Berks LaunchBox announces winners of pitch competition

1st place winners pose with LaunchBox staff

First-place winners Nicol Varona Cancelmo and Cory Dahlia Varona Corniel, co-founders of DN Organics (fourth and fifth from left), pose with Berks LaunchBox staff. 

Credit: Penn State

WYOMISSING, Pa. — Berks LaunchBox powered by Penn State recently announced the winners of its third pitch competition. DN Organics took first place and Paragon Behavioral Health took second. Both companies received $125 in seed funding from the LaunchBox.

The competition began with entrepreneurs attending a webinar titled “Step-by-Step Process for Creating a Killer Pitch Deck.” Attendees learned how to build a product pitch to share their startup idea with investors, advisors and others, and also learned the key elements needed to tell a compelling yet concise story.

They were then invited to practice and polish their pitches with Berks LaunchBox staff. Those teams were invited to pitch to the Berks LaunchBox Advisory Council and advisors for additional feedback, exposure, networking and an opportunity to secure $250 in seed funding.

The judges decided to split the $250 in seed funding and award first and second prizes of $125 to the top two teams: DN Organics, a natural hair care line created to empower women to embrace their natural curls, founded by Penn State Berks alumni sisters Cory Dahlia Varona Corniel and Nicol Varona Cancelmo; and Paragon Behavioral Health, a startup that produces educational virtual reality content to teach life skills for a fully immersive learning experience, co-founded by Kryn McClain.

Competition judges from the Berks LaunchBox Advisory Council and other advisers are experienced business professionals who rated pitch presentations based on customer understanding, product market fit, competitive advantage, and business model. They also asked pointed questions to the teams and provided feedback and ideas for next steps.

Lawrence N. Bonino, senior business adviser with Marathon Capital Advisors, states, “Each entrepreneur's level of preparation was very impressive. Their presentation skills, ability to concisely convey product and market knowledge, and consistency of their rubric were all indicators of the LaunchBox team's exceptional expertise, support, and guidance in helping them prepare for the competition. In my role as a senior adviser for Marathon Business Advisory Services, I see dozens of pitch presentations each year. The presentations I helped evaluate at the LaunchBox Pitch Competition ranked among some of the best I've seen so far this year.”


About Berks LaunchBox
The mission of Berks LaunchBox, located in Suite 105 of the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in downtown Reading, is to support economic development and entrepreneurship. An innovation hub of Penn State Berks, Berks LaunchBox connects local entrepreneurs to the support, resources, and facilities that they need to build sustainable and scalable businesses with a viable plan for growth. Services include assistance with prototyping, conducting market research, and connecting with advisers. Berks LaunchBox offers entrepreneurship workshops, coworking space for startups, Meetups focused on business development, a makerspace with 3D printers for prototyping and special youth programs.

Berks LaunchBox is supported by Invent Penn State — a commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student success, launched by Penn State President Eric J. Barron in 2016. For more information, visit or contact Erica Kunkel, Berks LaunchBox interim director, at  610-396-6221 or via email at [email protected].