Make-A-Pitch awards entrepreneurship students with cash, experience


Business students come together to pitch ideas to judges at the Make-a-Pitch event on Dec. 6 in Grawn Hall. 

A team comprising two second-year graduate students won the Dec. 6 Make-A-Pitch Competition with their idea to help news organizations alleviate the cost of news helicopters by replacing them with drones. 

Zachary Huffman and Tim Harkleroad, the students behind the team "Drone the News," were the winners of the first-place prize of a $500 gift card to the Central Michigan University Bookstore.

“The winning factor was our good teamwork," Harkleroad said. "We’re personal friends, and we work really well together. Seeing it all really pay off has a huge impact on us."

Huffman and Harkleroad both expressed interest in pitching their idea in the 2018 New Venture Competition. 

Organized by the entrepreneurship department of the College of Business Administration, Make-A-Pitch features student-led teams presenting their ideas for products or services to judges for prizes and feedback. 

Each team is given two minutes to pitch their idea and the judges are given three minutes to give constructive criticism to help these students improve those ideas. 

The judges panel was comprised of business owners, CMU graduates and faculty who had the necessary experience in the business field to help students become better entrepreneurs. 

Other winners

A total of 39 students competed in the eighth-annual Make-A-Pitch competition on Dec. 6, making it the largest and most competitive one to date. 

The winners of the second-place $100 gift card prize was a team named Revolve Farms. Created by junior Brendan Mantey and senior Kyle Platt, Revolve Farms is meant to present one solution to the problem of a lack of sustainable and fresh food.  

“It’s a very important aspect to let us go through ideas and really refine what we’re trying to say, what we need to improve on and what we really need to get done before New Venture,” Mantey said. “It really narrows down what we need to focus on these next couple months.” 

Kalamazoo senior Tabitha Haney, left, and Lake George senior Matthew Skornicka pitch their Endless Waters Pet Food idea to the judges at the Make-a-Pitch event on Dec. 6 in Grawn Hall.

Seniors Tabi Haney and Matthew Skornicka received the third-place prize of a $50 gift card for their idea, Endless Waters Pet Food. The service aims to provide high-quality, low-cost alternative to combat the unhealthy pet foods currently dominating the market, Skornicka said.

This is Skornicka’s second year participating in the competition and his second time earning third place.

“Every pitch I’ve given since my first one has been changed based on the feedback I’ve gotten from judges and so far, and it seemed to help,” Skornicka said.    

Two teams, Quick Tutor and Bookie Rookie, tied for fourth and fifth place, respectively. Quick Tutor is an idea that was created to help people connect with tutors for any possible skill a person would want to learn. 

Bookie Rookie is an idea geared towards college students and gives them the ability to buy or sell textbooks to and from each other at fair prices. 

Many of the teams that competed in the event plan on participating in the New Venture Competition in April. 

Structured similarly to Make-A-Pitch, the New Venture Competition is a much larger event where teams prepare 10-minute pitches, as well as financial and distribution plans. Last year, about $77,000 in awards were given to student teams, including a $30,000 prize for Best Overall Venture.

Bruce Marble, executive director of the entrepreneurship department and facilitator of the Make-A-Pitch and New Venture events, was pleased with the competition and the effort he saw displayed by the teams participating.

“I saw a lot of inspired students who had a lot of passion for their ideas,” Marble said. “Across all of the different teams, there was just more evidence that there were students that really felt strongly about their idea and really wanted to pursue it.” 

Marble believes Make-A-Pitch and New Venture offer a valuable starting point for students interested in pursuing the field of entrepreneurship. 

“Up until this point there’s a lot of premium placed in how effective you are in communicating and pitching with passion,” Marble said. “From this point on they really have to go out and they have to do more customer interviews; they have to develop more validation that they can develop their solution.”