Students pitch their “Big Ideas” in competition

Oluwatomike Bali
Staff Writer

The Big Ideas Challenge is a competition that celebrates students’ innovative business ideas. It is hosted by the Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and gives students, or alumnus within two years of graduating, the opportunity to compete for money to fund their business ideas.

This year’s final round of the Big Ideas Challenge took place Monday at the Ostrander Auditorium with 7 finalists.

Each of the finalist pitched their business ideas to the judges and audience. It started with the first pitch by two students with a business idea called “Balance”: A nutrition guide that is centered on helping people find balance with lifestyle changes and living a healthy lifestyle. The business plan is to come up with a website that gives people access to information around nutrition, workout plans, biweekly meal plans, grocery lists and other information needed for adopting a healthy lifestyle. 

The second business pitch of the day, called “Ceed Energy” by David Bassey, was focused a clean energy solution to power electricity in green houses all year round and control temperature.  This idea can help reduce the cost of energy usage for residential grower and grow plants indoor using wind turbine. The business plan for “Ceed Energy” is to produce and make available to consumers the “CV 100” kit to power greenhouses across the U.S.

“Calcx”, a business idea pitched by one of the finalists, is a device that can be more than just a calculator to engineering students. It is a device that can make engineering calculations easier.

The fourth finalist pitched an idea called “Enduramark” which is a long-lasting whiteboard marker. These eco-friendly markers will last four times longer than an average marker. They are refillable and the part are replaceable. It is rechargeable and can be left open without the ink drying out.

The next finalist pitched a business idea called “Wrivng” which is a focused on safety. The idea is to create a safety app with features that keeps users safe. The safety app tracks location and movement using a phone’s GPS. This app senses when in one’s in danger and sends the person’s location to a list of selected contacts if need be.

The sixth finalist introduced “2true headbands”, a comfortable, non-slip headband for women of all ages. “2true headbands” is a running business that wants to establish a website, grow social media presence and give back to the community.

Rounding up the presentations, the last finalist pitched a business idea called “Hopynn”. “Hopynn” is a car-pooling platform that links riders to drivers. This app can source for rides based on Facebook connection and mutual friends.  This idea is centered to accommodate and provide solution for students who finds it difficult to get a fast an affordable ride to nearby cities or the airport.

“Ceed Energy” by David Bassey won first place in the Agriculture/Food/Beverage Division with a cash prize of $3,000. AJ Rana and Manik Maharjan of “Hopynn” won the people’s choice awards and second place with a cash prize of $5,000. Ben Lindquist, Mike Ganzer and Bob Peterson of “EnduraMark” won third place and $2,000. Maggie Knier of “2true headbands” won first place with a grand prize of $5,000 and she advanced to the semifinal of the student division of MN Cup, the largest statewide business plan competition.

Cariveau Yvonne, the director for Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship said ,“We had seven finalists present their ideas on stage this year.  That is more than we have ever done before and it was a big hit.” 

“Of the 28 presentations that have made it to the finals, 12 of those businesses are still in operation today,” said Yvonne. “We have had about 100 community and alumni mentors and judges help to make this a terrific real world learning experience for our students.”

 On advising students for next year’s challenge, Yvonne stated, “We encourage all students, from any major, to start thinking about their Big Ideas for next year. Ideas don’t have to be high tech.  Your idea could be a novel or play, it could be an idea to clean up the environment, and it could be something that helps people with disabilities or a service for agriculture. Join other students at the Center and get help with developing your idea so you can be on stage next year.”

The Big Ideas Challenge has been sponsored for each of the last five years by Lloyd Companies. Craig Lloyd is a 1972 graduate of the University. This year, the Agriculture/Food/Beverage Division prize was sponsored by All American Foods.  Other sponsors were, BankVista and Jones Metal. The Mankato community also provided finalist prizes to help student startups.  The top three winners received memberships to Greater Mankato Growth and all received three month memberships to the Mogwai Collaborative co-working space in the Hubbard Building in Downtown Mankato.

Header photo courtesy of The Social Butterfly Company.

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