Making the Pitch
No Shark Tank celebrity tycoons were on hand with million dollar investments, but the pitches were just as serious for students proposing new businesses at Austin College’s first Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition.
Students in the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management class were assigned in September to collaboratively develop ideas for innovative, successful businesses. They developed their business plans, then pitched the business proposals to a group of judges, first in a qualifying round to gain input and then in final competition, vying to receive $5,000 and professional assistance in moving the business from idea to reality.
In addition to receiving funding for their ideas, two winning teams and two runner-up teams are invited to take a spring class taught by Dallas Entrepreneur Center (DEC) co-founder Jeremy Vickers, to help further develop the concepts, and to participate in a summer “incubation” program with the DEC.
The first-place team designed College Care, a company to create, sell, and deliver customized care packages for college students. Bryce Murphy ’15 said the idea was developed after speaking with an entrepreneur at a series of seminars. “He told us to focus on what we know and focus on a business that we would understand,” Murphy said. “We thought, ‘What are we? We are college students. What do we need? We need food and stuff from our parents.’ That’s how we came up with College Care.” Team members are seniors Murphy, Sally Kate Humphries, and David Van Amburgh.
The second-place team devised UNeedAHand, an app that allows college students to solicit tutoring or assistance with other small jobs from other college students. Creators said the idea could be used for tasks like moving or finding a ride home. The runner-up teams created Investment.Ninja, a stock investment educational game, and HET, an app for sports trainers that monitors an athlete’s vital signs while in training and competition.
David Griffith, professor of business administration, taught the course and said the business pitch competition was a challenging and rewarding experience for his students. “This transformed an academic assignment into a real business opportunity and illustrates how Austin College contributes to the economic development of our community and provides a transformative experience for our students,” he said. Griffith holds the Austin College Jack B. Morris Chair in Entrepreneurial Studies and is dean of Social Sciences.
Judges for the final round of competition were Jeremy Vickers, vice president of innovation for Dallas Regional Chamber and co-founder of DEC; Jeremy Roberts, founder of 903 Brewery in Sherman; Scott Connell, president of the Sherman Economic Development Corporation; and Robert Likarish ’09, who, with his brother, just opened Ironroot Republic whiskey distillery in Denison, Texas. Qualifying round judges were Sherman Mayor Cary Wacker; Chris Pendergrass ’02, president of Presco in Sherman; and Kevin Couch, CEO of CBC Creative.
In addition to serving as judges, regional entrepreneurs, investors, and businesses helped get the program off the ground through funding, services, and mentoring. Startup funding for the program was provided by Greg Rohan, president of Heritage Auctions in Dallas, and by Austin College. Daniel Black and Wes Oldaker, cofounders of Dallas-based startup Glass Media, spoke with students about the importance of building a founding team. Local branding and digital agency CBC Creative will provide startup branding packages for the winning teams.
Sponsors and mentors are needed for the continuing program, with hopes to eventually fund all qualifying teams. Interested individuals should contact Tom Buttine ’07, Austin College director of development, at 214.356.4451.
Bryce Murphy—John D. Moseley Alumni Scholars Program; Sally Kate Humphries—Addie R. Whitcomb Ministerial Scholarship, Arthur V. and Mary A. Boand Scholarship, John D. Moseley Alumni Scholars Program, Sara Bernice Moseley Scholarship Program; David Van Amburgh—Arthur V. and Mary A Boand Scholarship, John D. Moseley Alumni Scholars Program, Sara Bernice Moseley Scholarship Program