Student Entrepreneurs Showcase Projects at Innovate! Celebrate! Awards Dinner

By Colin McEvoy on April 8, 2022

EUREKA! Grand Prize judges (respectively) Moe Rinkunas, Julia Pardee, and Susan Yee deliver commentary to the audience during the live student pitches. (photo by Ryan Saks, Lehigh University ’22)

Student entrepreneurs from Lehigh University showcased their ideas and competed for prize money to support their venture projects during the Innovate! Celebrate! Awards Dinner and EUREKA! Grand Prize Competition on April 5.

The annual event held by the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation featured a pitch competition from three students whose projects had progressed the farthest during the last school year, which included pitching, winning, and advancing through previous EUREKA! monthly pitch events.

“Tonight’s Innovate! Celebrate! awards dinner is an opportunity to recognize the impact of immersive, hands-on experiences that help students learn to solve problems, create valuable solutions, and make a difference in the world through an entrepreneurial mindset — regardless of the career path they embark on,” said Lehigh University President Joseph Helble.

The event was held at Ben Franklin TechVentures, a business incubator located in Lehigh’s Mountaintop campus. More than 100 Lehigh University students, faculty, staff, and donors were in attendance.

Giana Jarrah, founder of student venture project With Meraki Co., won the night’s top honor, and the grand prize of $5,000 in cash that came with it. With Meraki Co. is a probiotic supplement designed to support women’s urinary and vaginal health.

The prize money will allow Jarrah to place supplements in the hands of carefully selected consumers who will test the product and share feedback that will inform her progress moving forward with the mission to empower women at the forefront. 

“I chose the name Meraki because it means to do something with love, soul and creativity – to leave a piece of yourself in your work,” Jarrah said. “I wanted a name that would display my passion for advancing women’s health.”

The Joan F. & John M. Thalheimer ‘55 Grand Prize pitch competition featured Jarrah and two other students: Michael Rich of Streamlined, a platform providing small businesses with affordable, preference-based software; and Philip Ho of Donkee, a food delivery service that caters to university students.

The grand prize finalists spent the week leading up to the event crafting video recordings of their pitches and preparing for closed-door sessions with judges, where they answered questions about their ventures just hours before each finalist pitched live in front of the event’s live audience.

Ho received a special “EUREKA! DNA” award for his special display of entrepreneurial passion, which stood out to the judges during his pitch and in further Q&A sessions. Ho plans to use the $2,500 prize money to scale up his venture, explore marketing channels, validate certain aspects of its operations, and form partnerships with other organizations.

Before the grand prize live pitches, attendees at Innovate! Celebrate! visited Innovation Alley, which included six demo tables featuring student venture projects that all won funding and resources during monthly EUREKA! Pitch Nights throughout the year.

Every guest had the opportunity to invest “Baker Bucks” in their favorite student venture projects to determine the EUREKA! People’s Choice Award winner. The prize went to InfernoGuard LLC is an environmental startup that offers an outdoor fire detection device that monitors properties for signs of fire.

The Baker Institute also presented a full slate of awards during the evening, with various honors going to students, alumni, and faculty leading entrepreneurial thinking across all areas of campus and throughout the greater Lehigh community.  

The Farrington Award for Outstanding Commitment to Entrepreneurship at Lehigh was presented to Jamie Flinchbaugh, whose contributions to the Lehigh entrepreneurship network have opened doors for the university’s next generation of innovators to succeed, officials said. 

Dr. Farah Vallera received the John B. Ochs Teaching Award, Jake Murphy won the Michael Levin ‘87 Advanced Technology Award, and Justin Gelwicks was awarded the Joan and John Thalheimer ‘55 Award for Student Achievement.

Additionally, Declan Coster received The Donald Flinchbaugh Memorial Scholarship, and the Helen and R.K. Laros Foundation Endowed Prize for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation went to Alex Copits, Rachelle Huh, Nicholas Wilson, and Jan Maciejewski.

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