Shapree Marshall is a junior majoring in general studies at Columbia College’s location in Kansas City, and she came up with a business idea that supports traveling nurses and other medical professionals in need of accommodations.
She is inspired by the notion of finding something that balances what you love to do while also helping your community, and she believes her idea, called A Traveled Path, will do just that. “It’s allowing me to serve my community while also building out space for a particular market.”
After several weeks of meeting with a pair of alumni coaches to shore up her idea and presentation, Shapree made her pitch as part of the 2022 Steven and Barbara Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship Student Pitch Competition. As an online tool aimed to equip traveling medical professionals with short-term accommodations, A Traveled Path could be considered an option similar to Airbnb. Marshall’s idea impressed a panel of four judges and she was awarded the $5,000 grand prize.
“I’m extremely honored to receive such an important award. I’m grateful for the recognition and proud of the work that I’ve done,” said Marshall, who credited her coaches – Corbin Umstattd ’12, a member of the CCAA Advisory Council and a partner at U4, an investment firm focused on restaurants, and Chris Lievsay ’09, ’11, assistant director of Columbia College-Kansas City – for their assistance. “I have the deepest respect for them.”
Dr. Raj Sachdev, dean of the Robert W. Plaster School of Business, announced the event’s winners, and praised the competitors for their hard work and execution during the morning’s competition. “This is yet another way to support and celebrate our students,” he said. “Our competitors devoted time and energy to formulate wonderful ideas that both celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit that is foundational to the Steven and Barbara Fishman Center, and also ultimately contribute to the betterment of our society.”
During a break between business pitches, Fishman Center Director Becky Bocklage moderated an impromptu hangout among the event’s attendees, soliciting excellent advice from judges and coaches, and before the awards were announced, participants enjoyed a keynote speech from Jay Sparks ’99, who spoke of his non-traditional background and how it has been an asset when it comes to his current job as entrepreneurship coordinator for Regional Economic Development, Inc.
“Our students did a tremendous job and I couldn’t be prouder of the hard work and passion they have put into their pitches,” Bocklage said. “I appreciate the support and commitment our judges and coaches showcased throughout this process and also thank you to Jay Sparks for being our keynote speaker and loyal alumnus.”
Harlee Aulber, a junior accounting major in the college’s Day Program, won the $3,000 second-place prize for her business, Fusing Financials, and Alec Murphy, a freshman entrepreneurship major from the Day Program, won a $2,000 cash prize for his third-place entry, a dog-boarding business called Animal House.
“Becoming an entrepreneur and taking that leap was very scary, and I will take everything I have learned during this process and mark it as an achievement,” Marshall concluded. “I promise to only get better in my work so that you’ll see and hear more of me.”
Thanks to the volunteers
The Fishman Center Pitch Competition doesn’t happen without a number of amazing volunteers who come together to either provide coaching for the students competing for prize money, or judge the pitches themselves. Beginning in the fall, the work of assembling the coaching teams, and judges for the competition, takes place throughout the entire academic year and is headed up by Bocklage. We’d like to offer our thanks to them:
- Neil Carr is senior private wealth manager for Hawthorn Investment Center and has been a financial advisor with Lincoln Financial Advisors for nearly three decades.
- Lisa Driskel Hawxby serves as business development specialist for Regional Economic Development, Inc., and is co-founder of DogMaster Distillery and its lifestyle offshoot, DogMistress Essentials.
- Whitney Jones ’16, ’19, ’20 is a member of the Columbia College Alumni Advisory Council, and also has direct experience with this event, twice pitching businesses and winning the 2019 competition with her women’s plus-size fashion line, Liv & Kiss. Whitney currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she serves as senior HR manager for Proctor & Gamble.
- Mike Staloch is a valued member of our Robert W. Plaster School of Business Advisory Board. After serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, Mike served in an executive role with State Farm Insurance for more than 30 years.
Our students had access to some outstanding, entrepreneurial-minded individuals who have served as coaches throughout this entire process:
- Mark Christian, director of the Missouri Small Business Development Center
- Alan Lester, is a retired corporate finance executive and has been an adjunct business instructor for Columbia College at both the main campus and St. Louis locations since 2008
- Chris Lievsay ’09, ’11 is a former member of the Columbia College Alumni Association Advisory Council. This past fall, he was hired as the assistant director of our Kansas City location
- Amanda Quick, founder and owner of The Hatchery, an online small-business incubator
- Jason Smallheer, an adjunct faculty member and local sales manager for Sparklight Advertising
- Anne Tegerdine ’08, owner and founder of AnnaBelle Events, LLC
- Corbin Umstattd ’12 is a proud member of the CCAA Advisory Council and a partner at U4, an investment firm focused on restaurants.
Thank you again to all of our volunteers for your dedication to serve our students!