PASSHE Startup Challenge 2023 Student Competition Finalists

Harrisburg, PA – Businesses with products and services in high demand will be featured when three student entrepreneurs compete in the final round of the annual State System Startup Challenge, the Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) announced today. The students will pitch their original business plans to a panel of judges for a chance to win funds to support their startup or expand their business. The Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) will air the competition live at 7 p.m., April 19. You can also watch it live on PCN Select.

“These student entrepreneurs have innovative and exciting startups that combine business, healthcare and education, which are three fields in high demand in Pennsylvania,” said Board of Governors Chairwoman Cynthia D. Shapira. “State System universities are preparing thousands of students for success as entrepreneurs, and I commend the supportive faculty and the remarkable ingenuity and energy of the students.”

The top prize is $10,000, and second- and third-place finishers will receive prizes of $5,000 and $2,500, respectively. The finalists were selected from more than 60 students and student teams from across the state-owned public university system.

“Thank you to the students and universities that competed in this year’s State System Startup Challenge,” said Chancellor Dan Greenstein. “The ingenuity and energy of these finalists speaks volumes about the spirit of innovation that is thriving at our universities. Several past winners of this competition have launched their own businesses from the ideas born of this real-life experience, and I look forward to the new businesses that may emerge from this year’s competition.”

The students will pitch innovative products in education, healthcare and business—three strong academic areas within PASSHE universities and three industries with worker shortages. The start-up challenges dovetail with PASSHE universities’ efforts to address workforce shortages in education, healthcare, business, social services, engineering and computer science.  PASSHE is seeking to increase its appropriation to increase the amount of financial aid available to students who pursue degrees in high-demand areas.

The three State System Startup Challenge Finalists are:

Pennsylvania Western University (PennWest)

Victoria Heffelfinger, a freshman special education student from North Huntingdon, Pa.: Wildlife Water School LLC is an aquatic instruction school that provides swimming lessons for people ages 6 months and older. Offering an inclusive environment for people of all abilities and backgrounds, the school provides basic skills, infant swimming resources, and advanced instruction. Specialized lessons for people with disabilities or other challenges are also available. Lesson schedules and information is available www.wildlifewaterschool.com. Wildlife Water School intends to offer aquatic therapy in the future.

East Stroudsburg University

Stelios Melekos, a junior business management student with a concentration in entrepreneurship from Churchville, Pa.: Blitz Performance LLC provides anglers with the highest quality and most innovative lures and apparel for both saltwater and freshwater fishing. Blitz Performance products are available to retail customers online at blitzfishingperformance.com and wholesale at tackle shops across five states. Blitz Performance is committed to building a sense of community around the brand by developing the tools to catch more fish and make the most of anglers’ time on the water.

West Chester University

Jake Henry, a senior Bachelor’s of Applied Science student with a pharmaceutical product development concentration from Camp Hill, Pa.: Lectra Technologies LLC produces Lectra Tape to help people navigate their rehabilitation process and complete physical therapy. Lectra Tape is conductive kinesiology tape that delivers electrical pulses from a wireless muscle stimulator to aid in the healing and rehabilitation process. Sensors in the tape collect data that is analyzed and shared with the user and physical therapists, so they can adjust rehabilitation plans to provide the best results and encourage the individual to continue their physical therapy.

The judges for the State System Startup Challenge finals will be Cynthia Pritchard, Vice President, Senior Philanthropic Specialist for Wells Fargo; David Kerr, President of External Affairs for AT&T, Adam Stewart, Vice President of Strategic Growth Marketing and Relationship Management for PSECU, and Taylor Rowles, Senior Manager of Market Integration for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company.

Editor’s Note: Photos of the individual students are available by contacting Kevin Hensil, khensil@passhe.edu.

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