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3rd Annual Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup Awards Luncheon held at ULM’s Bayou Pointe with $96,000 in prizes awarded

Published April 24, 2024

Pelican Cup

CAPTION: Team members Lane Degenhardt (left) and Rich Simmerman (right) hoist the first-place Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup trophy. Their company, Cantaloupe, took home the $50,000 grand prize in the business plan competition.

MONROE, LA – The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup hosted its third annual awards luncheon on April 19, 2024, at ULM’s Bayou Pointe Event Center. The luncheon was the culmination of the entrepreneurship competition, with $96,000 in prize money awarded to the three top teams, including their faculty advisors, and the winner of the live elevator pitch competition, voted on by attendees of the luncheon.  

Cantaloupe, a team comprised of students from Tulane University and Southeastern Louisiana University, took home the first-place prize of $50,000. Their business plan is a software solution to aid businesses in the food service and hospitality industry with hiring and help reduce turnover. Cantaloupe features team leaderRich Simmerman, team membersJoshua Anderson and Lane Degenhardt, and advisor Jane Cooper.  

The second-place prize of $25,000 was awarded to Tipzy, a team from Tulane University. Tipzy is a software platform designed to simplify the process of receiving and managing songs requests in bars, catering to both bar owners and patrons. Tipzy features team leaderJosh McCoy, team membersJake Marzullo and Tenley Gorman, and advisor Rob Lalka. 

Third place and a prize of $10,000 went to Trigworks, a team from ULM. Trigworks is a device that aims to revolutionize muscle care with eco-friendly, heat equipped massage tools. Trigworks features team leaderJanet Stopka, team members Mackenzie King, Viktor Motov, and Valeryia Turbskaya, and advisor Veronkia Humphries.  

The advisors from each of the top three teams also each received a $3,000 prize.  

The winner of the live elevator pitch competition was Supriya Pudasainy from Sketchman. Pudasainy won the $2,000 prize after receiving the most votes from attendees of the luncheon, who voted via text message after hearing 90-second pitches from each team. Sketchman is an application powered by AI that is designed to create criminal sketches based on witness descriptions for law enforcement use.   

In its third year, The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup expanded its eligibility and was open to teams from any four-year university or college in the state of Louisiana. The contest received 22 entries and included teams from the University of Louisiana Monroe, University of New Orleans, Tulane University, Southeastern Louisiana University, University of Louisiana Lafayette, Centenary College of Louisiana, and Northwestern State University.  

Dhu Thompson, Premier Sponsor and Founder of The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup provided remarks at the luncheon.  

After thanking those who helped make the competition happen and recounting his own entrepreneurial experiences, Thompson spoke directly to the student competitors. He told the students that failure is an inevitable part of being an entrepreneur. “Once you fail, you’ll begin to see through the eyes of experience. When you begin to succeed, you will accomplish goals you never imagined,” said Thompson. He also encouraged them to set goals, stating that “real self-confidence comes from establishing goals and achieving them.”  

About The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup 

Open to all majors with cash prizes totaling $96,000, The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup is the premiere business plan competition for Louisiana. It provides an opportunity for students to develop critical thinking, team building, presentation, and other soft skills which are all important to career growth.  The goal is to inspire participants and the community to think entrepreneurially by rewarding creativity, professionalism, and hard work.  Twenty-two teams submitted written, formal business plans which were reviewed and scored independently by a panel of sixteen volunteer judges made up of business owners and investors. The panel of judges later deliberated in groups to select the six finalist teams.  

The six finalist teams presented in-person oral presentations, held March 26th at The Hangar on the ULM campus. Six volunteer judges dedicated their time to listening to each team present their business plan and supporting visuals. The judges then deliberated and selected the first, second, and third-place winners.  

The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup was founded by distinguished ULM alumnus Dhu Thompson. Thompson is the founder, past owner, and former chairman of the board for Delta Plastics, producer of agricultural irrigation tubing, and the largest recycler of plastics in Arkansas. He is also the former owner and past chairman of the board for Revolution Bag, which manufactures EPA-compliant trashcan liners. Thompson’s honors include 2004 Arkansas Business Executive of the Year and SBA Person of the Year. In 2019 he sold the Revolution brands to a New York private equity firm and now focuses on entrepreneurship growth in Arkansas and Louisiana.  In 2023, Thompson received the Warhawk Ambassador Award, one of ULM’s highest honors. Earlier in 2024, Thompson was inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.  

For more information about The Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup, visit www.ulm.edu/pelicancup 

For more photos from the 2024 Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup Awards Luncheon, click here.  

To watch the video of the Awards Luncheon, click here.