Lunch Box Cards takes first place at the 2024 New Venture Competition


On Friday, April 19, the 17th annual New Venture Competition and Expo took place in Business Hall Room 104. Students were encouraged to share their business ideas with other students, staff, and alumni. 

The winner gets $5,000 in non-equity seed funding along with a $25,000 Rowan Innovation Venture Fund convertible note investment option and an entry to the AccelerateRU program. Second place gets $2,000 and an application to AccelerateRU. Third place gets $1,000 and the ability to apply to AccelerateRU. AccelerateRU is a 10-week summer program where they provide students with resources to build up their businesses. 

Registration opened on January 16 at the start of the semester. Rowan’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) helped each team in developing their ventures from the workshops. A five-minute pitch determined the finalists of the New Venture Competition.

The five finalists were Finn by Kevin Crawford, Lunch Box Cards Company by Anna DeMasi, Bobica Bars by Harrison Nastasi and Justin Iannelli, Flo Good Technologies by Jerek Garcia and Florinda Good-Gonzales, and Circlez by Aiden Tahmazian and Sydney Wiredu. 

The day began with the Student Startup Gallery from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Over 50 ventures were displayed for the audience. Two of the finalists, Bobica Bars, and Lunch Box Cards, were a part of the New Venture Expo where they previewed their products to the public before presenting in front of the judges. 

DeMasi says she wants Lunch Box Cards to be an “emotional vitamin” for kids. DeMasi’s mother made heartwarming cards for her when she was a little girl. The cards brought them closer and DeMasi hopes these cards can do the same for millions of children who need the support. 

“They are communication cards meant to strengthen the relationship between parents and children. Each card is based on the cards my mom had made for me,” DeMasi said.

Second place winner, Bobica Bars is a granola bar brand that helps improve the health benefits compared to other known granola bar brands. Nastasi’s mother’s battle with arthritis and his father’s diagnosis of celiac disease inspired him to make their bars health-friendly for all consumers.

Nichole Castelli took home first place at the Student Startup Gallery, with a prize of $300. Aiden Sharpe and Stefan won the People’s Choice for their app “Are You Fit” at the New Venture Expo. Sharpe explained why the app is beneficial for students who are going to the gym. 

“40% of them said that they frequently wait for equipment at the gym,” said Sharpe. “A lot of engineers, especially through the clinic programs that we have here at Rowan, really inspire an entrepreneurial mindset.”

The New Venture Competition began at 1:30 p.m. Each finalist had eight minutes to pitch their ventures to a panel of judges. After the presentation, the four judges got to ask the students questions about their product and their strategy for the product to take off. 

Crawford was the first to present with his venture, Finn. It is an A.I. powered financial advising app. The artificial intelligence advisor tool helps people reach their financial goals.

Garcia and Good-Gonzales also presented their venture Flo Good Technologies. They made compostable straws made from natural ingredients. Their goal is to eliminate all plastic beginning with the good straw. 

Circlez, created by Tahmazian and Wiredu, is a goal-setting app where students can keep others accountable. The idea is based on their Discord server they joined in high school where they share their goals and the progress they make throughout the week. Their goal is to keep the students motivated to achieve their goals. 

In between presentations, the New Venture Competition held an Alumni Spotlight where former Rowan students talked about their experience in business. One of the alumni was Brian Ruiz, class of 2008, who is the Founder and CEO of Strategic Billing Enterprise. He was a part of the first annual New Venture Competition where he finished in third place. In his speech, he gave some advice to the students who competed in the competition. 

“Whether you placed first, third, or didn’t reach the finals, your position does not define your potential or the magnitude of your success that you could achieve. It’s about how you leverage and utilize the resources available here at Rowan,” said Ruiz. 

DeMasi’s Lunch Box Cards won the New Venture Competition with Nastasi and Iannelli’s Bobica Bars being the runner-up. Tahmazian and Wiredu’s Circlez took home third place. Circlez was first place in the New Venture Expo winning $4,000 in prize money. 

DeMasi entered the contest last year with the same venture. There was good feedback on the product itself. The focus was on how they can satisfy the consumer’s needs.

“We’ve basically just improved, figured out where we could really niche our market and how we can grab consumers,” said DeMasi. 

After her win, she is excited for the future of Lunch Box Cards. 

“We’re excited to launch our product for the 2024 ‘Back to School’ season,” DeMasi said. “We’re really excited to establish our brand and continue to inspire parents everywhere.”

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