Students present elevator pitches

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The College of Business and Management’s Dow Entrepreneurship Institute hosted its third annual “Elevator Pitch Competition” on Thursday, Nov. 30.

Students who currently own the majority of a business or had business ideas were encouraged to participate in the competition. Participants had two minutes to pitch their business ideas to three volunteer judges in hopes of winning one of three cash prizes.

“(The competition) is an effort on the part of the college to not only teach entrepreneurship, but also to have an experiential component to complement the classroom,” said Dominic Monastiere, the Executive-in-Residence for the College of Business and Management. “The experiential component is putting on these types of events.”

The College of Business and Management also hosts a Business Pitch Competition, in which participants are given seven minutes to pitch an idea and show prototypes. The Elevator Pitch, however, offers students the experience in a more limited amount of time.

“The analogy is you’re in the elevator, and you’ve got two minutes to pitch your idea and see if this resonates with the audience,” Monastiere said.

Students from other Michigan universities, including University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Northwood University, joined SVSU students in the competition. All 14 participants were judged on five criteria, including how well they described a problem and how well they presented the feasibility and sustainability of their solution.

“In the world of business, you’re going to have to market your business and sell your business,” Monastiere said. “This is really the start of that.”

Carter Mazur, a fourth-year management student and student assistant for the Dow Entrepreneurship Institute, said he has pitched at both the Elevator Pitch and Business Pitch Competitions. His pitch for a website called North Pole Letters is now a business that sells personalized letters from Santa Claus to kids.

In this year’s competition, participants pitched ideas ranging from a camera stabilizer strap to an app that connects local musicians with venues. After the competition, the judges provided feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the pitches.

Jason Lees of GoSpot won the first place prize of $1,250 for his water repellent for GoPro camera lenses. Second place was awarded to SVSU student Brandon Fjerstad of Genex Fitness LLC for his at-home, individualized fitness plans. Third place was awarded to Spencer Lebel of RateGigs for his app to rate and review concert, venue and artist experiences.

SVSU Assistant Professor of Management Izabela Szymanska said students benefit in many ways from participating in these competitions, even if they do not win first place.

“This is something that the students can put in their resumes, and it’s something that makes them stand out,” Szymanska said. “We have had students that didn’t immediately start their businesses after participating in the competitions, but they got to know someone – someone who saw a potential in them and offered maybe a higher-level job than would be expected right after college. They get that exposure, and they get that practice.”

Benjamin DeRuyter, an SVSU business management freshman who attended this year’s competition, said he tries to attend as many of the business pitch competitions as possible.

“It’s a really cool way to network and to see what other like-minded people around you are doing in society,” he said. “I was really happy to see a variety of people, not just students and not just kids, but a variety of different companies with different missions and goals.”

The Dow Entrepreneurship Institute hosts several other events for students during the school year. The institute has brought in guest speakers, including SVSU alumni Andy and Joey Rexford of AMP Social, and taken students on trips to business incubators and fabrication labs.

On Feb. 13, 2018, the Dow Entrepreneurship Institute will host Keaton Keller, the 22-year-old tech reviewer behind the YouTube channel “Techsmartt.”