December 1, 2022
Updated December 13, 2022
Dillard found a new place to establish a legacy by winning the 2022 Nexus Louisiana BizTech Challenge during Bayou Classic weekend. It is the first time that Dillard won the seven year-old pitch competition. Victoria Hardy, a senior mass communication major, made a pitch that earned $7,500 to fund Establish Student, a personal development digital platform committed to the overall wellbeing of the student.
The BizTech Challenge is a STEM-based competition that was developed by Baton Rouge-based Nexus Louisiana, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that “provides high-potential, technology-enabled companies the coaching, capital and connections they need to accelerate their growth,” according to their website. Ultimately, Nexus Louisiana seeks to help improve the technology sector in the state by helping local entrepreneurs develop their ideas. The judges graded the pitches based on the business model, innovation and technical achievement.
Realizing that they would not be able to make the competition, the team rallied around Hardy to help her prepare for the pitch. The team consisted of: psychology major, Shyanne Cazeau ‘23; English major, Kayla Edwards ‘24; visual arts major, Ucari Morris ‘23; psychology major, Kennedy Musgrave ‘23; mass communication major, Kalaya Sibley ‘23; biology major, Derrick Webb ‘23; and accounting major, Bilien Woldeyonas ‘23. The faculty mentor was Dr. Richard Igwike, associate professor of business management.
Even with the team’s help, the pitch came with its challenges. “I went sixth, so I got to see other pitches. But I had technical difficulties!” she recalled. “My clicker didn’t always work, but I just kept going. I had rehearsed so much that I knew the material.” Hardy said that the competition attendees–about 40 people–were supportive of every team. “It was like having family there.”
Hardy’s biggest vote of confidence came from Igwike who is also her Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship professor. “When I told Dr. Igwike about my pitch, he immediately said, ‘You’re going to win,'” she said.
“She is a very diligent student,” Igwike said of Hardy. “She exhibits an extraordinarily innovative and entrepreneurial mindset. Part of the requirements of the course is for each student to develop a business plan. She discussed her technology project with me as her business plan. After reviewing the project, I saw the originality and creativity in it and knew immediately that she will win the competition,” recalled Igwike.
The BizTech Challenge is geared towards Louisiana’s HBCUs. The 2022 finalist teams that earned the opportunity to deliver pitches were from Grambling State University, Southern University and A&M College, Southern University at New Orleans, Southern University Law Center and Xavier University of Louisiana.
“Usually, the winner is either a team from Grambling or Southern,” said Hardy. “But that changed this year.”