WSSU senior places second in PNC pitch competition

Winston-Salem State University student Vinsha Torain placed second in the PNC North Carolina HBCU Pitch Competition.

The second annual competition was held in early February at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro.

Torain, a senior majoring in healthcare management, placed second for her pitch, “Torain Ranch Trail Ride Club,” earning a $2,500 cash prize. Torain Ranch Trail Ride Club is an equestrian center owned and operated by the Torain Family. According to her pitch profile, the club’s vision is to promote public equestrian activities; support policies consistent with the promotion of equestrians; educate the public on equestrian recreational activities; and to enjoy trail riding. The ranch offers horseback rides, riding lessons, guided trail rides and line dance classes. In August 2023, the business was featured in “National Geographic” magazine, the profile reads.

Vinsha Torain

The PNC pitch competition is a part of the PNC Foundation’s $2 million commitment to five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in North Carolina to establish the PNC North Carolina HBCU Initiative, an effort that aims to enrich the future of entrepreneurship and create workforce opportunities in the state. 

The grants will be distributed over a three-year period to help fund the development and delivery of entrepreneurship resources and programming for students at Winston-Salem State University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University and North Carolina Central University – institutions that play an integral role in cultivating Black business leaders and fostering wealth creation in Black communities. 

A total of 15 students participated in the competition. In addition to Torain, WSSU business administration student, Paulanizia Davis, also competed.

“We celebrated an amazing experience with our Winston-Salem State University students who shared their entrepreneurial aspirations among like-minded competing HBCU teams from North Carolina,” said Dr. Notis Pagiavlas, marketing professor and founding director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation at WSSU.

“With generous financial support by the PNC Foundation, our students received mentoring, professional guidance, and peer support to devote the necessary time and energy toward their creative enterprises,” he said.

Dr. Suresh Gopalan, Dr. Susita Carroll and Dr. Sangeetha Lakshman served as faculty advisors, spending time refining the students’ projects and presentations, Pagiavlas said. Peer PNC Entrepreneurial Student Fellows provided feedback and cheerleading support.

The competition “delivered a platform for student-entrepreneurs to demonstrate their skills, showcase their innovative work and take inspiration from peers,” said Venus Myles, senior vice president and PNC Community Development Banking market manager for the Carolinas. “But just as importantly, it provided a meaningful occasion to recognize and celebrate the rich tradition – and future – of innovation and leadership at HBCUs throughout North Carolina.”

Throughout the day, the students engaged with national and regional PNC executives. The panel of judges included Michael Dwomoh, Ph.D., internal audit director, PNC Bank; Tiffany L. Jones-Boyd, area development director, UNCF; Madison Potter, business solutions officer, Carolina Small Business Development Fund; and Ben Redding, chief financial officer, NC IDEA.

Students were evaluated on the quality and clarity of content, feasibility and long-term prospects for the viability and success of the concept or solution pitched; organization and ‘wow’ factor of the presentation; and responses to judges’ questions.

About the PNC Foundation
The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (, actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture. Through PNC Grow Up Great®, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a bilingual $500 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life.