Bay Path Student Earns National Recognition for Her Pitching Prowess
According to many a poll, public speaking prompts more fear in people than death, heights, or spiders.
Aubrey Malanowski, a senior at Bay Path College in Longmeadow majoring in marketing, is well-acquainted with that assertion, though she can’t necessarily relate. Public speaking, she says, has always come easily to her, and she’s recently found how many windows of opportunity that skill can open.
Malanowski recently ranked among the top five students in the nation, both graduate and undergraduate, at the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) National Elevator Pitch competition in Chicago.
It’s a high-level challenge that charges participants with delivering a 90-second pitch for a business concept. (The name refers to the typical amount of time one would have in an elevator with a potential, if not theoretical, investor).
No props, note cards, or written speeches can be used, so faith in one’s abilities and the idea they’re presenting are key to such contests. Malanowski said she first heard of the elevator pitch competition through her affiliation with Bay Path’s CEO chapter (she’s the founder and president) and through the business-oriented honor society Phi Beta Lambda (she’s its secretary), and felt she had the right combination of confidence and drive.
“I love public speaking, and I had an idea,” she said.
And that’s where it all started.
Health and Beauty
In fact, Malanowski’s original idea for a less-than-two-minute pitch was more than just a notion — it’s an existing business she founded as a student, and continues to pursue. A licensed esthetician, Malanowski devised a business plan for a company called Beginning Beauty, which, largely by organizing parties at homes and community organizations, targets ‘tween’ girls (roughly ages 8 through 12) and teaches appropriate, sanitary makeup application and care.
That venture has received positive feedback from many constituencies, including mothers who struggle with teaching their adolescent daughters how to look and act their age as they mature. But as she researched the art of the elevator pitch, Malanowski decided she needed another idea, one that was perhaps more hard-hitting and far-reaching, to truly dazzle an audience.
She drew again from her own experiences, this time focusing on her year behind a desk in a doctor’s office, and the copious paperwork she was constantly asking patients to complete.
“Standard paperwork can be really repetitive, especially for the elderly,” she explained. “The only way most doctors’ offices can record changes to insurance, medications, and other basic information is by having a patient fill the same forms out again and again, each time they come in.
“It’s a faulty system in my eyes,” she added. “I figured there must be a better way.”
Thus, Malanowski’s first pitch began to form. Starting with the problem of repetitive paperwork and the trend in many offices today toward going paperless, she presented the idea for the “MedLink,” a portable USB device that would contain a patient’s basic personal information (barring anything sensitive that could violate HIPAA regulations). The idea is that patients could then bring their MedLink with them to a physician’s office, where that information could be uploaded into a computer, saving both time and resources.
Rising to the Top
Malanowski first presented her pitch at Bay Path College at a competition for the college’s undergraduate and graduate students. After placing first in that contest, she won a place in the 2007 Harold Grinspoon Elevator Pitch Competition, a regional event that draws contestants from 13 of the area’s colleges and universities, and is judged by a panel of presidents and vice presidents from a number of the region’s financial institutions.
Malanowski said she had her work cut out for her that evening. Not only was she presenting a pitch along with several other undergraduate and graduate students, she was also staffing her own tabletop display at the event, featuring her business, Beginning Beauty.
“It was a little daunting to say the least,” she said, adding, however, that she was so busy, she had little time to be nervous. “I had practiced, and that night, I kept walking up to my mom as though she was a stranger, and pitching the idea to her.”
Her dry runs paid off.
Malanowski won the Grinspoon competition, earning her $1,000, and also won a spirit award in recognition of Beginning Beauty the same night, an award that came with an additional $500 prize.
“When I gave my pitch, I felt amazing about it,” she said, “but coming in first place was still pretty awesome. I had attended Holyoke Community College prior to coming to Bay Path, so when I walked to the podium I had not one, but two colleges cheering me on.”
Her Kind of Town
Soon though, it was time for the entire region to cheer on Malanowski at the national elevator pitch competition in Chicago. Her participation wasn’t guaranteed by her regional win; she had to apply online and survive two major cuts — the first narrowing the pool of applicants to 120, and the second cutting that number in half — before moving on to the competitive level.
But Malanowski was among the final 60 contestants, and began fundraising to finance her trip by sending letters asking for support to various individuals and organizations in the community.
Last November, Malanowski found herself in a Chicago hotel room, pacing and pitching to prepare for three rounds of grueling competition.
“There were 15 of us in each room, presenting to separate panels of judges,” she explained, “so I had no way of knowing how well everyone else was doing.”
Still, she made it through round one of the national competition, which eliminated 48 people. Then, in the semifinals, the pool was reduced to six contestants, and Malanowski advanced to the final round. This time, the pitches weren’t made to a small panel of judges, but to a full audience in a grand ballroom.
“There were in excess of 1,000 people in attendance,” she said, “and it wasn’t the same people who’d seen me doing great all day.”
Malanowski said she stumbled over a word in the very last sentence, but in the end, she placed fifth in the nation, after competing at the college, regional, and national level, and it’s not a finish she laments by any means.
“What are you going to do?” she said of her single flubbed line, with a slight shrug. “I view the entire process as a huge success.”
Loud and Proud
And Malanowski isn’t going to stop there. She said she’s been approached more than once by potential investors regarding the MedLink idea, and in addition to continuing to develop Beginning Beauty, she’s mulling plans for a second endeavor aimed at young girls — this one focused on the importance of public speaking.
“Change occurs by women voicing their opinions,” she said. “That’s something I feel very strongly about, and now that I’ve had some success on my own in that area, it’s become a direction in which I can see myself heading.”
There are other areas she’d like to explore, too, including the field of social entrepreneurship as a whole (ventures that are launched to address a social problem, such as educational gaps, economic distress, or gender biases) and green entrepreneurship — the practice of launching or assisting environmentally friendly initiatives.
“Public speaking has opened so many doors for me, and is so useful in general,” she said. “Who knows where I’ll go?”
Wherever she lands, though, it seems Malanowski won’t have any trouble telling people about it.
Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]