January 30, 2023

Students’ Entrepreneurial Ideas Take Shape During Winterim

From January 8 through January 13, nearly 30 Lewis & Clark students immersed themselves in Winterim, a fast-paced and supportive experience that culminated in a pitch competition with $6,000 in cash prizes.

Winterim gives students a full week to learn from their peers and community mentors.Credit: Nina Johnson&... Winterim gives students a full week to learn from their peers and community mentors.

Credit: Nina Johnson

by David Oehler BA ’14

During the last week of winter break, while much of the student body was still on vacation, 27 students from a variety of majors participated in Winterim, a five-day immersive entrepreneurship opportunity organized by the Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership. This year, due to the generosity of an anonymous donor, every student was able to attend Winterim at no cost.

Students work with entrepreneurial mentors throughout the week to fine-tune their ideas and pitches.Credi... Students work with entrepreneurial mentors throughout the week to fine-tune their ideas and pitches.

Credit: Nina Johnson
Students are assigned to groups of three or four to create, research, develop and pitch an idea to a panel of local business leaders on the final day of the event. In the process, they learn entrepreneurial and life skills with the help of inspirational speakers, mentors, and leaders in the for-profit and nonprofit communities. Teams compete for one of several awards and $6,000 in cash prizes. Two of the teams are chosen to advance to statewide competition at InventOR.

“While the pitch competition is always a highlight, the magic of Winterim really lies in our students meeting over 60 speakers, mentors, judges, and Ask Me Anything (AMAs) speed networking participants,” said Chrys Hutchings, director of the Bates Center. “By week’s end, the students are exhausted, but they’ve gained the courage to move forward that comes only from betting on themselves and executing.”

Students talking with an entrepreneurial mentor during Winterim 2023.Credit: Nina Johnson Students talking with an entrepreneurial mentor during Winterim 2023.

Credit: Nina Johnson
This year’s event featured two keynote speakers. Nigel Jaquiss, a commodities trader turned reporter, spoke on the topic of “How to Translate Your Liberal Arts Education Into the Real World.” Elizabeth Darrow, former CEO of the Organically Grown Company, spoke about the perpetual trust organizational model she helped develop, which Patagonia recently adopted. Additional speakers included Lisa Herlinger, founder of Ruby Jewel; Jason Bolt, founder and CEO of Revant Optics; Alex Wills, global finance manager at Nike’s Jordan brand; and Brian Gurski BA ’99, vice president of strategy/innovation at TruFund Financial and an adjunct instructor at Columbia University and Parsons School of Design.

  • The Winterim experience has been a transformative one, providing me with the opportunity to delve deeper into my passions, solidify my values, and integrate them into the tapestry of my liberal arts college education, enriching it all the more.

    Vasty Jean-Francois BA ’25

  • I had a fabulous time at Winterim 2023! I now feel that I have the skills and confidence to go above and beyond in my life. 

    Summer Binder BA ’24

  • Winterim was one of the most valuable experiences I have had at L&C. The speakers and mentors had so much knowledge to give us, and I feel confident about my post-college endeavors having learned from them.

    Natalie Elstone BA ’24

  • I’m really grateful for the mentors. Being surrounded by people I could look up to so naturally was a blessing. I came out of the week feeling inspired and empowered.

    Jivan Galper BA ’24

  • I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to connect with mentors and learn valuable skills that are both applicable in entrepreneurship and beyond.


  • Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in Winterim. And what a week it was! Going from design thinking (thanks Jason Bolt!) to pitching our idea to judges in five short days. And I’m happy to say my team won “Best Understanding of the Problem!” It was an amazing experience I will continue to take with me in the years to come.

    Alex DeNuzzo BA ’26

  • [I learned] that I have potential, the world has potential, and there are great things I can do and should get excited about and start working on! Also, the value of a team was clear to me during Winterim.


  • Wow what an incredible experience. It was amazing to see how creative we all are and test our limits. From iteration to execution of a pitch deck, to market analysis and customer relations, this experience taught me everything I need to know to be prepared for work.

    Elan Resnick BA ’23

After a week of discussions, planning sessions, and workshops, students gathered in Smith Hall to present their entrepreneurial pitches. This year’s judges included Suzanne Stevens, Portland Business Journal editor; Juan Barraza, director of innovation and entrepreneurship at VertueLab; Stephen Green, founder of PitchBlack PDX and interim director at Business for a Better Portland; Jessica Zutz Hilbert, founder of Red Duck Foods; Brandon Ross, senior associate for Elevate Capital; and Christopher Bates, managing director at Brampton Gillow Advisors.

“Winterim, along with the pitch competition, is a once yearly demonstration to our liberal arts students that even with insufficient time, information, and resources, they can execute on any stage using their liberal arts training in rigorous analysis, comfort with ambiguity, and ability to tell a story,” said Hutchings.

While only four groups walked away with prizes, all eight teams impressed the judges with their thorough planning, thoughtful answers to tough questions, and professional and practiced presentations.

Pitch Competition Winners

First Place: SenseAir

Prize: $3,500 plus a legal start-up package worth $3,500 from Facet Legal, LLC
Qualifier: InventOR
Team Members: Cas Mulford BA ’23, Natalie Elstone BA ’24, and Beau Staun-List BA ’25

SenseAir envisioned a device for detecting mold in homes and businesses. The device commercializes existing detection technology and links to an app that can be used to view real- time data remotely. The team’s idea was informed by statistics on mold presence in homes, as well as a team member’s firsthand experience of the problem.

Second Place: Root2Grow

Prize: $1,500
Team Members: Leah Huffington BA ’25, Nicholas Biesterfeld BA ’23, Gavin O’Loughlin BA ’26, and Lilian Wren Kurkinen BA ’23

Root2Grow pitched a nonprofit that would provide the materials necessary for small, portable community gardens housed within shipping containers. These starter gardens would serve as education hubs and sources of healthy produce for small communities, thereby instilling the desire and know-how to create full-sized community gardens in the future.

“Best Understanding of the Problem”: Break the Ice

Prize: $1,000
Team Members: Rene Amani AES, Alex DeNuzzo BA ’26, Darian Levey BA ’23, and Jamison Richards BA ’24

Break the Ice is a wristband paired with an application that would enable users to make connections in social environments and at events, thereby helping to alleviate the social anxiety that is common among today’s youth.

InventOR Qualifier: SILVER SAFE

Team Members: Vasty Jean-Francois BA ’25, Ashley Young BA ’24, Sophie Abbassian BA ’25, and Connor Smyth BA ’24

The SILVER SAFE team described a bracelet that is targeted to aging individuals and individuals diagnosed with degenerative mental diseases. The easy-to-use and affordable bracelet would serve as a middle ground between something utilitarian like a Life Alert bracelet and something more complex and upscale like an Apple Watch. It would allow the elderly to access emergency communication while maintaining a sense of independence.

Apply Bates Center Winterim 2023