April 8, 2022Print | PDF
The 13th annual PepsiCo Pitch Competition was held on Friday, March 4. The event, hosted by the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, provides first-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) students with an opportunity to develop their public speaking skills by pitching a business concept.
Leanne Hagarty, the faculty advisor for BU121, said this year’s competition saw 65 out of 1,576 first-year students making it to the semi-final round.
“We’re very excited to be kicking off the PepsiCo Pitch finals for 2022. I’m very proud that they embraced this opportunity and worked hard to get here,” Hagarty said.
Twelve students were selected to pitch in the final round from the semi-finals. Both rounds were judged by a distinguished panel of alumni, teaching assistants, entrepreneurs, and external business community members.
Unlike many other pitch competitions, students in the PepsiCo Pitch Competition are judged on presentation skills rather than the viability of their proposals. The road to pitching at the PepsiCo Pitch Competition starts in the classroom for students in their Business 121 (BU121) course. BU121 is a foundational course that provides students with an understanding of the organization’s functional areas. These areas include developing a business plan, soft skill development, and the business vocabulary necessary to succeed in their degrees and after graduation.
Drew Novak was awarded first place for his pitch. He said participating in competition reinforced the importance of connecting with an audience while presenting.
“Body language, tonality, and speech pacing are tools that presenters leverage to captivate the room. Seeing these skills used while watching as an audience member strengthened my understanding of the concepts that how you convey your ideas is just as impactful as the ideas themselves,” Novak said.
Finalist Sahej Malhi said the competition was an invaluable opportunity to develop pitching, presentational, and public speaking skills.
“The competition was the highlight of my first academic year at Laurier. It provided me exposure to an essential component of business, the art of the pitch. In addition to developing personal skills, I was able to network with PepsiCo executives and meet like-minded first-year students,” Malhi added.
Fellow finalist Abigail Tossios shared Malhi’s feelings on the competition. She said the biggest lesson for her was that new opportunities and growth as an individual come from stepping outside your comfort zone.
“Participating in this competition as a first-year student gave me the greatest sense of belonging amongst my classmates and within my program. This experience has allowed me to gain a greater sense of self-confidence and drive to succeed in this program and in my future career,” Tossios said.
The keynote speaker for the competition was alumnus Jeff Alpaugh (BBA’ 07), owner of Jeff Alpaugh Custom, a custom clothier with stores in Waterloo, Ontario and Fredericton, New Brunswick. Alpaugh shared a story from the early days of his entrepreneurial journey.
One of his first business ventures was bringing Vietnamese-style shirts to consumers in North America. Looking at the margins, Alpaugh realized that increasing sales wasn’t enough — he needed to reduce production costs. Alpaugh travelled to Vietnam to pitch his manufacturers but ended up with higher unit costs after his pitch.
Alpaugh wasn’t dissuaded by the challenge and refined his pitch for the manufacturer. He said he was able to win over the manufacturer through his determination.
“If you figure out who you are and what you want your mark on the world to be and combine that clarity with the academic and business knowledge, that’s how you can unleash the true power of a great pitch,” Alpaugh said.
● Michael Densham (BBA ‘01), President, Banyan Risk Services (Canada)
● Jaret Henhoeffer (BA ’95, MBA ’00), President, Penguin Power Holdings
● Reagan Ruslim, (BBA ’99) Senior Legal Counsel, Labour, Employment, Pension and Benefits and Acting Manager, Business Ethics, Hydro One
● Christine Rohrbach (BBA ’91) Executive Vice President, Ingredients, Dairy Supply, Sustainability & Member Relations, Gay Lea Foods
● Joanne Hillion (BBA ’90) Vice President of Sales, UNFI
● Deb Craven (BBA ’89) CFO, Longos
● Akshat Soni (BBA ’19) Co-Founder and CEO, RealMe Property
● Mallory McKewen, (BBA ’12, MBA ’14) Senior Account Manager, Technology Industry, BDC
● Lisa Keeping, Vice Dean, Professor of OBHRM, Lazaridis School of Business and Economics
● Jeff Alpaugh (BBA ’07), Owner, Jeff Alpaugh Custom
● Adam Day (BBA ’05), Director of Marketing and Long Term Strategy, Carbonated Soft Drinks, PepsiCo
● Jason Lemaich (BBA ’95), Director of Sales, Franchise Bottling Operations, PepsiCo
● Christine Poltrok, Sr. Director, Human Resources, PepsiCo
1. Drew Novak
2. Abigail Tossios
3. Sahej Malhi
● Anna Jagodzinski
● Laeticia Fosso
● Ananya Ohrie
● Joshua Hamilton
● Jeffrey Armstrong
● Sukhraj Kaler
● Huzaifa Saeed
● Arnav Srinivasan
● Kiara Fathi