IN THE NEWS: College App Creators Win First L.E.O. 'LionWorks' Entrepreneurship Competition at Mount

CALDWELL - Toyota North America and the Leonidas Foundation awarded $7,500 in college scholarships to College: Unlocked, a team of four Mount St. Dominic Academy seniors that won the inaugural L.E.O. “LionWorks” Entrepreneurship Competition at the Mount.

Seventeen seniors in the L.E.O. Program’s first cohort at the Mount took part in a team competition in the spirit of “Shark Tank” on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

The four teams presented their start-up projects, developed during the previous three and a half semesters, to a panel. The “LionWorks” competition was a highlight of the two-year intensive course, which encompasses the full life cycle of creating a business or product from idea to launch, with the focus on leadership, entrepreneurship and opportunities.

The Leonidas Foundation sponsors and supports the L.E.O. Program at the Mount.

The companies or products presented by the students were:

• D1 Heat: A company that strives to meet hand-warming needs, with slim, flexible stick on heaters to provide comfort in cold times.

• College: Unlocked: An app to help students with the college admissions process, aiding high school seniors in picking a college that best suits them.

• Bigger Buck$: A budgeting app designed to help high school and college students learn how to manage their money and invest in stocks.

• Charcuterie Chix: A female-owned and -operated company creating and delivering gorgeous and affordable charcuterie boards. Its theme: “Don't cut the cheese, let the chix do it!”

The competition included 10-minute presentations by the four teams, followed by 10 minutes of judges’ questions for each team.

“College: Unlocked” was the winner and the four members of the team will share the first-place prize of $5,000 in scholarships sponsored by Toyota North America.

An anonymous Mount alumna, along with the Leonidas Foundation, sponsored the second-prize award of $2,500 in college scholarships, which was awarded to D1 Heat.

“Watching the young women of the Mount compete in their first-ever L.E.O. “LionWorks” Entrepreneurial Competition was thrilling for everyone involved in the creation of the L.E.O. Program,” said Matthew Perricone, president of the Leonidas Foundation. “We are so proud of the work they’ve done and can’t wait to keep an eye on these young entrepreneurs as they apply their leadership and entrepreneurial spirit to their endeavors in college and beyond.”

Christine Victori, moderator of the L.E.O. Program at the Mount, said, “Today’s Mount students are the change-makers of tomorrow, and empowering them with the skills and self-confidence they’ll need to challenge the status quo and strive for the C-suite is something we take very seriously. These 17 young women have embraced the opportunities provided by the L.E.O. Program, and the time, effort, and passion they’ve devoted to their work, and to each other, has been incredibly rewarding.”

Briana Nelson, general manager of Toyota North America, was one of the judges. “Watching the students present their businesses, I knew I was witnessing just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what these young female leaders are capable of," she said. "As a champion of women in the workforce, partnering with the Mount and the Leonidas Foundation on behalf of Toyota North America to provide tomorrow’s female business leaders with this unique opportunity has been so exciting.”

Photo: From left - Briana Nelson, general manager of Toyota North America; Alex Cucciniello, Leonidas Foundation vice president; Mount St. Dominic Academy seniors Kaitlin Hladik of West Caldwell, Sophia Garske of Wayne and Catherine Browne of Short Hills; and Matthew Perricone, Leonidas Foundation president. Not pictured is Mount senior Isabella Vescera of East Hanover.

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