Winners of Southeast’s 2020 SEMO Pitch Competition Announced


The Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Southeast Missouri State University is pleased to announce the winners of the fourth annual SEMO Pitch Competition.

The SEMO Pitch Competition gives current full-time undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to develop real-world skills for an innovative new business idea and compete for cash prizes up to $2,000. Students could compete as individuals or teams. Each team was required to submit a one- to two-page executive summary and a three-minute video pitching their business idea to a team of judges. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s competition was shifted to an online format. Sixteen entries from more than 22 students were entered in this year’s contest.

First place went to Drew Doty of Herrin, Illinois, and James Morse of Ballwin, Missouri, for their pitch titled “Cape Girardeau Graphics,” an online, print-on-demand platform for local artists to sell their work, gain exposure and generate income. The ecommerce website would provide a forum for local artists to sell custom artwork on a large scale. “Cape Girardeau Graphics” would cover manufacturing and distribution, while artists would provide the designs. The website would additionally provide a spotlight for partnering artists to gain more exposure.

“We are thrilled to have won and could not be more grateful to have had this opportunity,” Doty said. “We owe a thank you to Leah Powers (operations manager of Southeast’s Catapult Creative House) and Dr. Steven Stovall (assistant professor of management) who were both advocates for this competition.”

Inspiration for their idea came from friends who are art students who expressed challenges they face when trying to get discovered, sell artwork and fund their education, Doty said. Understanding what customers and artists want was key in creating the right solution while supporting the hard work of their friends and local artists.

“Thinking with a big vision and our desire to help local artists drove our innovation,” he said. “We wanted to create something that artists can get excited about by offering the opportunity for artists to make real money without worrying about expenses. Creating an online platform allows us to expand and improve our business so we can continue to offer the best solutions.”

Second place went to Yasodh Jayathilake of Malabe, Sri Lanka, for his pitch titled “Influenzer,” an online platform to connect influencers with businesses. Under this concept, marketing managers could search influencers by specific criteria. After a contract is signed for a specific post or promotion to run on a specified social media outlet or website, and payments made, the platform would track the performance of the post or promotion in real time on a user-friendly dashboard.

Third place went to Allee Bernier of St. Louis, Missouri, for her pitch titled “Breathe Beads.” “Breathe Beads” are 21 beads that embody the five senses, promoting mindfulness as well as positive self-talk practices. In following the modified, empirically-based 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique, “Breathe Beads” would aid users in reducing stress and anxiety, and enhancing present awareness, focus and self-confidence.

For more information about the SEMO Pitch Competition, visit