By Justin Smith
Assistant News Editor
Everyone would love to earn 1000 dollars in just 90 seconds, like one student here at Canisius did just that this past week. Amber Quinney, a third year transfer student from Howard University, has only been at Canisius for a few weeks and she has already made an impact by winning last Thursday’s annual Elevator Pitch Competition here at Canisius.
For Quinney, coming to Canisius was a return home. Quinney said that a tuition increase drove her decision to leave Howard, and, being from the city of Buffalo, she decided to resume her higher education in-state at Canisius. Quinney found out about the Elevator Pitch Competition after going to Collegiate Entrepreneur Organization’s (C.E.O.) first meeting this semester.
“The advisor and officers mentioned the contest and [I thought], ‘that sound likes something that I’d be interested in,’” said Quinney.
After hearing about the contest, there wasn’t a lot Quinney had to do to prepare in terms of thinking about content. Having done contests similar to this before in high school, with University at Buffalo’s entrepreneurs program, and at Howard, she already had experience and ideas.
“I picked an idea that I thought I could articulate really well to an audience.”
Having already picked an idea, Quinney was able to spend most of her time practicing her public speaking skills and talking through her pitch aloud.
Quinney’s pitch, an idea that she had brewing for nearly a month, was a personal networking app that differs from current social media and networking apps in that in it focuses on the networks that people already have.
“Who are my mentors? Who are my mentees? Who are my friends? Who are my colleagues? Who are my potential business partners? Who are my potential business clients? It […] groups and organizes a person’s network.”
The app would use statistical analysis and data mining in order to allow people to manage their personal relationships. In other words, rather than focus on expanding one’s network outwardly, the app would help to manage and solidify the network people already had in place for themselves. A person could more easily track how often they meet with people and whether or not they’re following-up with those people.
“I’m still in the research and development aspect of this whole idea […] It’s going to cost a lot of money to develop.”
Quinney also said she must consider how she’ll actually make money off of the app, how she will distribute it and how she will assess the viability of the app’s potential market. However, even with these considerations, she says she wants to pursue the idea.
Since the Elevator Pitch Competition was on a Thursday, Quinney was in classes all day before the competition and said that she was too busy with school to even make the competition her “top priority.” By the time she got out of her class at 2:15, she had until 4 o’clock to deal with the nerves she had about the competition.
“Yeah, I know my content, but I was really nervous,” said Quinney.
Quinney was number 14, giving her time to hear some of the other pitchers before she had to give hers.
“There were a lot of great pitchers, a lot of great people, a lot of great ideas.”
Quinney listened to the approximately thirty people who pitched, and then had to sit nervously while the judges deliberated.
“I’m sitting there nervous as ever and then, next thing you know, they call Amber Quinney.”
Quinney said it took her a while to actually stand up after that because, although she was confident in her performance, she was still in shock that she, as a new student to Canisius and unfamiliar with student life here, had actually won. Adding to her surprise was that Quinney said she hadn’t even gone into the competition with the intentions of winning, but rather for the experience.
However, despite her surprise at winning, Quinney said she was confident in her pitch—both the idea and her performance.
“I think that [my idea] is plausible and worthy of investment,” said Quinney. “Also I definitely think that having a lot of experience in presenting in business period […] gave me a better shot.”
Quinney says that the three qualities that worked best in her performance were her clarity, her articulation, and her charm. Also, she said that her belief in her own idea helped her to convince the judges.
“I actually believed in the idea that I was pitching, and so it made it a bit easier for the judges to believe.”
Next up for Quinney—and the C.E.O. advisor and officers—is the National Elevator Pitch Conference in November from the 5th to the 7th. The conference will feature various speakers, workshops, global entrepreneurs, and, as winner of the local Canisius chapter, Quinney has earned the right to compete in the National Elevator Pitch Competition during the conference.
“I’m excited,” said Quinney. “I think I have a good chance of winning just based on my own confidence in my product [and] in my pitch.”
Quinney admits that her pitch last Thursday wasn’t perfect, but says that she will continue practicing it and revising it to make it more concrete. She also noted that she will have to practice for a question and answer session that was not a part of the local competition.
Quinney said she is already an entrepreneur and, at 18, she started a business working as a vendor at shows selling custom accessories to go along with women’s clothes. She said that she had success with the model in the D.C., Virginia, Maryland area, but as a student, she doesn’t have time to devote to being a full-time entrepreneur. However, she says what she learns in school, and experiences like the pitch contest, are useful to her as a businesswoman. Her hope for the business is to use apps and technology to make it more efficient, especially since she currently lacks the capital to actually run a physical storefront.