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April 21, 2017
A pitch for an all-natural hair care product impressed judges enough to win the top prize as Northwest Missouri State University hosted its sixth annual New Venture Pitch Competition April 7 at Northwest-Kansas City.
New Venture Pitch provides students and entrepreneurs with the opportunity to present ideas to professionals, small business owners and others with experience working with new businesses. It also gives students the chance to network with business professionals and gain presentation experience.
“When students are standing in front of their peers to pitch their ideas to 15 business owners who have an immense area of experience, that’s as real world as it gets,” Larry Lee, the contest’s organizer and a retired Northwest staff member, said. “As an entrepreneurship teacher, I want to give every student experiential learning. They need experience before they leave Northwest. It’s our objective and our obligation to do exactly that.”
Though the competition was open to all students as well as the public, Northwest students swept the top prizes.
Antenicka Shields, a junior chemistry major from St. Louis, and Cameron West, a sophomore mass media major from Florissant, Missouri, delivered the winning pitch for Naturally Nicka’s Hair Care, an organic, vegan, gluten-free and cruelty-free hair company. In their pitch, Shields and West guaranteed a product that ensures hair health and growth while using no chemicals. Additionally, they pledged to donate 10 percent of weekly proceeds to breast cancer research and another 5 percent to a customer-chosen charity.
“Cosmetic chemistry is something that I have been interested in since I was 16,” Shields said. “I received the email about New Venture Pitch a week after I decided to start a company. After talking it over with my family, I decided now or never.”
As the winner, they earned prizes totaling more than $24,000 in value. The top prize included $6,000 toward qualified start-up expenses, legal intellectual property work from Spencer, Fane, Britt & Browne LLP and six months of professional workspace at the Ennovation Center in Independence, Missouri, as well as business development and consultation services.
“Winning was such a big shock to me,” Shields said, adding she plans to begin producing the product this spring and will be enter a hair expo to raise awareness of her brand.
“I will forever be grateful to Northwest for having a competition like this,” Shields said. “Not only does it allow business majors to present their businesses but any other major can participate. Even if you don’t win, you still receive great feedback and the possibility to meet your future boss or coworker.”
Will Monroe, a senior business management and marketing major from Mayview, Missouri; Mauro Tete, a senior business management and marketing major from Villa Mercedes, Argentina; and Justin Skaggs, a senior financial management major from Maryville; earned second place for their pitch for a hiking phone cover. Their prize package included $4,000 toward start-up expenses, three months of workspace at the Ennovation Center and professional services.
Courtney Coble, a senior financial management major from St. Joseph, Missouri; Monica Irwin, a senior financial management major from Omaha, Nebraska; and Shawn McCarville, a senior business management and marketing major from Omaha, Nebraska; earned third place for their security phone cover. Their prize package included $2,000 toward start-up expenses, one month of workspace at the Ennovation Center and professional services.
Nate Carl, a senior business management and marketing major from Liberty, Missouri; Preston Harlan, a senior financial management and business management major from Unionville, Missouri; Kailey Huston, a senior business management and marketing major from Harrisonville, Missouri; and Lauren Tilley, a senior business management and marketing major from Corydon, Iowa; earned fourth place for their drink carrier, called “Wrist Assist.” They received $1,000 toward start-up expenses, one month of workspace at the Ennovation Center and professional services.
Judges also recognized four participants for their elevator pitches. Mersadie Moore, a senior business management and marketing major from Kansas City, Missouri, took first place for Wet Hair Hood. Carl earned second place, Irwin was third and Skaggs was fourth.
Another strength of the New Venture Pitch Competition is that it brings together multi-disciplinary teams from Northwest. Lee said the contest fits into Northwest’s goal to create an ecosystem where a variety of entrepreneurial concepts can thrive.
“It’s about the business of entrepreneurship,” Lee said. “We’re giving students the tools to be successful. Our top winner was not a business major but rather a chemistry major putting her skills to work to create a better world in some small way. That’s what makes me come back from retirement to teach a class and help Northwest with the competition.”
Northwest’s Melvin D. and Valorie G. Booth Endowment Fund, Will It Launch, the Independence Ennovation Center, Spencer Fane LLP, and OMNI Employment Management Services LLC sponsored the competition.
Kevin Fullerton, founder of Springboard Creative in Mission, Kansas, and a Northwest alumnus, was the day’s keynote speaker.
The competition format consists of three rounds of competition. During the first round, teams give a one-minute elevator pitch about their idea to a panel of judges. In the second round, teams set up a display to present their business ideas and judges visit the display by teams that most impressed them during the first round. Four teams are selected by the judging panel to advance to the final round.
Teams selected for the final round pitch their business ideas, and judges select an overall winner. During the final round, teams have 10 minutes to present their business ideas, followed by a 10-minute question-answer session.
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. Ultimately, judges base their final decisions on how likely they would be to invest their own money in one of the proposals.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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