‘It allows students to see themselves as true entrepreneurs’: River Pitch 2022 gives students opportunity to mobilize business ideas

Sarah Clifton, Staff Reporter

River Pitch, an annual business pitch competition held at the Tuscaloosa River Market, awarded $1,000 each to 10 winning teams on Nov. 15. 

The competition, which is in its sixth iteration, broke the contest into 10 booths. Each booth housed six to seven teams who all gave their three-minute pitches to a panel of judges, who then deliberated to decide which team would take home the $1,000 dollar prize. The full list of winners, consisting of both UA students and community members, can be viewed here. 

The event, which coincided with the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute’s celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week and the 10th anniversary of The University of Alabama’s business “incubator” The Edge, hosted the largest turnout the event has ever seen. 

“I am really in awe that we have so many people that are signing up,” said Theresa Welbourne, executive director of AEI. “Some [of the pitches] this year are community based and could really help Tuscaloosa, and other [pitches] are more technologically related, so there’s lots of variety.” 

Due to the larger pool of competitors, the “competition is a little tougher this year,” according to Jim Page, a guest speaker and CEO of The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. 

Lou Marino, chair of the management department and professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, served as one of the judges for the competition. He said they primarily judge on feasibility and presentation of the pitch, as well as the depth of thought that goes into the pitch. 

“It’s always really fun seeing how they’ve identified the problem, what their solution is, and how they are going to monetize that,” Marino said.  

The students participating approached the event with different hopes and expectations. 

Anna Grace Barrett, a senior majoring in marketing and management, said that she was participating partially as a class project for her marketing class, but also in hopes of winning money and obtaining feedback to advance her idea. 

“We have all the financial stuff and the business plan figured out,” Barrett said. “But it’s mostly a matter of literal funds.” 

Beth Shiffer, a senior majoring in marketing and management, said she took the event as an opportunity to not only get professional business experience, but also to hone other skills. 

“I’ve always struggled with public speaking, and just practicing for this event has made me a lot more confident,” Shiffer said. 

Shelby Kinnear, a senior majoring in management, said he looked forward to getting exposure for his group’s project as well as the pitching experience. 

“This is the first time any of us in our group has done this,” Kinnear said. “I would love the experience of just putting [the pitch] out there and getting professional input.” 

Alice Gordon Holloway, a professor of entrepreneurship and strategy facilitated student participation in the competition by making her course culminate in pitching their ideas.  

“This is a fantastic opportunity for students to get firsthand experience,” Holloway said. “It really allows students to see themselves as entrepreneurs and true business professionals before they even graduate.”