Dean H. J. Williams, of the Seidman College of Business at GVSU, introduces the first ever Regional Idea Pitch Competition.
The competition featured 12 of the top student entrepreneurs from around West Michigan, pitching their ideas to the leaders of the business community. It was held on November 19, in the Loosemore Auditorium at GVSU. The competition came as a result of the collaborative efforts of WMCUG, the West Michigan Colleges and Universities Group, which includes Aquinas College, Calvin College, Cornerstone University, Davenport University, Hope College and GVSU. Dr. Mike Carey, Professor of Management at Davenport University, served as Master of Ceremonies of the competition.
Dr. Carey stressed the importance of cultivating an entrepreneurial culture among students, and pointed to the participants in the Regional Idea Pitch Competition as the example. Danny Beckett, President and CEO of Spearia (Comstock Park) asks a question of a contestant. Judges were allowed 90-seconds to ask follow up questions after the student was finished pitching their idea.
Sitting next to Danny is Brent Hawkins, founder of Infusion Marketing (Kentwood), and Rick DeVos, of Spout.com and ArtPrize (Grand Rapids). Grand Valley State University student Ashley Litke delivers her 90-second pitch.
Ashley won the first place prize of $2,000 for her pitch at the Regional Idea Pitch Competition. Her idea was for a community biking system that would directly impact the Grand Valley State University student body. Ashley also came in second place, for her performance at GVSU's Idea Pitch Competition. Ashley's idea is a great example of one developed for a specific community. Raul Velasco, student at Aquinas College, pitches his 90-second "elevator pitch."
Raul's pitch for a "Smart Card," the next generation in portable asset security, won him a tie for third place at the competition, for which he was awarded a prize of $500. Raul's idea is a great example of a technology based innovation. Peter Reno, student at Aquinas College, works the judges during his 90-second pitch.
Peter pitched an original idea about a "Green" charcoal product entitled H.O.M.E.S. that would be both more economical and environmentally friendly than competitive products currently on the market. His pitch won him a tie for third place, and a cash prize of $500. Peter's idea played on the very popular Green theme, and was valuable because it is superior to it's competition. Helena Stieg, a student at Davenport University, gives her pitch at the competition.
Helena's idea was for an at-home cosmotology business that would empower individuals to understand and correctly utilize the latest beauty products. Her great idea and excellent presentation won her second place, and a cash prize of $1,000. Helena's idea is a great example of finding an already existing need and filling it. Refreshments were served during a brief intermission at the competition.
The intermission, held while the judges deliberated and determined the winners of the competition, was a great chance to stretch legs and digest all the innovative concepts presented earlier. Many contestants, like Luke VandeBunte of Calvin College, used the intermission time to network with a number of business professionals gathered at the competition.
For contestants and attendees alike, the networking opportunity was very valuable as it served to connect ideas with resources. Networking is a valuable talent of any successful entrepreneur. Bob Medema, Associate Professor at Calvin College, was on hand to present the gifts to the volunteer judges.
Judges received a Polo shirt and a desk-clock commemorating the event, along with a big "Thank you" from WMCUG. Dean Cindy VanGelderen, of the School of Management at Aquinas College, gave the closing remarks at the competition.
Dean VanGelderen spoke about the power of collaboration that became possible when WMCUG was formed. She also reiterated the importance of empowering student entrepreneurs to chase their dreams, as that is the way to a successful Michigan. The winners of the 1st annual Regional Idea Pitch Competition.
From left to right: Ashley Litke (GVSU); Helena Stieg (Davenport); Peter Reno (Aquinas); Raul Velasco (Aquinas). The GVSU Seidman College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation team responsible for putting the competition together.
From left to right: Mike Schulz; Luis Felipe Ballesteros; Shorouq Almallah; Cory Cain; Ryan Vaughn.