The entrepreneurial spirit was alive and thriving at the SUNY Long Island Pitch Fest, where aspiring student innovators from Stony Brook University, Farmingdale State College and SUNY Old Westbury presented their business ideas before a panel of industry leaders.
Het Joshi, a second-year economics major with a minor in theatre arts in Stony Brook’s College of Arts and Sciences, received the first-place prize and $1,250 award at this year’s Pitch Fest, held November 14 at SUNY Old Westbury, the first in-person event after two years of online competitions.
Joshi’s business plan is to create reusable cloth menstrual pads designed to provide affordable, sustainable and comfortable menstrual hygiene solutions for individuals in underserved communities. These cloth pads would be made from eco-friendly materials and offered at a low cost, aiming to reduce the financial burden of menstruation and promote environmental sustainability.
“Winning the SUNY Long Island Pitch Fest was an exhilarating journey that transformed my entrepreneurial dreams into reality,” said Joshi. “Stepping into the room, and facing the formidable panel of judges, was a nerve-wracking yet empowering experience. The adrenaline of presenting my plan and receiving an offer was a moment etched in my entrepreneurial legacy. The fest is not just a platform, it’s a proving ground where passion meets investment, and where dreams are propelled into the vast ocean of success.”
Joshi received the Diana Award — created in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales — in June in recognition of her work with the Adira Foundation, a non-profit organization that she founded at age 15 to promote menstrual equity for girls in India who are without access to sanitary products.
David Ecker, technology solutions and engagement specialist/innovator in the Division of Information Technology, served as master of ceremonies for the event. “Het’s presentation showed me how we can make a difference. We forget that other parts of the world are not as advanced as in the United States,” said Ecker. “Her way of giving back to helping women is so important, and we all should find ways to help those less fortunate.”
Judges included Derek Peterson, CEO of Soter Technologies and sponsor of the event; Erica Chase, Farmingdale State College Small Business Development Center; and Kenneth Brown, president of Sarah Brown’s Catering and professor at SUNY Old Westbury. They provided valuable feedback on the business models. Students networked with industry leaders and fellow entrepreneurs following the presentations.
“The ability to present an idea to a panel of judges is difficult, but we confirmed this was a positive and encouraging space for them to learn this skill. SUNY is a place where we want our students to go beyond their abilities, and working with such a great team across the Long Island schools showed me how thankful I am to have the opportunity to work at such a great university system,” said Ecker.
— Beth Squire