EnduraMark takes Big Ideas Challenge

$15,000 given out to four finalists in entrepreneurship competition

Emmanuella Shokare
Staff Writer

Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship hosted the final round of the 2018 Big Ideas Challenge venture competition on April 17 in Ostrander Auditorium.

EnduraMark won the grand prize of $6,000 for best business plan. Michael Ganzer, Robert Pederson, and Benjamin Lindquist were the entrepreneurs. Their business consists of a refillable, longer-lasting, environmentally friendly dry erase marker.

There were three categories total. The other two categories were best pitch and, new for this year, an agriculture/food and beverage division. O-Cam—a camera that monitors your food from inside your oven, from entrepreneurs Sherif Bakr and Abdelrahman Elkenawy—won best pitch for $4,000, and Coconut Whisk—a baking company that offers vegan mixes using high-quality, minimally-processed ingredients, from Bella Lam and Myles Olson—won the agriculture/food and beverage division prize for $3,000. Coconut Whisk also won the Youth Entrepreneurship Fair for an additional $200.

In addition to the three finalists categories that were were judged on, attendees of the event were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite project. The winner received the “People’s Choice Award” and an extra $2,000, plus any other prize money they won. Twin Cities Engineering Consulting was the winner of this award. Group members include Stephen Curtis, Tien Pham, Kendall Swenson, Benjamin Lindquist, Robert Pederson. Their idea was providing versatile engineering consulting services to businesses in the Twin Cities area.

This is the fourth year the Big Ideas Challenge has been held at MNSU. The Challenge encourages students—both high school and college—and alumni to pursue their dreams to become entrepreneurs through competitions in which the winners/finalists receive a grand prize. The total amount given out in this year’s competition was $15,000. Each group was assigned a community mentor to help guide them and help them grow in their various fields.

Jones Metal Products was one of the event sponsors as well as Pat and Craig Lloyd, MNSU alumni, of Lloyd Companies; both contributed in support of the event. This money will be invested into their businesses in order to help them grow.

“One of our previous winners started a marketspace in Alexandria, MN—11,000 square feet!

Last year’s winner bought some new equipment and grew his business.” said Yvonne Cariveau, the director of Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “He attended the event today to wish everyone well.”

The event started with discussions on the themes of entrepreneurship and innovation, followed by a fireside chat with Pat and Craig Lloyd at the Hearth Lounge in the CSU. The speakers talked about their new book, “Building Dreams.” After the chat, an entrepreneurship fair took place in MavAve.

The competition continues to grow each year, with the number of participants increasing.

“We had 41 people start submissions this year, compared to 28 last year and 15 the year before. More soon,” said Cariveau.

Among the 41 people that submitted their projects, six of them were selected for the final pitches, where they gave their presentations in front of a panel of judges Tuesday.

Through this challenge, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has been able to encourage students and participants in their businesses, mentor them through their entrepreneurship path and see them grow to be successful entrepreneurs in the future. They have also used the fair to educate other students or attendees on entrepreneurship and for those who may have had no knowledge that MNSU had this program.

The mission of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is to “facilitate the launch of the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and dynamic organizations through education, research, and outreach,” according to their website.

Photo: (David Bassey/MSU Reporter)

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