$50K Awarded to Winners of Blackstone LaunchPad Pitch Competition

College of Southern Nevada Team NuLife Kicks came in first place, winning $20,000.

Out of more than 130 student entrepreneurial teams from schools across the Blackstone LaunchPad network, one College of Southern Nevada student team impressed the judges most at the 2022 LaunchPad Annual Pitch Competition.

Akeem Anifowoshe and Marquee Anifowoshe, co-founders of NuLife Kicks placed first, winning $20,000. Through NuLife Kicks, Akeem and Marquee hope to pioneer the sneaker restoration trade through both a line of sneaker care products and a business model to develop and train other entrepreneurs in sneaker-care techniques.

“We were so impressed by the creativity of the ideas and the quality of presentations at this year’s Blackstone LaunchPad Annual Pitch Competition,” said Blackstone Charitable Foundation Board Chair Amy Stursberg. “It’s inspiring to see such diversity of ideas and commitment to solving problems through entrepreneurship.”

Akeem and Marquee were one of five student teams selected to pitch in a live final round, after a month of coaching from Blackstone LaunchPad ambassadors. The finals were held live on the mainstage of the Startup Grind Global Conference in Silicon Valley, California.

The all-woman panel of judges included Kelly Burton, Executive Director at Black Innovation Alliance, Kelsey Davis, Founder & CEO of CLLCTVE and Syracuse LaunchPad Alum, Christine Feng, Senior Managing Director at Blackstone, and Amy Stursberg.

These judges assessed finalists on both the quality of their pitch and their investability – how viable the business model was, how innovative the idea, the size of the market, existing traction, and the strength of the team and founder-market fit. Over $50,000 in cash and in-kind prizes were awarded to all five student teams. (The prize awards will be paid to the student entrepreneur(s) in recognition of their achievements in preparing for and participating in the pitch competition. There is no obligation to use the prize proceeds for any particular purpose.)

“The entrepreneurial skills that students learn through the Pitch Competition, including creative problem-solving and persuasive storytelling, will benefit them throughout their careers,” said Blackstone Charitable Foundation Executive Director Maura Pally. “Whether they focus on building their startups or choose another path, we are excited to see where their enormous talent and skills lead them.”

The winners were:

First place, $20,000: NuLife Kicks, Akeem Anifowoshe and Marquee Anifowoshe, College of Southern Nevada

NuLife Kicks is a sneaker restoration company that sells a line of sneaker care products, in addition to operating a business model that trains other entrepreneurs in sneaker-care techniques.

Second place, $15,000: StaffOnTap, Kayla Foley, Cornell

StaffOnTap wants to make a difference for seniors, nurses, and nursing homes by connecting understaffed nursing homes to temporary nurses at an affordable price.

Third place, $10,000: Bonsai, Shashank Kumar, UT Dallas

Bonsai is seeking to revolutionize the world of customer engagement through an AI-tool that automates and assists customer support teams.

Fourth place, $5,000: Mindsets & Milestones, Diondraya Taylor, UCLA

Mindsets & Milestones is using entrepreneurial education to help equip the next generation of young women with the skills and self-confidence to succeed in reaching their goals.

Fifth place, $2,500: SPORA, Andrea Paz Lacavex, UC Santa Cruz

SPORA, or “Sociology, Planning, and Optimal Restoration of Algae,” is producing Green Gravel in hopes of making the reforestation of kelp forest ecosystems more accessible and scalable.

About Blackstone LaunchPad

The Blackstone LaunchPad network makes entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills accessible and relevant for all college students to help them build thriving companies and careers. We work with higher-ed institutions to deliver proven startup resources, facilitate access to a global network of mentors and advisors, and offer unique virtual and physical convening opportunities so thousands of diverse college students can go further, faster. Students learn by doing, gaining knowledge and critical skills to help them succeed as a founder or contributor to the innovation economy. LaunchPad’s ever-expanding network encompasses campuses with predominantly underrepresented populations. Learn more: