Return to Headlines

Bleakley, Berg-Pappert win Panther Pitch

Posted Friday, March 29, 2019 —


Geneva may someday be able to add “bike-friendly” to its accolades—at least if Darby Bleakley and Natalie Berg-Pappert get their way.


The young entrepreneurs won over judges at the Panther Pitch March 27 with a proposal for FLX Ride, a bike sharing company.


Geneva High School economics students compete annually in the Panther Pitch, a student entrepreneurial contest held at the Geneva Community Center’s Black Box Theater. The competition was launched by retired teacher Steve Muzzi, who included it every year in his economics class curriculum.


“I really don’t know who’s going to win,” Mr. Muzzi commented as the audience waited for judges to reach a verdict. Muzzi attended the contest to support his successor, social studies teacher Ashley Pereira.


The pitch itself was the final step in what is in fact several weeks of planning, preparation and preliminary competition. Each team works with Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) students in professor Craig Talmage’s entrepreneurial classes to prepare business plans that are both innovative and socially conscious. They must first win a spot among the five finalists, selected by the HWS students, before going on to compete at the Black Box.


FLX Ride faced an additional challenge because Ms. Berg-Pappert was unable to attend the Panther Pitch, leaving Ms. Bleakley on her own to present their proposal and field questions. Modeled in part after Citi Bike in New York City, their company would offer an alternative to cars and cabs by setting up rental bikes and docking stations around the city. They also proposed a partnership with the Geneva Bicycle Center and the City of Geneva in the implementation of bike lanes throughout the city.


“I think [all] the students did a wonderful job preparing,” said Ms. Pereira. “Their ideas are just very inspiring.”


In addition to FLX Ride, proposals included:

  • Coffee Stain Cafe,
  • Danceability,
  • FLX Multicultural Center and
  • Market on the Move.

Alejandra Agosto-Perez and Georgedaliz Lopez-Guevara proposed Coffee Stain Cafe, a small library and coffee shop intended to encourage both readership and camaraderie. Elizabeth Aliperti and Ryann Shultz developed Danceability, an integrated dance studio to help children with special needs. Fadly Kafrawi proposed the FLX Multicultural Center, a place for Geneva’s diverse ethnic communities to come together and share food, language and information about their respective cultures. Kate Equinozzi and Lauren Schmit pitched the idea of Market on the Move, a mobile farmers market intended to fill Geneva’s many food deserts by bringing fresh produce to neighborhoods that do not already have a grocery store.


All competitors this year were seniors at the high school.


Judges this year included Mr. Talmage; Rhonda Destino, director of communication and engagement for the City of Geneva; James Emery-Elkin, owner of Microclimate Bar, The Linden Social Club and Monaco’s Coffee; and Amy Forbes, director of the Centennial Center for Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Innovation at HWS. The evening was sponsored by Red Jacket Farms and Community Proud Apparel.