New business ideas take centre stage at Acadia Launchbox’s Pitch Perfect 3

Written by Kali Lancaster 
Kali Lancaster is a 3rd year Community Development major who recently completed her 2nd co-op work term with Acadia Launchbox. 

What do sweet tea, AI assistants, artisanal goods from Asia, project management tools for engineers, contractor ratings, E-scooters, permaculture, and property management have to do with each other? They all could be the next big thing to come out of Acadia Launchbox’s Pitch Perfect competition. 

Acadia Launchbox is a student entrepreneurship and innovation sandbox. Engagement in the group not only includes access to business-related programming, mentorship, and a network of folks with a similar desire to chart their own paths; Launchbox also opens opportunities to test new ideas, gain seed money, or connect with established investors. Pitch Perfect is the group’s annual competition in which some of the best ideas are pitched for a chance to win some funding and a moment in the spotlight.  

“Pitch Perfect creates the platform for Acadia student entrepreneurs to refine their business skills, meet like-minded students, and to go beyond Acadia and connect with ecosystem partners from across the region,” said Brendan Macneil, Launchbox Manager. “These can be investors, experienced entrepreneurs, or startup programs giving students the opportunity to take their businesses to the next level.” 

Pitch Perfect 3 kicked off at Launchbox’s headquarters (located on the fourth floor of Patterson Hall) on March 22nd. Eight finalists ultimately presented their ideas for five minutes each, followed by a five-minute question round from the judges. That judging panel included Nicholas Hill of DMZ who traveled in from Toronto, and locals Reilley Perrins of IGNITE Atlantic, Sreejata Chatterjee from Foundry, Paul Richards of Invest Nova Scotia, and Stephen Shaw from CBDC Hants-Kings. 

Judges from left to right: Reilley Perrins, Sreejata Chatterjee, Nicholas Hill, Paul Richards, and Steve Shaw 

The first pitch of the afternoon was by spouses and co-founders of Northern Sweet Tea, Bruce and Dawn Armstrong. Dawn is pursuing her master's degree in education while starting the sweet tea business. They plan to can their family's southern-style recipe to bring sweet tea to the Maritimes while leveraging Dawn’s background in medicine to ensure that they accurately promote the health benefits of their beverage.

Luke Mainwaring and Luke Wagner, co-founders of DAHLIA and winners of the first Pitch Perfect in March 2023, were next to pitch their personal AI assistant. Unlike other AI applications, DAHLIA is programmed with human-like interaction and emotion, anthropomorphic awareness, infinite memory, and dynamic learning and adaptation. Currently, DAHLIA is integrated into IOS and can be used in Calendar, Mail, and Reminders applications.

Then, Alex Dulay, founder of Touching Hearts (and a recent winner of the 2024 Sobey Award), pitched her social enterprise dedicated to empowering underprivileged Southeast Asian communities through fair trade practices. She is a 3rd year BBA student majoring in Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Through her e-commerce platform, she’ll showcase and sell high-quality, sustainable handmade jewelry, knives, carvings, and other artisanal treasures from her home country of the Philippines and other neighbouring Southeast Asian countries.

Up next, Seth Gledhill, a 1st year Engineering student pitched his business plan EngInNeed. Seth was inspired to create this platform for engineers, engineering companies, and engineering students to network and collaborate on projects when he noticed a lack of hands-on experience opportunities during his undergraduate degree. He is in the process of creating his platform and gaining clients.

Ben Tompkins, founder of Collared Connections and 3rd year BBA student majoring in Entrepreneurship and Innovation pitched his startup. Collared Connections is a contractor-rating platform allowing contractors to advertise their services to clients and for clients to evaluate the performance of contractors. Ben is in the process of creating a fully functioning website and gaining clients. Catch him at the Wolfville Farmer’s Market every Saturday this summer promoting Collared Connections and getting customer feedback

Next, Brandon Snyder, a 5th year BBA student majoring in Entrepreneurship & Innovation and owner of Wolfville E-scooters, pitched his environmentally friendly, modern, and cost-effective transportation model to the judges. Wolfville E-scooters is set to launch in April of this year with 25 scooters in Wolfville. Brandon has been meeting with Town Council, Wolfville RCMP, and Acadia’s Safety & Security to prepare for his upcoming pilot. 

Duo Tyler Kennedy and Patrick Stanbrook, 3rd year Computer Science and 4th year Environmental Science students, respectively, pitched their idea Nature’s Neighbours. They are working to provide aservice which introduces beneficial plants into agricultural fields to reduce farmers need for pesticides and fertilizers. A week prior to Pitch Perfect, Tyler and Patrick won the Orchard Innovation Challenge presenting this same idea to benefit Nova Scotian Apple Growers.

The last pitch was given by Shishya Agrawal, a 2nd year Computer Science student. He pitched his idea, PropertyHub. His startup would connect property management companies with service providers. Shisya was inspired to create a solution from his personal experiences renting.  

From left to right: Alex Dulay, founder of Touching Hearts, winner of the Audience Favourite Award; Brendan Macneil, Launchbox Manager; Luke Wagner and Luke Mainwaring, founders of DAHLIA and winners of the Grand Prize; Nicholas Hill, Head of Legal at DMZ, and Pitch Perfect judge

After the pitches, judges convened to determine the winners of Pitch Perfect 3. The audience favourite, for $500, was awarded to Alex Dulay (Touching Hearts). The Entrepreneurship Awards, each valued at $1,000, were awarded to Bruce and Dawn Armstrong (Northern Sweet Tea) and Luke Mainwaring and Luke Wagner (DAHLIA). The team from DAHLIA also walked away with the grand prize of $2,500 for their AI personal assistant. 

Alex plans to use the winnings to get Touching Hearts officially launched this September. The Northern Sweet Tea founders intend to use the prize money to cover the initial costs of bottlings and purchasing tables at farmers’ markets. Luke and Luke will use their prize money to continue the development of DAHLIA and the launch of the app. 

“The pitch competition was a great opportunity to further refine our skills and our pitch deck,” said grand prize winners Luke Mainwaring and Luke Wagner. “It also provided us with additional funding for our startup, which allows us to release our product more quickly.” 

On behalf of Acadia Launchbox, we would like to recognize all the hard work students put into preparing and participating in the pitch competition, we appreciate you sharing your innovative ideas with the Acadia community. Additionally, we express our gratitude to our esteemed judges for their invaluable contribution in making this event a success. Thank you for your time and commitment.

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