news & events

Second Annual LaunchBox Ladies Pitch Competition

Penn State LaunchBox Ladies holds pitch competition

By Sara Karnish

SUMMARY: Woman-owned online education company captures top spot in second annual event

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. (July 2, 2024)—An Allentown-based entrepreneur captured the top prize in the second annual Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV) LaunchBox Ladies’ Women in Business Pitch Competition held on June 26 at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital’s Center Valley location. Denise Ogden, marketing professor at PSU-LV, served as the evening’s emcee.

Nadia Alicia, Ed.D., was named the grand prize winner, netting the $2,500 prize. Alicia is director of the Language Project, LLC— Spanish Immersion TV, a subscription-based online Spanish learning platform with on-demand lessons for learners aged 2-5.

Christie Hurley, owner of Threads by Gram, was the runner-up, claiming the $1,500 prize. Threads by Gram is a machine embroidery business that makes everything from hats and apparel to accessories for the everyday woman. They also work with small businesses to create their own line of embroidered products and/or branding apparel.


Selected from a pool of 29 applicants, five finalists put their best pitch forward to a panel of judges that included Carol Obando-Derstine, PPL; Dr. Vasu Singh of Family Medicine in Bethlehem and UPMC Health Plan, Sally Handlon, founder of Handlon Business Resources, LLC, and Emily Lyter, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network.

Rounding out the top five were:

  • Shante Grayer, Shante’s Travel Things, handmade travel and outdoor accessories that check every box on a traveler’s list of packing essentials. Grayer earned the $1,000 Audience Choice prize.
  • Paloma Soledad, Krysalis Kouture, adaptable clothing that blends comfort and elegance with medical accessibility.
  • Alexa-Nichole Villafana, Network Exchange Magazine, an online and print publication that brings Northeast PA the latest in arts and entertainment.

The goal of the pitch competition was to celebrate and support female entrepreneurship in the greater Lehigh Valley.

2023 grand prize winner Latoya Hutchinson gave the 50 attendees an update on her business, Wicksquisite Candles, and 2023 participants Christina Oyola, Ramona Harris, and Janear Hankerson joined the networking space, showcasing their products and services. Catering was provided by Hero’s Kafe, Bethlehem.


In her remarks, Dr. Tina Q. Richardson, PSU-LV chancellor, said female entrepreneurship plays a critical role in driving economic growth and fostering social change thanks to the unique perspectives and approaches to problem solving women possess which often lead to more inclusive and innovative solutions. “LaunchBox Ladies is dedicated to empowering women entrepreneurs by providing them with the tools and opportunities needed to excel. Pitch competitions are a testament to the incredible talent and ambition within our community. Hosting pitch competitions offers early-stage startups the opportunity to share their innovations, network with potential mentors and funders and gain access to expert support,” she said.

Business incubators and accelerators like LaunchBox are also valuable resources for entrepreneurs, said Cindy Evans, director of business development, LaunchBox Ladies. “As we continue to host events such as this, we look forward to growing a network of women who look to continue supporting, engaging and inspiring other female entrepreneurs,” she said.