Each Spring, the Columbia College community gathers to hear the next great business idea from students at the Steven and Barbara Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship Student Pitch Competition. Six students across the college’s more than 40 locations nationwide presented their business plans at the New Hall Event Center in front of alumni, faculty, staff and community members.
Coordinated by Fishman Center Director Becky Bocklage, each student competitor was allotted 10 minutes for their presentation, followed by a Q&A session with the panel of judges. The six student finalists entered the day in the running for three monetary prizes to aid their future business development. A grand prize of $5,000 was awarded to the overall winner, while $3,000 and $2,000 were distributed to second and third-place honorees, respectively.
Following the students’ business pitches, Ben McDougal, one of the event’s judges and an author and entrepreneurial ecosystem builder, delivered a keynote speech to attendees. Titled “No Permission is Required,” McDougal stressed the entrepreneurship lifestyle is learned through action.
“No one is going to simply pick you,” said McDougal. “You must show initiative. Fortunately, in the interconnected era we live in, we can all do more with less. Whether it’s students, educators or community members, there’s no reason why you have to wait to start building your business now.”
Following McDougal’s interactive presentation, the nearly 100 attendees joined in celebration as the Student Pitch Competition winners were officially announced. Victoria Brown and her “Paint to Pieces” startup took home the top prize, while Andrew Schwarting’s “Diabetic Wellness Incorporated” mobile app and Glory Nkwocha’s “Afro-Braids” business rounded out the day’s trio of winners.
“Today was fantastic and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of students,” said Bocklage. “The preparation they put into this was phenomenal. Their respective coaches were all spot on with their tutelage and were so helpful. The judges were also great, as they evaluated the presentations fairly and offered support for their future.
“Having this event back on campus makes a huge difference. We had so many students in attendance and they supported their peers who were presenting. I also saw members of the local business community and college leadership, faculty and staff. It was simply wonderful.”
Photos by Columbia College Photographer & Graphic Designer Abigail Wade
Brown, the grand prize recipient, trekked to mid-Missouri from Columbia College Global’s St. Louis location. Accompanied by her sister and mother, Brown was all smiles after receiving her first-place check of $5,000.
“Winning today’s competition means everything to us, especially with us being a new startup,” said Brown. “We’re based in Sacramento, California, but our goal is to explore franchise opportunities here in Columbia and elsewhere. We also want to purchase another tent and increase marketing, so this prize money is going to go a long way.”
A summary of each business pitch at this year’s Entrepreneurship Showcase can be found below:
- 4 Step Blinds (Magnus Thors): An all-in-one window blinds design app that saves customers thousands of dollars in four simple steps. The app will measure your windows and augmented reality filters help individuals visualize how blinds will look in their respective homes. The final product will be delivered to their home and professionally installed.
- Afro-Braids (Glory Nkwocha): A hair business dedicated to helping people of color feel loved with their hair. This company will offer education while styling clients’ hair for an affordable price.
- Diabetic Wellness Incorporated (Andrew Schwarting): Thousands of diabetics struggle to keep their blood sugar level within range and don’t understand the long-term adverse health effects this can cause. This company offers a mobile app that allows diabetics to lead a healthier lifestyle without the added stress of regulating blood sugar. The app will offer personal care advisors, instructional videos, informational databases and a supportive network of other diabetics.
- Murphy Music, LLC (Alec Murphy): A record label focused on emerging artists in the Midwest. Everyone has a voice to express and this company supports individuals who are dedicated and passionate about expressing themselves. The business provides those individuals with opportunities to be heard through marketing, networking and financial support.
- Paint to Pieces (Victoria Brown): Putting a spin on the “same old” bounce house business as an inflatable splatter paint tent. This business will offer to set up its tent at an event and provide the customer with the necessary tools to get messy! Customers can use a variety of tools such as water guns, blasters and squeeze bottles to paint the inside of the tent.
- Tranquility with Joy (Jordan Hudson): An LLC started by the original idea of the Tranquility Planner-Journal. This business strives to promote peace and tranquility in one’s life by promoting better mental health through journaling, positive self-talk, thinking processes, comfortable clothing and accessories that add to the consumer’s everyday routine.
Columbia College students presenting their business ideas at the Entrepreneurship Showcase were aided by local entrepreneurial-minded individuals throughout the entire process. A big thank you to the following coaches for their assistance at this year’s event:
- Sunitha Bosecker, Business & Mental Health Counselor, LPC (coaching Victoria Brown and Jordan Hudson).
- Mark Christian, Director, Missouri Small Business Development Center & Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Procurement Specialist.
- Scott Christianson, Associate Teaching Professor of Management and Director for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI) at the University of Missouri (coaching Magnus Thors).
- Stacey Goodale, National Account Manager, GSK Vaccines (coaching Alec Murphy).
- Brandi Herrman, Owner, Brandi Herrman Communications (coaching Magnus Thors).
- Bob Hohenstein, Visiting Instructor, Columbia College Robert W. Plaster School of Business.
- Whitney Jones, Senior Human Resources Manager/Site Security Leader for Proctor & Gamble (coaching Glory Nkwocha).
- Alan Lester, Adjunct Instructor, Columbia College Robert W. Plaster School of Business (coaching Andrew Schwarting and Victoria Brown).
- Chris Livesay, Assistant Director at Columbia College-Kansas City (coaching Andrew Schwarting and Jordan Hudson).
- Jayme Prenger, Director, Missouri Women’s Business Center (coaching Glory Nkwocha).
- Jay Sparks, Entrepreneurship Coordinator, Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) (coaching Alec Murphy).
- Corbin Umstattd, Partner at U4 Investment Firm, Columbia College Alumni Association Advisory Council.
This year’s panel of judges included local and national experts in the entrepreneurial industry. Columbia College is grateful for their commitment and dedication to the Entrepreneurship Showcase:
- Adonica Coleman, Board Member of Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Owner of A2D Events and The COMO 411.
- Mikel Fields ‘08, Owner of Cracked Up Mobile, Founder & Brand Strategy Consultant for Castello Branco Fields.
- Kenny Greene ’82, Owner of Monarch Jewelry, Art Department Faculty at Columbia College.
- Ben McDougal, Author and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Builder with organizations including 1 Million Cups and Techstars.
- Mike Staloch, Columbia College Robert W. Plaster School of Business Advisory Committee, Former Executive at State Farm Insurance.