First-Year Students Earn Top Honors in Business Pitch Competition

Jackie Conti '27 and Emily Whalen '27

Jackie Conti '27 and Emily Whalen '27 (SUNY Geneseo photo/Matt Burkhartt)

Geneseo’s VanArsdale Business Pitch competition earlier this month awarded the grand prize of $2,500 to Pod God Productions, helmed by Jackie Conti ‘27, a communication major from Endicott, NY, and Emily Whalen ‘27, a mathematics and adolescence education major from Tonawanda, NY. Hosts of Yap City Central, a podcast on creating relatable content for college students, the pair pitched a network of niche podcasts with diverse content to resonate with any listener. 

“We plan to use the prize money to buy equipment, enhance the quality of the podcast, and look for talent to be featured on Yap City Central, or to host the next show,” Conti says.

The VanArsdale competition celebrates small business and social enterprises and commemorates Charles “Bud” VanArsdale, a generous donor to Geneseo and the School of Business. Six competitors pitched their ideas and answered questions from the panel of judges, who scored them on creativity, market opportunity, product differentiation, business model, financial feasibility, and business sustainability. 

“Many of the competitions available to our students are tech ventures focused on scalability and being candidates for institutional investment,” says Mark Rider, VanArsdale Chair for Entrepreneurship and director of the competition. “Our student population has ambitions that more closely relate to Bud VanArsdale's vision of setting up their e-commerce site, creating a service business, setting up a community store in their hometown, or creating a social enterprise that services a mission vital to them.” 

Other business pitches included a chain of drop-shipping companies; a social media and marketing management company tailored for restaurant owners; an e-sports organization supporting women and diversity in gaming; and strategies to combat stress on campus with playground equipment or hobby baking.  

Judges included local Geneseo and Rochester entrepreneurs Julie Meyers, owner of Florence’s Perpetual Estate Sale in Geneseo; Matthew Chabot, a Rochester-based entrepreneur; and Carolyn Spencer, CEO of CoPivot in the Finger Lakes. 

Rider plans to continue promoting small businesses and entrepreneurship on campus through the future of this competition and hopes to develop and offer even larger opportunities in the future.

—Erin Tinklepaugh '25