New Venture Competition awards more than $75,000 to student businesses
Mount Pleasant junior Samantha Pina and her brother Joseph Pina, a senior, watched their competitors in the New Venture Competition cross the stage to be given one large check after another.
After not passing the second round, they weren't confident they would be given one of the eight awards. Suddenly, the name of their business, Revolve Replication, echoed over the loudspeaker. The siblings shot each other a look of disbelief before heading toward the small stage to accept their $10,000 award for the Most Impact on Michigan.
“It took me a second to register they said Revolve Replication and I think we both didn’t believe it at first,” Samantha said. “It’s more (a feeling of) shock and excitement. It’s a little bit of everything thrown into one.”
The goal of the New Venture Competition is to help students launch start-up businesses in Michigan. The competition is coordinated by the College of Business Administration and the Isabella Bank Institute for Entrepreneurship.
More than $75,000 was awarded in start-up capital and entrepreneurship services to the winning teams through a number of categories: the best overall, $30,000, was awarded to Kurt Baringer, Christian Day, Chris Green and Patrick McAvena for Episcura. The best social venture for $10,000 was awarded to Humble Abode Tiny Homes, the best technology venture for $10,000 was awarded to HydroGuide, the highest growth potential venture for $10,000 to Beergo, the most impact in Michigan venture for $10,000 to Revolve Replication, best lifestyle for $5,000 to 3T, spirit of entrepreneurship venture to Mwage, best pitch venture for $1,000 to Mwage, first runner-up pitch for $500 to OddJobs, second runner-up pitch for $500 to Black Friday and Audience choice of $250 to Mwage.
Aspiring entrepreneurs spent seven months preparing for Friday’s event through workshops with faculty, experienced entrepreneurs, mentors and alumni to turn their concepts into actual sustainable businesses. More than 70 students from 27 teams competed.
After the first round, a panel discussion titled "Lessons Learned from Entrepreneurs" was held in the French Auditorium. Additional seats were brought in due to the overflow of students interested in the panel, which hosted 10 entrepreneurs, including keynote speaker, Enrico Digirolamo, Chief Financial Officer of Covisint.
"Making a mistake now is better then making the right decision three months from now," said Co-founder and Chief Executive Chief of foodjunky Travis Johnson.
A two-minute Make-A-Pitch competition took place in the French Auditorium before the final round, which featured the final teams Episcura, Beergo and HydroGuide.
The judges looked for a combination of factors based on experience. They checked to see if students made an investable business idea and looked for a prototype of customer validation. Judges based their decisions on students working beyond just thinking of the idea, said Executive Director for the Isabella Bank Institute for Entrepreneurship Debra Zellner.
“Many of the judges judge on two or three criteria, protecting intellectual property, if the preposition is unique, and often they will judge not so much on the business technique but their personality as well,” said Dean of College of Business Administration Charles Crespy. “Competitors have to demonstrate enthusiasm and a passion and fire for their business idea. Often, you bet as much on the person as you do the business idea.”
The competition was an improvement from previous years, according to Crespy, as it “gets a little better” every year. The quality of competitors is only expected to increase in the years ahead, he said.
“I think the competition has gone excellently,” said the Chairperson for the Department of Entrepreneurship Kenneth Sanney. “We’ve had some teams that didn’t make it to the finals that have connected with the entrepreneurs from across the state that will help their businesses grow. This isn’t about one team winning, but the opportunity for a lot of teams to network.”