The entrepreneurial spirit of St. Thomas was fully visible in person at the Anderson Student Center on November 12, when students competed for $ 86,000 in scholarships by pitching creative business ideas at the Fowler Business Concept Challenge. Ideas ranged from a hunger relief program in the Twin Cities to a robotic lineups referee for football.
Students representing 23 majors competed either in the business concept or in the social enterprise sector. With 66 students submitting 45 business ideas, the top 32 teams competed in the morning semifinals, with the top four teams from each track advancing to the afternoon finals.
Sophomore Chloe Ginkel received a $ 15,000 scholarship for winning the social enterprise stream with UWell, a mental health software application. Ginkel’s idea for the app was in honor of a high school fellow who committed suicide.
“I’m talking about a huge social challenge that needs to be addressed – mental health,” Ginkel said. “[The Fowler Business Concept Challenge] put into perspective for me the mission I am trying to accomplish – giving voice to the millions of students who suffer from mental illness.
In the business track, juniors Brady Gruenhagen and Cory Kaisersatt took top honors and a $ 15,000 scholarship for Print3D Paradise. Their concept is to have unique land and vacation rentals all in one package. The land would be located near the national parks; rental facilities would be 3D printed.
Both took part in the challenge last year, but with other concepts on different teams in the social enterprise track. “I learned to present my ideas effectively and to generate enthusiasm around an idea,” said Gruenhagen.
Entries were judged on a variety of merits, including originality, clear and compelling value proposition, competitive advantage, market opportunities and feasibility. This year’s judges included 47 local entrepreneurs and business leaders, including 28 St. Thomas alumni.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for these students to have a real-world experience of creating and giving a presentation and developing a business plan,” said Brinkman. “The rigor they have to endure, the courage to go on stage… it was an honor to be part of it.
Prior to the announcement of the winners, President Julie Sullivan spoke at the awards ceremony.
“Every student who competed today, you’ve learned something. Hope you have raised your self-confidence, ”Sullivan said. “If there’s one thing in life that you don’t already know, you’ll know it very quickly: you can only do what you think you can do. “
Since its inception, the Fowler Business Concept Challenge has attracted over 1,400 students and awarded over $ 700,000 in scholarships. It is named in honor of Ron Fowler ’66, President and CEO of Liquid Investments Inc., whose donation to the university made this competition and future ones possible.
Noting that this was the 13th edition of the Fowler Business Concept Challenge, Schulze School of Entrepreneurship Associate Dean Laura Dunham reflected on how the competition has evolved over the years.
“We have now created a series of workshops and mentors leading up to the Fowler Business Concept Challenge so that students have the opportunity not only to participate in this competition, but also to learn and grow as thinkers and entrepreneurs – by as business people, ”said Dunham. . “We added a lot of features and a lot of development support [over the years]. It has become not only a competition, but a top notch educational experience for our students.
The High School Innovation and Entrepreneurship Day took place at the same time as the competition. More than 100 students and 14 educators from eight high schools in Minnesota learned about design thinking and entrepreneurship. They also watched Fowler’s presentations, shared their observations, and took part in a discussion moderated by faculty at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship.
Winners of the Fowler Business Concept Challenge 2021:
- Winner ($ 15,000): Print3D Paradise, Brady Gruenhagen (entrepreneurship and real estate studies) and Cory Kaisersatt (entrepreneurship and finance). 3D printed concrete vacation rental homes located near national parks where hospitality options are very limited.
- Finalist ($ 7,500): Robo-Ref, Nathaniel Charles (entrepreneurship). A side referee robot for soccer using sensors on a player’s jersey and a camera above the pitch to monitor the player’s position on the pitch and alert human referees in the center of offside.
- Second finalist ($ 5,000): HOM Services, Evan Braaten (entrepreneurship). Provides owners with the necessary resources and the structured management of the property they need in a timely manner, imparting knowledge, reducing stress and saving them valuable time.
- Third Finalist ($ 2,500) and Most Effective Presenter ($ 1,000): NeckCorrector, Henry Glennon (finance) and Maxwell Karas (entrepreneurship). A band meant to go over a person’s upper back and neck to reverse effects and prevent the neck from text.
- Winner ($ 15,000): Well, Chloe Ginkel (entrepreneurship). A comprehensive software application adopted by universities aimed at increasing mental health awareness. Using complex data analysis, UWell takes a personal approach for each student, creating a successful mental health center for any university.
- Finalist ($ 7,500) and Most Effective Presenter ($ 1,000): Food to People, Chaz Nelson (entrepreneurship) and William Pittner (entrepreneurship). A food waste elimination system serving disadvantaged communities and universities.
- Second finalist ($ 5,000): Oasis, Delila Gonyea (entrepreneurship) and Xander Smaby (entrepreneurship and finance). Take the desert lands of Nevada and transform them into privileged land to produce algal biomass, revitalize uninhabitable and unusable lands by giving them an environmental purpose.
- Third finalist ($ 2,500): SOF assistant, Georges Macheta (entrepreneurship and IT) and Regina Talavera (entrepreneurship). An app that helps students from all over the world to apply to universities abroad, helping disadvantaged students by providing a detailed step-by-step application plan.