Student entrepreneurs strike a chord at Pitch Perfect competition

Maksym Skakun, Aleksandra Frolova, Levgeniia Kalinina, and Alexandra I, students in NC’s Business Administration – Marketing and Business Administration (Co-op) – Supply Chain and Operations Management (Co-op), made up the winning Auto Girls team, who pitched the idea of an auto shop run for women, by women. They are joined by event judges Mishka Balsom, President and CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, Vivian Kinnaird, Dean of Business, Hospitality and Environment, and Matt Goch, Small Business Advisor with Meridian Credit Union


Auto Girls – an auto shop run by women, for women – topped a strong field of student-created business ideas at Niagara College’s Pitch Perfect competition held April 18. 

The event was hosted at Southbrook Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake and organized by ncTakeOff, Niagara College’s entrepreneurship hub. Eight teams of students from the college’s School of Business and Management each brought their ideas before a panel of judges that included Mishka Balsom, President and CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC), Matt Goch, Small Business Advisor with Meridian Credit Union, and Niagara College’s dean of Business, Hospitality and Environment Vivian Kinnaird.

Students created detailed business cases that outlined how their idea was not only viable and marketable, but how it would contribute to Niagara’s local economy. In addition to the “Best Pitch” award, a “Best for Niagara” award also recognized the team whose idea would most benefit the Niagara community.

“Pitch Perfect was a perfect way to celebrate all of our student entrepreneurs and innovators at Niagara College,” said Madi Fuller, project manager for ncTakeOff and organizer of the event. “Standing in front of a crowd and pitching an idea can be scary but each group brought something unique and innovative to the table. Entrepreneurship is so important to incorporate into a college experience.”

The winning team of the competition, Auto Girls, received a $3,000 award from event sponsor Meridian Credit Union to advance their business idea. The team also received entry into the GNCC’s Ignite business pitch competition, happening May 8. There they will compete with six finalists from across Niagara for over $10,000 in cash and business supports.

Alexandra I said the idea for Auto Girls came about as the number of female drivers is increases, while the auto industry continues to targeting male drivers. “We’ve never heard of auto shop for female drivers, so we decided to change the world a little bit and create one,” she said.

I and her teammates Ivgeniia Kalinina, Maksym Skakun and Aleksandra Frolova, all International students in NC’s Business Administration – Marketing and Business Administration – Supply Chain and Operations Management programs, gained invaluable business experience through the event.

“It was very excited to know that our team won the competition. it was our pleasure to compete with strong teams and their valuable business ideas,” said I. “The experience we gained during this event is priceless.”

The ‘Best for Niagara’ award was given to Date-in-a-Box, an idea for a dating app that connects users with local Niagara businesses like wineries and other tourist destinations. That team consisted of Business Administration-Marketing  students James Sanchez, Anton Buist, Hayley Parker, and Cameron Tharby.

ncTakeOff is Niagara College’s hub for entrepreneurship, and aims to create an innovative, enterprising and challenge-embracing culture in Niagara and beyond. The hub hosts entrepreneurial development programs and events such as Pitch Perfect and the Social Enterprise Start-up Weekend, held earlier this year, and connects students to subject experts, mentors, events and funding opportunities in the Niagara community.

“Our students are Niagara’s future business leaders. Events like these not only support the development of our students, but are also a key way Niagara College supports and enhances the talent and innovation of the Niagara business community,” said Dean of Business, Hospitality and Environment Vivian Kinnaird.

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit




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