Bluejay Tank Winner Cleans Up with Hot Idea

Mallory Burke ’22, first-place winner of the Spring 2021 Bluejay Tank Competition.

Seven Elmhurst students demonstrated their entrepreneurial spirit at the second annual Bluejay Tank competition on April 21, pitching business concepts ranging from a music production company and a grill-cleaning service to an app designed to help college students keep track of their wallets.

Modeled loosely on the popular TV show Shark Tank, the competition gives students the chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs in exchange for feedback and a shot at $3,000 in cash prizes.

Mallory Burke ’22 of Evergreen Park, Ill., won first place for GrillGirlz, a barbecue grill deep-cleaning service that she started last summer with a $120 loan from her parents. With nine employees—all women—the business is on track to earn a net profit of more than $18,000 this year.

With her $1,500 prize, Burke plans to trademark her business, provide safety training to employees, build a website and expand to other states.

“Before the competition, I was at a point where I wasn’t sure where to take my business,” she said. “Winning gave me the confidence to push forward. And as a participant, I’ve made connections with people who can help me succeed.”

Matthew Gans ’21 of Batavia, Ill., won second place and $1,000 for MGProductions, a photo and video marketing company that has produced ads for Aston Martin and other top businesses. Third place and $500 went to Luis Chavez ’22 of Rolling Meadows, Ill., for Scanology, an online tool that helps high school students find the right college.

“As a first-generation student, I didn’t have much help with my college and scholarship search, Chavez said. “I remember staying up all night looking for colleges while I juggled graduation requirements, homework assignments and other extracurricular activities. By creating Scanology, not only can we help students thrive, we can help them through their journey.”

As part of their prize, all three winners will have the opportunity to meet with venture capitalist Larry Hayward, partner and co-founder of Independence Equity, to get tips on presenting their business plans to investors.

This year’s judges were Daisy Betance ’11, founder of organic skin-care company Little Buddha; Michael Foytlin ’21, who won the 2020 competition; and Bruce Fischer, director of the master’s program in project management. Mark Heintz, a strategy consultant and future adjunct professor for the graduate certificate program in entrepreneurship, served as the judge foreman and scoring tabulator. Entrepreneur in Residence Patrick Yanahan ’94, MBA ’10, and Weigand Center Executive Director Martin Gahbauer served as facilitators.

The other finalists were:

  • Alec Goldberg ’23, founder of Oaks Productions, a music-production company
  • Alex Goodell ’23, whose nonprofit, Tech for Smiles, would offer tax write-offs to businesses to promote recycling of used electronics
  • Jared Plotka ’21, whose business, Reserve Bank, would combine in-person cryptobanking with cafes
  • Joshua Sawyer ’23, founder of College LT&F, which would pair GPS-enabled wallets and keychains with an app to help people keep track of their stuff

“All seven business plans were well thought out and very relevant and sound,” said Yanahan. “I can’t say enough about how impressed we were with the quality of the forward-thinking presentations of these young people, and the genuine energy and drive that they exhibited.”

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