‘Community building is being created’ with Hampton Roads entrepreneurial pitch contests

TruSolutions LLC is the first 2018 757 Pitch winner. The small business specializes in tactical equipment and apparel for the military and first responders. 

VIRGINIA BEACH — Having a new idea, whether it solves a social problem or creates a new product, is only the first step on the path to entrepreneurship.

The second step is sharing it with others.

In March, the ODU Center for Enterprise Innovation (CEI) and the ODU Strome Entrepreneurial Center are giving entrepreneurs two chances to win cash and prizes by pitching their next big business idea.

The two pitch programs, ODU’s Lions Lair Innovation Competition and 757 Pitch, are currently accepting applications for their March competitions. Both contests are looking for new, independent and innovative ventures that are in the early growth stages. While ODU’s Lion’s Lair has two possible tracks to apply to, social or traditional entrepreneurship, 757 Pitch is looking for a business model with high growth potential.

“Bring your best game,” said Jerry Cronin, ODU Center for Enterprise Innovation (CEI) TempO director. “We are looking for high growth, scalable ideas. It can be any topic, just bring your best idea.”

Both contests are open solely to Hampton Roads residents, and while the bi-monthly 757 Pitch competitions started in May of 2017, ODU Lion’s Lair is in its third year of competition.

The 757 Pitch competitions provide five Hampton Roads-based teams with seven minutes to pitch their new business idea. In 2017, 757 Pitch received over 40 applications and awarded over $43,000 in cash and prizes to the four winners.

757 Pitch 2017 winners (Courtesy of the ODU Center for Enterprise Innovation)

This year has started off with a Norfolk-based 757 Pitch winner, Trusolutions. In January the small business took home $757 and over $10,000 in services from ODU’s TempO program. Trusolutions has been in business for four years as a defense contractor with the federal government. The company specializes in tactical equipment and apparel, as well as consulting. Their new approach to a wearable hydration system stood out to the judges.

“There are just as many innovative people in Hampton Roads, but people don’t know what to do or where to go,” Cronin said. “At 757 Pitch, they can find support through networking and creating beneficial collisions while in the same room with like-minded individuals, and perhaps win a little money.”


ODU’s Lion’s Liar was first conceived as a way to encourage entrepreneurs at ODU, but in its third year they have adjusted the platform to include all of Hampton Roads. After seeing a great interest in ideas focused on solving social problems, the Lion’s Lair team created two different categories for this year’s competition.

“There are lots of entrepreneurs interested in solving a problem in the community,” said Nancy L. Grden, executive director at Strome Entrepreneurial Center. “Some of them haven’t even thought of themselves as entrepreneurs, but they are. They’ve identified a problem and are coming up with solutions. Now, how do they fund it?”

Lion Lair’s other category, traditional entrepreneurial, is for those individuals who have innovative ideas for a retail item that is consumer friendly.

In the fall 2016 Lion Lair competition, $15,000 in prize money was distributed among winners in four categories and a best in show. That contest, as well as the 2017 NATO competition, was sponsored by, Hillier Ignite, which is owned and founded by ODU graduate, Luke Hillier.

Community Leaders

Both the ODU Center for Enterprise Innovation (CEI) and the ODU Strome Entrepreneurial Center have seen an increase in the quality of pitches, as well as a positive impact of their programs in the Hampton Roads community.

“There’s more happening in the community, and we are seeing quicker growth and activity in the area,” Cronin said. “Community building is being created, and winners are helping others as well.

For those interested in pitching their idea, but looking for practice and feedback before giving a competition pitch, the contest directors recommend applying to present at 1 million cups Virginia Beach that meets every Wednesday.

“ODU’s Strome center is bringing in proven individuals and entrepreneurs that are settling in the area. They are the future of Hampton Roads,” said Steve Goad, outreach coordinator at ODU’s Center for Enterprise Innovation. “It’s exciting to see people come together and have an impact on Hampton Roads. We’re spreading the word that you can stay in Hampton Roads to have a successful business.”

The deadline for both competitions next month is March 2.

To apply to ODU’s Lions Lair Innovation Competition, click here. To apply to 757 Pitch, click here.

For resources to prepare for your next pitch, or to look back at some of the past 757 Pitch winners, click here.

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