Edwina Koch – founder of Au Pair, Oh Paris

​The 13th annual Carolina Challenge Pitch Party took place at UNC-Chapel Hill last week, awarding $2,400 across six of the most promising early-stage ventures and ideas in the area.

The event allowed young entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to potential investors and mentors as they prepare to launch their ventures.

“The biggest part of Pitch Party is the learning experience, the exposure, and the opportunity to network,” said Evie Peña, event organizer and member of the Carolina Challenge Core Team.

“It shows the greater RTP community what students have in store for them when they graduate and go off into the world with big ideas and big plans,” Peña said.

Ted Zoller, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies addressing the crowd

“Ultimately, it takes courage,” she continued, “so we want to applaud students for choosing to get involved.”

The Carolina Challenge is a yearlong series of startup-minded activities equipping students with opportunities to receive guidance and resources through networking, educational workshops and venture pitch events.

Over 75 teams participated in the event, accounting for more than 200 students from various academic majors including business, journalism, computer science and social justice.

The Carolina Challenge is one of the core programs offered by the Kenan-Flagler Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Kris Hergert, associate director of the Kenan-Flagler Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, said he believes such diversity plays a major role in entrepreneurial success.

“At its essence, the Carolina Challenge is all about students starting companies,” Hergert said.

“When you bring together students from multiple majors,” he continued, “you create companies that have the business, marketing, social and technological acumen to go on to do game-changing type of work.”

Groups participating in the event were split into two stages – idea and beta – based on the maturity of their venture.

Jim Kitchen, an entrepreneur-in-residence at Kenan-Flagler Business School (and one of the 140 judges for the Challenge) with some of the winning teams

The beta stage consisted of startups aiming to launch now, while the idea stage primarily consisted of innovative concepts arising from courses in the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Creating opportunities for students to combine coursework with their entrepreneurial endeavors may incentivize innovative minds to stay in school.

Over 67 percent of entrepreneurs do not have a four-year college degree, according to a 2015 study by the Kauffman Foundation.

While higher education may not be suited for the majority of founders, some entrepreneurs thrive in the academic ecosystem.

Kenan-Flagler student Edwina Koch leveraged her coursework to add value to her startup – Au Pair, Oh Paris – as she pitched at the event.

“As both an entrepreneurship major and a French major,” Koch said, “this is exactly what I want to do with my life.”

“I get to move to Paris when I graduate and help people succeed,” Koch continued. “It melds my two passions together.”

Au Pair, Oh Paris is a travel agency that aims to equip au pairs in Paris with the resources and information necessary to survive and thrive.

More information about the Carolina Challenge and its upcoming events can be found at: http://carolinachallenge.web.unc.edu/

Note: This story is from the North Carolina Business News Wire, a service of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Media and Journalism. The author is an intern at the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.