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NKU Students Selected as Finalists for Launch It: Cincy Pitch Competition


Nov. 3, 2021 —  Two teams of Northern Kentucky University students will pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges after being selected as finalists in the Launch It: Cincy Pitch Competition.

Launch It: Cincy was created by Main Street Ventures to offer a regional pitch competition exclusively for undergraduate students in the Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Greater Dayton region. The goal is to build relationships within the Startup Cincy Ecosystem and focus on building their business in Cincinnati. The value of the prize package is approximately $28,000.

Six teams were selected as finalists for the competition, which will culminate in a live Launch It: Cincy Pitch Night on Nov. 4 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The teams will pitch their businesses to a panel of judges. The event will be live streamed for the public. With two teams, NKU accounts for a third of all the finalist teams in the competition.

“The CIE team at NKU is so proud of the two teams, Avasha and ZapTrain, that were selected to compete in the Launch It: Cincy Pitch Competition,” Dr. David Schneider, director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said. “Once again this demonstrates the dedication of our faculty, and the hard work of our students as they pursue their dreams so they can shape the future through their entrepreneurial pursuits.”

Liz Shrout and Ally Creech are the founders of Avasha, the first fully inclusive virtual personal styling service that provides an empowering, safe environment for people to work with a qualified personal stylist to solve their style-related struggles and discover their unique style. Avasha provides one-on-one video conferencing styling sessions through Google Meet.

Shrout and Creech turned their idea for Avasha into action by going through NKU’s INKUBATOR, a 12-week business accelerator that helps bridge the gap between a concept and a business. The company officially launched on Jan. 1, 2020.

“We’re so incredibly thrilled, honored and excited to get to pitch and hope we are able to be a part of the Summer 2022 program,” Shrout said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity as well as sign that we’re on the right track. Through Covid, we’ve had to navigate some complicated situations and pivot our delivery, but this feels like we’ve nailed it.”

Blake Stevens is the founder of ZapTrain, an online personal training marketplace that focuses on providing each client with a high-quality online fitness coach based on the client's goals, starting point, lifestyle and habits. Each coach will provide the client with a completely unique fitness plan and nutrition guidance as well as accountability and motivational coaching.

Stevens came up with the idea of ZapTrain after discovering through a Google search that nearly all fitness and nutrition plans online were computer-generated.

“Being selected as a finalist for this competition means the world to me,” Stevens said. “It gives me a sense of reassurance in the company/idea. I look to use this as a form of motivation and a milestone to look back before moving forward. I believe this is just the first of many good things to come for this company, and I am excited to pitch in the upcoming weeks.”

To learn more about the Launch It: Cincy Pitch Competition, visit

To also learn more about NKU’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, visit

About NKU: Founded in 1968, NKU is an entrepreneurial state university of over 16,000 students served by more than 2,000 faculty and staff on a thriving suburban campus nestled between Highland Heights, Kentucky and bustling downtown Cincinnati. We are a regionally engaged university committed to empowering our students to have fulfilling careers and meaningful lives. While we are one of the fastest-growing universities in Kentucky, our professors still know our students' names. For more information, visit