Four student finalists recently presented their entrepreneurial ideas at the NMU College of Business' Big Pitch event, the culminating activity in the annual new business venture competition. Donald McKaba earned $3,000 for winning the Big Pitch with Wasteless, his plan for an “innovative shopping experience” that aims to reduce one-use containers that end up in landfills. Grace DeNoya won $5,000 for best business plan for You'd Never Know, a 100% gluten-free bakery, and $1,500 each for best trade fair display and crowd favorite.
McCabe's Wasteless involves using rented and reusable containers to buy certain grocery items in bulk at a lower cost than in regular stores. This provides opportunities for savings because there would be no individual packaging costs.
DeNoya said You'd Never Know would start with in-home baking, utilizing e-commerce and farmers markets, then move to a bricks-and-mortar location to sell the baked goods. She explained that many gluten-free products are not of the same quality as their gluten-filled counterparts, and “leave something to be desired.”
The other finalists who competed were Jim Callhan and Patrick Gutierrez. Callahan, who grew up a competitive golfer, presented his idea of JC Indoor Golf, a golf simulator for those who want to get indoor practice during the harsh winters and see improvements in their golf game throughout the year.
Gutierrez presented Ixchel, a Mayan-themed boutique gym that featured a cannabinoid supplement, THCV, to promote weight loss while not producing any intoxicating effects. The gym would also serve as a social setting for those who use it, because the supplement would have to be administered 30-minutes prior to the workouts. Gutierrez said it would target the Latina community, stating that demographic is proportionately more obese.
“You are among a very kind of unique group,” College of Business Dean Carol Johnson told the finalists, who were selected from 40 initial entrants.
A Mini Pitch competition, hosted by Invent@NMU, took place before the Big Pitch. Several groups presented ideas for one of two $500 cash prizes. Josh Lewandowski was one of two winners with his idea of taking two-dimensional images and printing them as correct 3D models.
Henry Westlind and Cooper Lennox won the other prize for their company, VirsaQuest, and its Vision product. Vision is a concept for a paddleboard that includes a lowered, clear bottom to see the water underneath and a small, detachable motor that can be used as a swim aid.
For more information on the Pitch Competition, visit news.nmu.edu/students-present-ideas-annual-new-business