On April 10, 2024

Killington’s Pippa Scott wins UVM ‘Shark Tank’-style entrepreneurship competition Receives full-tuition scholarship

Courtesy Pippa Scott
Killington Mountain School junior Pippa Scott won the Vermont Pitch Challenge, April 4.

By Polly Mikula

Pippa Scott, a high school junior from Killington, has won the grand prize at the University of Vermont’s (UVM) inaugural Vermont Pitch Challenge. The competition offered high school entrepreneurs worldwide a chance to secure a full-tuition scholarship for their innovative ventures.

Scott captured the judges’ attention at UVM with an inspiring business proposal for her already established nonprofit, Ride for Mental Health, which raises awareness about and provides support to kids and teens struggling with mental health through action sports.

“Pippa Scott’s remarkable presentation addressing a critical societal issue truly deserves not only our applause, but our tangible support,” said UVM President Suresh Garimella.

“I think everybody had really amazing pitches,” Pippa Scott told the Mountain Times. “I think that my Ride for Mental Health business idea was just further along. Ride for Mental Health is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit. It’s no longer just an idea, it is a business,” she said. “I’ve been doing this for two years. I have a website, I have merchandise, I’ve made money, I’ve gone to like seven like different events throughout the U.S.  … I think the criteria was almost set up for Ride for Mental Health to do well, honestly.”

Scott has personally lost friends to suicide as a result of mental health struggles, which is what motivates her to help others through Ride for Mental Health. “I have gone through personal loss and people want to donate to Ride for Mental Health because it pulls at the heartstrings. People see me, this 17-year-old, who went through a lot of grief and like now is trying to make a difference in her community … I think that was also another thing that the UVM judges got to see is that this is something that I care a lot about.”

Scott beat out a highly  qualified field of nearly 150 teams from seven countries and 27 states. Over 220 ambitious students took part, each eager to make a positive impact and tackle pressing challenges within their respective communities. Throughout the competition, UVM offered the students opportunities to learn from experts about business plan writing and structuring compelling pitches. 

After rigorous evaluation, five finalist teams were selected to present their business concepts in person to a panel of respected judges at UVM on Thursday, April 4, culminating in the announcement of the final rankings.

Each contestant had 7 minutes to present their business idea.

“I think that my pitch went really well,” Scott said in an interview Friday, April 5. “I think I did a good job presenting Ride for Mental Health. I’ve taken public speaking courses at KMS and I just like had a good day. I wasn’t super nervous, which I think was kind of weird. It just felt like I was getting a bigger platform to talk about Ride for Mental Health and I know my business like the back of my hand, so I wasn’t nervous. I think  that also kind of gave me a step above other people,” she continued. “Because I was just in Colorado doing the same thing talking to people about the same stuff with zero consequences, it just didn’t feel like there was a full ride on the line.”

The event in Colorado was a USSA Ski and Snowboard national event. Last year, Scott held a forum and she brought the Society Prevention for Teen Suicide along in partnership. But this year, she went just with her dad. “We didn’t get to have a forum just because we had such a quick turnaround but … I stood on stage talking to about 2,000 people about Ride for Mental Health and we got a lot of donations,” she said.

Scott flew back from Colorado on April 2 and drove up to UVM on April 3 before presenting her pitch to the UVM judges April 4.

“Now I’m headed to Maine and for another Ride for Mental Health event,” she said, Friday. “So, yeah, Ride for Mental Health is very busy at the moment.”

When asked if she planned to use the full-ride scholarship and attend UVM, Scott said, “90% I will go, but I also want to apply to Annapolis [Naval Academy] … I want to be a midshipman for the Navy and I want to fly planes for the Navy. That’s something I’m really interested in, but their acceptance rate is like 9% so, obviously, I’m leaning way more towards UVM especially since I have a full ride. UVM also does have ROTC,” she said.

If she attends UVM, she says she’ll “probably stick with entrepreneurship like business and marketing just because I would be able to like continue doing my mental health stuff and be able to be a part of the snowboard and action sports community and also be able to continue learning more about how to better my business and that’s definitely something I’d be very excited to be able to continue.”

When asked who’s been most supportive of her initiatives, Scotts said “Honestly, my mom and my dad have been the most helpful…  and my snowboard team and greater snowboarding community… I have a great community behind me,” she said, adding,  “I couldn’t do this without my snowboard community behind me… and it’s worldwide. I went to Chile for a Europa Cup in the middle of the summer with KMS and I’ve met people there that were like, ‘Oh, my mom’s a therapist. If you need help, let me know.’ I went to Austria same thing. I met a girl there who was like, ‘Oh, like I listened to your podcast. I think that’s so great. If you need anything, let me know’.”

Scott’s podcast “Tell Me More” has about a dozen episodes and had over 1,000 listeners, according to Scott. “I have high-level athletes on the podcast to talk about their own experiences as competitive athletes or just athletes in general. It’s not just snowboarders and skiers, we’ve had mountain bikers on, too.”

Its focus, like Ride for Mental Health, is to “continue to remove the stigma around community with mental health,” she said.

Ride for Mental Health is currently in the process of making an educational program for USSA coaches, “because we believe that coaches can save lives and that they are our like best resource directly to athletes because they spend so much time with athletes,” Scott explained.

Expressing gratitude for the opportunity provided by the Vermont Pitch Challenge, Scott emphasized her commitment to providing support to those who struggle with mental health. “I’m so glad I won, but the fact that people are going to learn more about the importance of mental health support and knowing that kids are going to have more help because of this accomplishment is really what means everything to me.”

For more info about Scott’s efforts with Ride for Mental Health, visit: rideformh.org.

The Finalists

“All the Vermont Pitch Challenge finalists embody the essential attributes of success in today’s world —entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, a global outlook, and a commitment to crafting important solutions for people and our planet,”  said UVM President Garimella. “This competition serves as a launchpad for the next generation of innovators, equipping them with the resources and mentorship needed to transform their visions into reality.”

Several other participants were recognized for their innovative endeavors:

Danny Philip of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, earned a $5,000 cash prize for Agri-Equip Incorporation, which seeks to catalyze agricultural development in the vibrant landscapes of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Pierson and Parker Jones, twin brothers from Lutz, Florida, were awarded $5,000 for DiscGuard, a pioneering initiative focused on enhancing patient outcomes by preventing re-injury after spinal surgery.

Sebastian Tan of Sewickly, Pennsylvania, received a $1,000 cash prize for OutsideConnection, which helps formerly incarcerated individuals find employment opportunities.

Eliza Strum of Ticonderoga, New York, secured a $1,000 cash prize for EcoCharge, a venture aimed at reducing electric and plastic waste through eco-friendly charging solutions.

Looking ahead, the Vermont Pitch Challenge is set to commence its second year with submissions opening in January 2025, followed by the finalists’ in-person pitch event and awards ceremony slated for April 10, 2025.

For information  about the Vermont Pitch Challenge, visit: go.uvm.edu/vtpitchchallenge.

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