Alfred University News

Alfred University teams take first and second place at fourth annual AHA! Competition

Teams of students from Alfred University claimed the first- and second-place prizes in the fourth annual AHA! Allegany County Startup Collegiate Competition, held Saturday, April 6, on the Alfred University campus. Five teams from Alfred University and three from Alfred State College presented their ideas for creating a new business to a panel of three judges. Winning teams were awarded cash prizes, which can be used to put their business plans into action.

The Alfred University team of Caleb Lesswing, a mechanical engineering major from Buffalo, NY, and Montana Weidman, a materials science and engineering from East Bethany, NY, and their company, Vitrum Everlasting, won the competition. The team was mentored by William LaCourse, Alfred University emeritus professor of glass science, and Al Vasquez, executive coach and strategy advisor with COACH.AL in Ithaca, NY. Caleb and Montana, both seniors at Alfred University, won the $5,000 grand prize.

Vitrum Everlasting creates unbreakable glassware with a new technology (patent pending).  This glass will benefit both home consumers as well as business owners both small and large.  The business will focus on ion-strengthened stemmed wine glasses, spirit glasses, and pint glasses as they start growing their business.  The glasses are dishwasher safe and have the option to be antibacterial and germicidal as well.

Having nearly unbreakable glass that literally bounces will help reduce waste in needing to replace glassware both in the home and in the food and beverage industry. Vitrum Everlasting plans to manufacture and process their glassware in Allegany County.  

“We got (a) priceless experience that will support us through any future endeavor,” Montana said of her time working on the AHA! project.

The Alfred University duo of Emily Agnello, a senior marketing major from Alfred, NY, and Sienna Cefalu, a senior marketing major from Amherst, NY, and their company, Insights into Answers, finished in second place and took home a $2,500 prize. Insights Into Answers organizes focus groups for businesses and assists in compiling and analyzing data. The team was mentored by Shelly Freyn, professor of marketing at Alfred University, and John Adams, MBA, franchise expert for Frannet, in Rochester, NY.

AHA 2024 second place winners
Emily Agnello (left), a senior marking major from Alfred, NY, and Sienna Cefalu, a senior marketing major from Amherst, NY took second place in the Fourth Annual AHA! Allegany County Startup Collegiate Competition, held Saturday, April 6.

A team from Alfred State won third place in the competition and claimed a $1,000 prize. Another Alfred State team won the Viewer’s Choice Award and $250.

Three other teams that competed from Alfred University were Natalee Collins, Briana Dorr, and Cassidy Primrose and their business, Clearly Solar; Andrii Maltsev, Maksym Smirnov, and Ryan Way and their business, Campus Smart Parking; and Kenneth Allison and Gabe Eldaye and their business, The Mental Playbook. “It was a great experience that I learned a lot by participating!” Eldaye remarked.

Judges for the competition were Brooke Harris, chairman of the Allegany County (NY) Board of Legislator, Casey Joyce, former president of Otis Minnesota and an energy and construction professional, and Albert Rivera, business development officer with Pathstone Enterprise Center. The trio of judges evaluated pitches made by eight teams.

Youtube video 2024 AHA! Competition

The AHA! Allegany County Startup Collegiate Competition is made possible through grant funding, partnerships, and sponsors from: Alfred University, Alfred State College, Allegany County, the ACCORD Corp., the Western New York Incubator Network, Western NY Wilds, The Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CACT) at Alfred University, Alfred University School of Business, Sealing Devices Inc., Maple City Savings Bank, and Ljungström/Arvos Group. Alfred University hosted the inaugural event in 2021 and again in 2022, while Alfred State hosted in 2023.

“This year was the best year yet, with great ideations, innovations, and student led pitches that were delivered with poise and creativity,” said Ashleigh Madison, executive director of IncubatorWorks, commented. “We are so fortunate to have such great student talent at Alfred University and Alfred State College, and it makes me hopeful for our future with these leaders of tomorrow.”

IncubatorWorks provides programming and services for ceramics and glass science startups as well as Main Street businesses. The organization plays a vital part in fostering growth of entrepreneurial enterprises and small businesses in the surrounding areas with a focus on Allegany, Chemung, Steuben, and Schuyler counties.

IncubatorWorks is also presenting the 607 Soaring Collegiate Competition with Elmira College and Corning Community College on April 27. The organization also offers a 12-week Small Business Accelerator Program, a Business Plan Program, a Summer Youth Entrepreneurship Program, and a Prototyping Maker Space Lab at the IncubatorWorks Elmira location. The programs are made possible by grant funding from New York State and Chemung County as well as federal grant funding through New Energy New York, a collaboration with SUNY Binghamton and other regional partners.