Winning Pitch

A fitness media company founded by students scores big at HawkTank.

Senior business majors Ben Zakowski, Griffin Tomas, and Dylan Sara (above, left to right) won top honors in the Center for Entrepreneurship’s HawkTank 2023 Business Pitch Competition for their fitness media company, Division One Fitness.

The trio’s plan for growing their existing business, which started with an initial concept centered on producing short, entertaining soccer training videos for social media, edged out five other finalist teams composed of students from four Monmouth schools whose ideas ranged from a hybrid greenhouse/vertical farm that could serve as a community hub to an app that provides crowd-sourced flood data to an interchangeable decorative pillow system.

As the winning team, Tomas, Zakowski, and Sara took home a check for $2,500, but they say the insights they gained from HawkTank were even more valuable.

“Hawk Tank … really opened our eyes to where we could take our business within the next year or two,” says Zakowski.

The students launched Division One in November 2021 seeking to capitalize on Tomas and Zakowski’s soccer skills (the two are co-captains of Monmouth’s men’s team) and Tomas’ social media savvy (he managed social accounts for an investment firm for three years). They started small, posting a few training and challenge videos to TikTok.

“Those first few videos blew up,” says Tomas, and within three weeks Division One had 10,000 followers. Over the next year and half, Division One built a global audience of more than 350,000 followers, and its content has been viewed more than 100,000,000 times.

Along the way, the young entrepreneurs were kicking around numerous ideas for growing their business, including rolling out a subscription-based training program, launching a clothing and apparel line, and branching into other sports. But until they got involved with HawkTank, many were just that — ideas.

“We’d never actually mapped everything out,” says Tomas.

As part of the HawkTank experience, each finalist team worked closely with Alison Gilbert, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, who in the months leading up to the competition guided each team on how to create a business model, project earnings, hone their value proposition, and determine market opportunities.

Since Division One already had such a strong foundation, Gilbert says she focused on helping its founders accelerate the progress they had already made.

“The traditional way to build a business is you have a product or service that you start with and then you build reach around that,” says Tomas. Division One’s situation was different in that “we spent the last year and a half building a reach and building our brand,” and now they needed to monetize those efforts.

In their meetings with Gilbert, the Division One team “mapped out all of our revenue projections for the year, how much we were going to be making for each one, and when we were going to be rolling those out,” says Tomas. “It was something that was good for us to do.”  

Division One will be launching its subscription service soon, and the company is in discussions with manufacturers for its clothing and apparel line. “That could be our biggest stream of revenue,” says Tomas. “We feel like we have the reach and the audience to really capitalize on that market.” 

Although their HawkTank experience has concluded, Tomas, Zakowski, and Sara say they’re still using the Center for Entrepreneurship as a resource. Gilbert’s mentoring went beyond just helping them hone their winning pitch. “She gave us a lot of insight on what we should as a business,” says Tomas. “She’s helped us a lot.”