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The Ionian

The Student News Site of Iona University

The Ionian

The Student News Site of Iona University

The Ionian

The entrepreneurial spirit soars at the 2024 Iona Innovation Challenge Kickoff

Photo taken by Eileen Cordero. A panel of past IIC participants and Hynes Institute staff speak about the value of the Iona Innovation Challenge for transforming a business idea into reality.

On Feb. 8, the Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation was bustling with activity as the 2024 Iona Innovation Challenge (IIC) Kickoff started. Students from a variety of majors and interests gathered to learn how to transform their diverse set of ideas into reality through IIC.  

The Iona Innovation Challenge is a “Shark Tank” like, multi-month competition that gives Iona students the opportunity to present a solution that addresses a real-world problem.  

The competition is divided into three milestones for student participants to complete: a 1-minute video pitch, an executive summary and a pitch slide deck. Once these milestones are completed, finalists will be able to present at the IIC Final Pitch Event to a panel of entrepreneurs in May for a chance to win six different cash prizes totaling $11,000. 

Cash prizes are not the only benefit of IIC either. During the kickoff, students were able to connect with mentors such as the keynote speaker, owner of the wedding planning service Simply Loved Weddings and Iona alum, Charissa O’Connor ’16. 

A guest speaker panel moderated by Student Engagement Coordinator Riana Khan provided a glimpse of what to expect from IIC. The panel consisted of past IIC participants and faculty from the Hynes Institute Experts-in-Residence (EIR) team and answered student questions.  

One of the panelists was 2022 IIC First Place Winner Lazar Paroski ’25. Paroski encouraged students to follow the guidance of personal passion and be aware of the value every perspective has for an idea. “Be patient. You have a unique perspective to contribute. Trust your teammate with the areas of strength they are confident in,” remarks Paroski.  

After the panel, students were able to network with other students and mentors at the event. While some students already had ideas in mind, many were still thinking about an idea to submit for IIC. Assistant Director at the Hynes Institute Marisol Chappell reassures students that it is often the case that an idea is brought to life through multiple people working together. 

“It’s alright if you do not have an idea. Walk around, find other students with ideas you want to collaborate with. Pool your skills together to make an idea you believe in reality,” Chappell says.  

While students can enter as an individual in IIC, it is often the case that harmonious teams elevate an idea to the furthest extent. Every year, the competition fosters a collaborative spirit that brings together students with different expertise to make an idea reality. As an idea is developed in IIC, students rely upon a network of mentors and peers to realize their vision, as Eileen Cordero ’25 emphasizes. 

Without realizing, you’re just doing it. You have a support system to help you and people cheering you on,” Cordero explains, “Being able to take a leap of faith with a definite support system is reassuring.” 

There is still time to participate in IIC! Submit a 1-minute pitch video for Milestone 1 by Feb. 25, 11:59 p.m. to be entered into the competition. “Take the leap of faith and give your idea a shot. You never know what can come out of it. Just trust yourself,” says Aidan Rodriguez ’26 to students with doubts about participating in IIC.

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Adrian Vazquez, Assistant News Editor

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