexual assault and crime, as well as connections that will continue to enrich my professional pursuits,” said Sherman. “Words of gratitude alone are not enough to thank the Leonsis family for their support and for this amazing opportunity.”
“It means so much that the Leonsis family and the judges believed in our vision,” said Cox. “It has not sunk in yet how we can effect change due to the Leonsis family’s generosity. We employ moms in the Guatemala City Garbage Dump community as online Spanish tutors. With the growth now possible from this prize, we can offer a sustainable income generating opportunity to as many as 100 more moms before my team graduates college. Now we are going to stay humble and get to work.”
Additional recipients of the prize include:
Parrotfish LLC, founded by Katie Pearson Fucci (SCS’20), which offers subscriptions of refillable plastic-free, palm-free, personal-care products, won $20,000.
[The Bar], founded by Betel Teka (C’20); COVID Can I Do It?, founded by Gayatri Sanku (G’22); Flolango, founded by Izuo-Ere Digifa (Pivot’20); and Kits to Heart, founded by Sonia Su (G’20), each won $10,000.
KnoNap also won the Georgetown Entrepreneurship People’s Choice Award of $5,000.
A panel of judges conducted a rigorous scoring and review process that determined the sizes of each prize. In addition to Leonsis, the experts included Zach Leonsis (MBA’15), senior vice president of strategic initiatives, Monumental Sports & Entertainment and general manager, Monumental Sports Network; Sashi Brown, chief planning and operations officer, Monumental Sports & Entertainment; Sandy Carter, vice president, Amazon Web Services; Raul Fernandez, vice chairman, Monumental Sports & Entertainment; Shavini Fernando (G’19), founder, OxiWear; Michelle Freeman, president, Carl M. Freeman Companies; Arun Gupta, venture partner, Columbia Capital; Brett Johnson, creative director, Brett Johnson Collective; and Osman Nur, associate, Revolution Growth.
Christy Felix (B’20), founder of UHustle and past recipient of the Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize, emceed the event.
The Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize is supported by longtime entrepreneur Ted Leonsis; his wife, Lynn; his son, Zach; and his daughter, Elle (C’14).
Aligning with the Jesuit values of Georgetown University, the Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize honors and supports Georgetown students who have launched or are preparing to launch new business ventures that will address problems in the world around them. Ultimately, the Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize builds awareness around the innovation and accomplishments of Georgetown’s entrepreneurs and strengthens the university’s reputation as a place where ambitious students can turn their passions into entrepreneurial ventures.For more information about the Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize, visit this website or watch the video. View the pitches of KnoNap, and Project Olas.