Biomedical engineer Giana Jarrah ’22, who founded the startup With Meraki Co. and developed a woman's urinary and vaginal probiotic, won top prize Wednesday in StartUp Lehigh Valley’s fourth annual entrepreneurial pitch competition.
The competition, which allows entrepreneurs to pitch their products to a panel of judges in a style similar to the TV show Shark Tank, was held at Factory LLC, an innovation and scale up business incubator near the Lehigh campus.
Jarrah, who had worked with Lehigh’s Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity & Innovation to develop her venture, won the grand prize of $20,000 and the Ben Franklin Innovation Prize of $5,000. The name of the startup is taken from the Greek word “meraki,” which means to do something with love, soul and creativity,” according to its website.
“Six months ago, I was just a biomedical engineer, I was a scientist,” Jarrah said on stage, as she accepted her award. “And Lehigh's Baker Institute in six months has transformed me into an entrepreneur."
Lehigh University also was recognized for its commitment to entrepreneurship. Provost Nathan Urban and Baker Executive Director Lisa Getzler accepted the award.
Jarrah started her venture project during her senior year at Lehigh as part of the Rossin College of Engineering & Applied Science capstone project program. Realizing she wanted to pursue her efforts in creating a probiotic supplement to support women's urinary and vaginal health, Jarrah turned to the Baker Institute and pitched her product at its EUREKA! Competition. She won. She was then selected to participate in Baker’s Joan F. & John M. Thalheimer ‘55 Grand Prize pitch competition in April 2022, and earned that top honor and $5,000.
In summer, Jarrah was selected to participate in a pilot program of the Lehigh Ventures Lab’s Boost program, which extends support for student founders beyond the EUREKA! Program.
“Giana's company With Meraki Co. is among the first three to be part of Lehigh Ventures Lab,” Getzler said. “She received both financial support and mentorship to take her venture from 0 to 1. With Meraki Co. has plenty of growth ahead of it, and we will continue to support Giana until she is ready to move on to the next level.
“This was a huge win and we are very proud of her as she was the youngest, least experienced entrepreneur among the 10 finalists but her innovative product, passion and early traction prevailed,” Getzler said. “Developing student entrepreneurs into full-time founders of successful companies is the model that The Baker Institute and the College of Business plan to replicate many times over through our partnership in Lehigh Ventures Lab, and Giana’s Company is a shining first example.”