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April 24, 2015
Northwest Missouri State University students pitched their business ideas to real-world professionals during the University’s fourth annual New Venture Pitch Competition April 17, and now one team has the opportunity to develop its plan further by winning the grand prize.
The annual contest provides students and entrepreneurs the opportunity to present ideas to professionals, small business owners and potential investors while giving students a chance to network with business professionals and gain presentation experience.
“Even for students who aren’t planning on starting a new business, it gives them the opportunity to interact with business leaders and people who eventually could be their customers, their bosses and maybe their coworkers,” said Dr. Ben Blackford, an assistant professor of management who annually organizes the contest. “We have several teams that do want to advance, and it gives them a chance to get feedback on their plan, but even for those that don’t advance, there’s still a great learning experience available.”
A team of four students behind LANN Filtration – a safety system for dangerous chemicals – earned first place in this year’s competition. The team is composed of Alex Harmening, a senior business management major from Grant City, Mo.; Luke Piper, a senior finance major from Greenfield, Iowa; Nick Love, a senior business management major from Lone Jack, Mo., and Nichole Larabee, Love a senior business management major from Hopkins, Mo.
As a result, the team received the grand prize, totaling $15,000 in value. The prize includes $3,000 toward qualified start-up expenses, a six-month lease at the Dean L. Hubbard Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship located on Northwest’s campus, legal intellectual property work from Spencer, Fane, Britt & Browne LLP, and legal startup work from Polsinelli, PC.
The group developed the idea with inspiration from Piper whose father was injured years ago while he was working in a field and came in contact with anhydrous ammonia. They plan to market their system to hazardous materials teams and agriculture manufacturers.
“You start with an idea, and as it got closer and closer we realized we could actually do this,” Love said. “We realized if we won, we had a chance to start a business that could set us for life.”
Harmening added, “It’s an awesome opportunity to sit in front of judges and get some real-life experience, pitching a business plan to somebody.”
Claiming runner-up prizes in the business competition were Design A Cap, a team proposing custom designs for graduation caps; LightShow Curtains, a shower curtain with lights and music; and Nutri-Pul, a blender system that ensures no food is left behind. Each received funding toward qualified start-up expenses.
Other pitches included environmentally friendly reusable envelopes, headphones that could be heated or cooled, a phone case with a retractable cord, a more accurate package tracking system and a Christmas tree designed to be assembled and taken down easily.
During his opening remarks at the business contest’s luncheon, Northwest Provost Dr. Timothy Mottet congratulated the students for having the courage to pitch their ideas and concepts to professional investors. Taking advantage of the kinds of experiences provided at Northwest and through New Venture Pitch also help to ensure graduates of the University are career-ready, Mottet said.
“Your goal is to be able to articulate these ideas and concepts in a very concise manner, in a very brief manner, and to be persuasive and to be influential,” Mottet said. “That is being career-ready on day one, so I applaud your courage. … This is a high-impact learning experience. This is the value added that you get as a Northwest Missouri State University student.”
The luncheon also featured Mark Doll, a 1980 Northwest alumnus who is chief executive officer and president of Doll Distributing Inc. With locations in Council Bluffs and Spencer, Iowa, the company serves about 3,500 bars, restaurants, convenience stores and grocery stores. During his remarks, Doll emphasized the importance of establishing relationships with customers and financial institutions as well as tracking sales and operations to build a successful business.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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