In the cards: senior Anna Demasi claims $30K in RCB New Venture Competition

In the cards: senior Anna Demasi claims $30K in RCB New Venture Competition

2024 New Venture Competition winner Anna Demasi

Inspired by her mother, who made greeting cards for her daily lunchbox following the birth of her brother when she was in middle school, Anna Demasi is launching Lunch Box Cards Co. and has secured serious Rowan University funding to help drive its success.

A senior marketing/entrepreneurship major, Demasi won $30,000 in support during the Rohrer College of Business’s New Venture Competition & Expo April 19th.

Demasi, whose company was one of five student startups competing for the top prize, describes her venture as “a greeting card company focused on enhancing the emotional connections between parents and children.”

In fact, she said during a timed pitch before judges, she views her product not as greeting cards at all, but as “emotional vitamins.”

“I have a dream of spreading this emotional vitamin all around the world,” she said during the annual competition in Business Hall.

Demasi said with an estimated 941,000 households in New Jersey alone, there’s a vast, untapped market for her business.

"There’s nothing like Lunchbox Cards on the market,” she told the judges, and even worked in a tagline: “We can’t wait for our cards to become yours.”

Part of Rowan’s Centennial

Organized by the Rowan Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship as the RCB’s signature event in the University's Centennial celebration, the daylong program promoted entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation over the decades and included special speakers, the college’s New Venture Expo, with more than 50 student business ideas, and the annual stARTup Gallery, featuring dozens of works by students across the University.

Additionally, donor and former Board of Trustees chair Linda Rohrer presented the inaugural Rohrer Innovator Award to alumni Mike Lombardo ’18 and Kayvon Jahanbakhsh ’19, founders of healthful beverage company, HALFDAY.

Jahanbakhsh said he and Lombardo will have their product in more than 7,000 stores nationwide this year, including Whole Foods Market, Wegmans and Wawa.

HALFDAY was born of an idea that started in one of Senior Lecturer Mike Dominik’s entrepreneurship classes, and the company now has 22 full-time employees, Jahanbakhsh said.

“I feel very nostalgic just being in this room,” he told more than 100 aspiring entrepreneurs before him. “I’m always here to help if anyone wants advice on starting a business or launching a brand.”

Other student businesses competing in the NVC included:

  • Finn, “an AI powered financial advising mobile app and website,” founded by senior Kevin Crawford (Computer Science);
  • Bobica Bars, “the world’s first superfood-glazed, high antioxidant granola bar,” founded by sophomores Harrison Nastasi (Management) and Justin Iannelli (Marketing);
  • Flo Good Technologies, “eco-friendly, compostable straws made from all natural ingredients,” founded by senior Jerek Garcia (Communication) and Florinda Good-Gonzales ’23 (Accounting); and
  • Circlez, “a gamified goal-setting app for college students and young adults,” founded by sophomores Aiden Tahmazian (Mechanical Engineering) and Sydney Wiredu (Chemistry & Neuroscience).

Creating opportunity

As the winner, Demasi receives $5,000 in award money from the RCIE, automatic acceptance into the RCIE AccelerateRU program, and a $25,000 investment from the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund.

RCIE Assistant Director Jessica Vattima said the judges were impressed by all of the finalists, but saw particular promise in Demasi’s business and pitch.

“Every year, we say how impossible of a decision the judges are faced with, but this year was the most competitive yet,” Vattima said. “They really admired Anna's story and saw its potential for growth."

Dr. Morris Kalliny, interim dean of the RCB, said programs like the NVC provide unique opportunities to not just learn about business, but for students to start their own.

“We celebrate the creativity, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial sprit of our students who aspire to change the world one product or service at a time,” Kalliny said. “While they may come from different disciplines and backgrounds, they have one thing in common: to make the world a better place.”

The competition also featured RCB alumni speakers:

The judges panel included:

  • Rohrer, President of Rohrer & Vail Real Estate
  • Matt Edson, founding dean of the Shreiber School of Veterinary Medicine at Rowan University
  • Isabelle Kent, CEO of Philly Startup Leaders
  • Marty Rosica, owner of Hawks & Company