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Pitches Pay Off at YEA! Investor Panel Event

Eleven middle and high school students from Oneida County pitched their business ideas before a panel of 6 real-life investors to compete for funding at the Second Annual Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Investor Panel Presentation Event at Mohawk Valley Community College on Tuesday, April 8. The students presented before representatives from some of the area’s biggest companies as well as an audience filled with family, friends and members of the community, for the opportunity to gain funding for their original ideas- that could be the next big thing.

On Tuesday night, the Investor Panel donated monetary contributions and in-kind donations, as well as their support and encouragement in their belief that they too can make a job- not take a job- at any age.

The investor panel consisted of the following business professionals:

  • Gregory Benincasa, President, HR Beebe, Inc.
  • Robert Korrie, President, Beebe Construction Services, Inc.
  • Christopher Dovi, First Source Federal Credit Union
  • Kristy Nole, First Source Federal Credit Union
  • Pamela Matt, Executive Director, Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce
  • Ben Crossley, Assistant VP, M&T Bank

The funds were divided and allocated to the businesses that the investors felt had a well thought out plan, and an idea that had a good chance at success.  The Greater Utica Chamber awarded one CEO with a one year chamber membership. Mohawk Valley Community College awarded the CEO finalist with a Presidential Scholarship.  

The investments were as follows:

  • I-Card, Vaccaraco, The I-card is a small credit card sized card that is used to secure headphones and prevents them from getting tangled by wrapping the card around its “I” shape. This business received $1200 in startup funds. Owner Benjamin Vaccaro is in 12th grade at Oneida High School. Benjamin was selected as the Saunders Scholar Finalist by the Investor Panel. He goes on to compete in Rochester at the Saunders Scholar Event, with 42 other students from around the country. Benjamin also received a Presidential Scholarship from MVCC.
  • HistoryQuick, a fun and educational mobile app for history students and history buffs, received $300 in startup funds. Owner Brandon Johnston is in eighth grade at Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High.
  • GigiRose Bodycare, a company producing all natural cellulite reducing cream, received $600 in startup funds.  Owner Jilianne Cady is a 10th grader at Holy Cross Academy in Canastota. Jilianne was also presented with the one year membership to the Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce.
  • Grazing Pigs Farm, all-natural grass fed pig farm, received $325 in startup funds. Owner Charles Pilbeam is 16 years old and is home schooled in Stittville, NY.
  • Trizzy Beats, a company providing instrumental music beats for commercial use, received $200 in startup funds. Owner Travon Howard is in twelfth grade at Proctor High School in Utica.
  • Burrito Bagz, a product-based company making customizable backpacks for school-aged students, received $100 in startup funds. Owner Cody Tarkowski is in sixth grade at Westmoreland Middle School.
  • Reading Roosters, a non-profit reading program for youth, received $100 in startup funds. Owner Julia Muller is in sixth grade at Westmoreland Middle School. 
  • Delectably Divine Desserts, a social enterprise business that specializes in gourmet brownies, received $400 in startup funds. Owner Courtney Divine is a senior at Holland Patent High School.
  • Kandi Pen, a products-based business selling customizable pens that can hold candy, received $500 in startup funds. Owner Anthony Giglio is an eighth grader at Notre Dame Jr./Sr. High.
  • Spandex Frenzy, an athletic apparel company selling embellished track shorts, received $100 in startup funds. Owner Curtiera McCants is a ninth grader at Proctor High School in Utica.
  • Venettozzi Industries, a company specializing in board games to help middle school students to learn Spanish, received $200 in startup funds. Owner Alexis Venettozzi is a seventh grader at Little Falls Middle School.

Students will now begin marketing and selling their products and services, and preparing for the YEA! Trade Show to showcase their goods to the general public.  The Trade Show will be held on Wednesday, June 4 from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at a Greater Utica Chamber Business After Hours Event, held at Mohawk Valley Community College in the Information Technology Building.  This event is free and open to the public.

For more information on this event, please contact Carolyn DeJohn at cdejohn@mvcc.edu or 315.792.5410.

Matthew Snyder
Executive Director of Marketing & Communications


Payne Hall, Office 345
1101 Sherman Drive
Utica, New York 13501
Telephone - 315.792.5330
FAX - 315.731.5856