LED-fitted dance shoe takes top prize at Hazleton LaunchBox pitch competition

Several people in an online Zoom room.
Credit: Penn State

HAZLETON, Pa. — In an annual Teen Entrepreneurship Challenge pitch competition marked by bright ideas, Kaitlyn Marley’s really shined.

Marley’s concept of a dance shoe fitted with LED lights earned the Hazleton Area Academy of Sciences student the $1,000 first prize in the challenge’s spring 2021 competition hosted in April by the Hazleton LaunchBox supported by Pasco L. Schiavo, Esq.

Held virtually, the competition was the culmination of the Teen Entrepreneurship Challenge, a six-week program designed to teach high school students key strategies for launching a product or startup.

Marley and five other students worked closely with Entrepreneurship Coordinator William Andahazy and Entrepreneurship Facilitator Fermin Diaz throughout the program to develop and refine their ideas before the students pitched them to a panel of judges.

Like many business ideas, Marley developed hers as a solution to a problem.

Drawing from her years of experience as a dancer, she explained how her dancing shoes often needed to match the color of her costume. In order to avoid having to buy several different pairs, she and her fellow dancers would resort to spray painting their shoes, only to end up with paint on their tights.

By incorporating LED lights, “Light-footed,” as Marley called her product, could match a pair of shoes to a costume with a snap of a button.

Taking her pitch a step further, Marley provided detailed cost and revenue projections, supplied comparisons to competitors’ prices and explained where the LED-accented shoes might sell best.

The judges said they were impressed not only by the inventiveness of her product, but by the careful research she put into it.

“I’ve never seen numbers presented like that, even for people in the business looking for big money,” said judge Jerry Lisman of Lisman Holdings.

Securing second place and a $500 prize was Starling Reyes, who pitched “Arc Spark” as a solution to what electric vehicle owners call “range anxiety,” or the fear they might get stranded if their battery runs out while on a trip.

Judges also heard presentations from Braulio Sanchez, who pitched a soccer cleat made of nylon and steel; Alex Rosario, who shared his idea for a dog fostering business; Eugene Sosa, who developed a customizable storage case for CDs/DVDs and video games; and Lena Rojas-Beato, who introduced a website where aspiring artists can take lessons or buy supplies.

“Over the course of six weeks, and with the mentorship of Bill and Fermin, these students gained the skills to transform their ideas into viable business options,” said Director of Continuing Education and Hazleton LaunchBox Debra Conway. “Moreover, each came to the competition with a strong understanding not only of their idea itself, but how it could offer solutions to real-world problems.”  

In addition to Lisman, judges included attorney Stephen Seach, chairman of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and Vicky Perez of Truist bank in Hazleton.

The next Teen Entrepreneurship Challenge, featuring the LaunchBox’s Makerspace, is scheduled to run from June 29 to Aug. 12, with the pitch competition planned for Thursday, Aug. 19. 

To register, visit https://hazleton.launchbox.psu.edu/entrepreneurship-challenge or contact Conway at 570-450-3136 or [email protected].

About Hazleton LaunchBox:

Located at 13 W. Broad St. in Hazleton, the Hazleton LaunchBox supported by Pasco L. Schiavo, Esq., provides early-stage startups with support and resources they need to build a sustainable and scalable business and a viable plan for growth. 

No-cost programs and services include co-working space, accelerator programs, free legal and intellectual property advice, and expert mentorships from Penn State's extensive network. The LaunchBox is open to everyone — community members and those affiliated with Penn State. The Hazleton LaunchBox supported by Pasco L. Schiavo, Esq., is a signature program of the Invent Penn State initiative and one of 21 innovation hubs located in Penn State campus communities across Pennsylvania. 

Learn more at https://hazleton.launchbox.psu.edu.