As part of his visit to Elon's campus for Fall Convocation on Friday, Sept. 29, entrepreneur and star of the ABC hit "Shark Tank" Daymond John fielded business pitches from four Elon students.
On ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank,” entrepreneur and founder of clothing brand FUBU Daymond John is used to fielding extensive pitches from startup companies looking to leverage key investments to propel their business ideas toward success and riches.
On Friday, Sept. 29, John was again listening intently to a range of business pitches and though the television cameras and lights were absent from LaRose Digital Theater in the Koury Business Center, the big ideas weren’t. In a pitch session hosted by the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship with Nailah Ware ’26 serving as emcee, four Elon students each made the case to John for why their own businesses were meeting a personal or societal need and were bound for growth.
In her three-minute pitch, Diamond Monroe ’25 explained that the root of the idea for her company, Diamond Monroe Organics, was in the early months of the pandemic as she was dealing with skin and hair issues, and was looking for a product that might help boost her self-esteem and confidence. She found the answer in products she designed herself.
“With the creative mindset I have, I created products of my own,” Monroe said. “Soon I started to see results. … My confidence was radiating.”
Since that time, she has built up her company to the point that she has now sold 2,000 units, including $16,000 in products in one month. “It’s pretty safe to say the competition in this market is broad and wide,” Monroe said. “But what makes us different is we take our relationship with our customers very personally.”
John was quick to respond to Monroe, saying that her pitch was “one of the best pitches I’ve heard in three minutes,” saying that she had identified a problem, posed a solution and backed it up with data. “All that stuff you talked about, you backed it up,” John said.
Lars Heidenreich ’24 built his startup, Stayfull, based on the desire to help address food insecurity in the local community. The app draws data and information from local food pantries and packages it in a free app designed to help users who are facing food insecurity connect with food pantries who regularly deal with either not enough supplies, or with food waste because demand is low.
“There’s a problem in that it’s difficult to access accurate information about nearby food resources,” he said.
John complimented Heidenreich on his pitch, noting that it’s an “excellent problem you’re trying to solve.”
Alex McQuilkin ’27 is also seeking to make connections, but between local small businesses and potential customers. Her business, Local Treasure, is an app-based advertising business that seeks to use games to drive potential customers to local businesses. Customers can seek out virtual “treasures” in a hunt where local businesses act as the targets. Arriving at the business unlocks a treasure that could be a physical item, a discount — whatever the business would like it to be.
“We stand out from the competition because we advertise through gamification, making it a more fun experience for shoppers and business owners,” McQuilkin said.
Wrapping up the pitch session was Shriya Baru ’24, whose clothing line Kolis combines traditional designs from her home country of India with more modern styles to help meet the rising demand for premium casualwear. She is initially focused on marketing her clothing, which is sourced from India, to college students, and then plans to expand to broader segments of the population.
“Our promise is to deliver affordable yet fashionable apparel featuring captivating Indian designs that are intricate and beautiful,” Baru said. “Kolis isn’t just a brand. It’s a vibrant journey I’d like you all to join as we weave the threads of tradition and modernity and make it into a beautiful piece.”
John said during a question-and-answer session following the pitches that he is inspired by many in the younger generation who are passionate about seeing problems and trying to address them. “If you look at the people here who have pitched, they are trying to solve a problem that exists and no one else is solving,” John said. “All you need is that small group of people who say, ‘I am going to do it, no matter what.'”