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Northwest Missouri State University


News Release

    April 16, 2016

    Students’ product ideas win startup funding at New Venture Pitch

    Northwest Missouri State University students pitched their business ideas to real-world professionals Friday during the University’s fifth annual New Venture Pitch Competition. At the end, four teams earned funding to apply toward startup costs for their businesses, and one of those teams won a national TV market viability test.

    The competition, which is open to high school and college students as well as professionals, challenges entrants to build and pitch a comprehensive business plan to small business owners and entrepreneurs. It also gives students the chance to network with business professionals and gain presentation experience.

    “For those students who intend to start a business, the event provides an opportunity to get feedback and suggestions regarding their idea, as well as practice pitching their idea to others and the potential to win prizes that will support the pursuit of their new venture,” said Dr. Ben Blackford, an assistant professor of management who annually organizes the contest. “Even for students who aren’t planning on starting a new business, it gives them experience presenting to individuals similar to those who will someday be their boss, customer or co-worker.”

    Northwest students Breanna Ripley, Health Loeffelbein and Andrea Brown pitch their product idea, called Pure Paws. (Photos by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)
    Northwest students Breanna Ripley, Health Loeffelbein and Andrea Brown pitch their product idea, called Pure Paws. (Photos by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

    A team of four Northwest students pitching their product idea, Pure Paws, won the market viability test through Will It Launch, As Seen On TV. The students pitched a door mat that sanitizes a dog’s paws as it walks over the mat. If the market test is successful, Will It Launch will cover all expenses and could have the product on store shelves by next year.

    Kailey Elfstrum, a senior marketing and business management major from Monroe, New York; Andrea Brown, a senior business management major from Oskaloosa, Iowa; Breanna Ripley, a senior business management and human resource management major from Omaha, Nebraska; and Health Loeffelbein, a senior business management major from Pacific Junction, Iowa; comprise Pure Paws.

    They were inspired by an experience Elfstrum had while walking her dog last summer on the New York sidewalks. Elfstrum had grown concerned about the germs and bacteria her dog’s paws picked up, and the team began brainstorming a product that could help.

    “We put a lot of work into it, so it’s really satisfying that all of our hard work outside of class – we met every single week to put this product together and make it what it is today,” Elfstrum said.

    Carrie Jeske, an expert in developing innovative products for “As Seen on TV,” attended Friday’s pitches and said Pure Paws met all of the requirements “As Seen on TV” looks for in a product. She also commended Friday’s presenters, saying the percentage of market-viable products pitched at the Northwest event was significantly higher than a similar event she attended at an Ivy League school.  

    “What we look for is simple little gadgets that solve everyday problems,” Jeske said. “This group really nailed that with the caliber of products, and the technology products that I saw, even from an app standpoint, were pretty darn exciting. They were unique in that I hadn’t seen a lot of competitors doing those same things. So several of those apps, I think, have a good potential of being successful.”

    Carlanda McKinney, an entrepreneur from Overland Park, Kansas, took the competition’s grand prize for her presentation of the Aphrodite Bra, a custom-fit bra.
    Carlanda McKinney, an entrepreneur from Overland Park, Kansas, won the grand prize for her pitch of a custom-fit bra.

    Carlanda McKinney, an entrepreneur from Overland Park, Kansas, took the competition’s grand prize for her presentation of the Aphrodite Bra, a custom-fit bra. She receives $3,000 toward startup costs and a six-month lease at the Dean L. Hubbard Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the Northwest campus. She also receives legal intellectual property work from Spencer, Fane, Britt and Brown LLP and legal startup work from Polsinelli, PC.

    Three other teams were named runners-up and received funding toward qualified start-up expenses, including Pure Paws, which received a third place prize in addition to its selection as the Will It Launch prize winner.

    Loopix, a photo organization app, took second place. It was pitched by Taylor Bruch (senior business management major from Papillion, Nebraska), Shelby Duren (senior business management and marketing major from Bennington, Nebraska), Robert Henrichs (senior business management and marketing major from Liberty, Missouri) and Aarika Wittenburg (senior business management from Readlyn, Missouri).

    Claiming the fourth place award in the business competition was Perm-A-Leash, a combination dog collar and retractable leash pitched by Caleb Foster (senior financial management major from Lee’s Summit, Missouri), Conor Middleton (senior business management and marketing major from Unionville, Missouri), Dzi Nguyen (senior business management and marketing major from Kansas City, Missouri) and Nicole Sinclair (senior business management and marketing major from Lee’s Summit, Missouri).

    A panel of judges ask questions and evaluate presenters during the final round of Friday's New Venture Pitch Competition at Northwest.
    Judges ask questions and evaluate presenters during the final round of Friday's New Venture Pitch Competition at Northwest.

    Other product pitches included powered windshield covers, custom pens, a computer with a built-in projector and armrest extensions as well as apps for social media advertising, truck drivers and fresh food tracking.

    During three rounds of competition, judges evaluate each presentation and rank teams on the effectiveness and persuasiveness of their presentations, the innovativeness and quality of their ideas, the competitive advantage of their proposed businesses, effective discussion of financials and proposed management teams. Judges base their final decisions on how likely they would be to invest their own money in one of the proposals.

    During his opening remarks at the business contest’s luncheon, Northwest Provost Dr. Timothy Mottet congratulated the students for having courage to pitch their ideas and concepts to professional investors. The New Venture Pitch Competition is an example of the profession-based learning experiences Northwest provides to help ensure graduates of the University are career-ready, Mottet said.

    “Faculty are creating unique learning experiences that bring industry and community members together to interact with our students, but challenging our students to generate ideas, concepts and giving them the courage to stand up for those ideas and concepts,” Mottet said. “We have to teach students: how do you listen to feedback, how do you process it, how do you read between the lines, how do you take that feedback and turn it and revise it into a better concept and a better idea. Those are deep levels of learning.”

    Annie Brock, a 1996 Northwest alumna and vice president of managed services at DataBank, delivered the keynote address.
    Annie Brock, a 1996 Northwest alumna and vice president of managed services at DataBank, delivered the keynote address.

    The luncheon also featured Annie Brock, a 1996 Northwest alumna and vice president of managed services at DataBank. During her final semester at Northwest, Brock was awarded an internship at the White House for the general counsel to the president. After graduation, she joined the U.S. Department of State to work on the ALMA Project, a Y2K effort for the American embassies. Later, she became a network technician and was co-project manager of the build-out of the Sprint World Headquarters Campus.

    Friday she discussed the impact of technology on her career path and encouraged students to align themselves with technology wherever their path takes them.

    “You’re in technology no matter what field you choose,” Brock said. “If you choose to teach, you’re in technology. Be conscious of it. Make conscious decisions to always incorporate technology into what you’re doing.”   

    Sponsors for the event were the Melvin D. and Valorie G. Booth Endowment Fund; Will It Launch; Spencer, Fane, Britt and Browne; Polsinelli, PC; US Bank; and the Dean L. Hubbard Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.   


    For more information, please contact:

    Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
    mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

    Northwest Missouri State University
    215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468