For the 2020 National Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Pitch competition, Dannaka White, a senior studying Electrical Engineering, prepared an entire business proposal and pitch for his innovative idea, Dink, to be presented on a national (virtual) stage. Despite more than 300 qualified applicants from 151 campuses across the country, White landed in the top 20!

So how did he do it? All because of the uniqueness of his idea and personality.

“It wasn’t just me being personable, I was the only one in the competition offering something such as Dink.”

Dink is an app idea that makes online shopping as painless as possible. Still in development, the idea behind Dink is to allow online customers to try on clothing virtually using a 3D body scan, giving the user a view of how that clothing article will fit before buying it, and waiting to try it on. Pretty impressive, right? But, Dannaka’s success didn’t come without its fair share of failure along the way.

“Not making it into the finals the previous year gave me the tenacity and motivation to give it another shot,” Dannaka said. “I knew if I didn’t give it another shot, if I didn’t give it another go, I essentially would be giving up on myself.”

Dannaka qualified for the national competition through the 2020 SIU Pitch Competition which was virtual for obvious reasons. Unlike most contestants, he saw this as an advantage, not as an obstacle. The previous year he didn’t win, nor did he even place. In 2020, Dannaka used every resource he could find to his advantage. He had to take a look at the competition ahead and think, “What can I do differently?”. He grabbed a note pad, then proceeded to write down anyone and everyone that had anything to do with business and dealing with proposals. He structured a flow chart of all these people and listed out each person’s strengths in being able to assist him.

He talked to friends who were MBAs to get a grasp on numbers and statistics for his idea. He met with Dr. Barnett, Director of SIU’s Incubator Programs, to perfect his pitch. It was all about tapping into different networks. Along the way, Dannaka discovered that the incubator team has a plethora of different resources that are often underutilized by students or they don’t know they have access to.

Dannaka learned that, “When you want to do anything big, you have to be okay with failing”. Although he did not win the previous year, he persevered, took the proper action, and did the work to make the necessary changes. By doing this, he ended up on top and won the first place prize of $750 to advance his idea.

Other students placing in SIU’s 2020 Pitch Competition included Md. Jawad Siddique, a master’s student in computer science from Chittagong, Bangladesh, who pitched HELPO, an app to connect skilled workers or helpers with people who need them.

Winning the crowd favorite prize was Asma Ghazouani, a master’s student in advanced energy and fuels management from Tunisia. Her concept was for Muslim Steps Around the World, to provide Islamic friendly tourist services. Ghazouani received 40% of the nearly 150 votes cast.

We are so proud to work with SIU’s innovative students! If you are a student who has an innovative idea or concept that you want to explore, sign up for our free training showing you how to turn your business idea into a ‘killer’ pitch to prepare for SIU Fall 2021 pitch competition.

We’ll see you at the incubator!

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