(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
You can learn a lot about entrepreneurship by presenting at a pitch competition. Turns out, there are some lessons for folks sitting in the audience, too.
On Tuesday night, University of Baltimore students who pitched at this year’s Leonard and Phyllis Attman Competitive Business Prize shared their ideas and plans for new ventures. Organized by UB’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the finals were the culmination of six weeks of prep by the students, who came from across the university’s schools.
Alongside details of total addressable market and target customers, we also gleaned some universal insights about starting a business. Here’s a look at what we learned (and who won funding, too):
The first version probably won’t be the final product. That’s OK.
Melvin Clark III built multiple versions of AMJ Fishing Gloves before arriving at the product he’s looking to bring to market now — fishing gloves designed to protect hands from cuts and other ailments. Clark also showed a flare for pitching, bringing passion and a willingness to demonstrate the gloves’ effectiveness with a knife onstage. He coupled that with a detailed breakdown of how he would use the $3,000 in funding that came with first prize. As the winner of the competition, now he’ll get to put it to use.
A community doesn’t have to start with a brick-and-mortar gathering point.
Devante Jones and Dexter Carr Jr. are behind the joysticks for G-Haven, a home for gaming and esports. But they don’t need a building to create community: They’re starting with popups at conferences like Otakon to spread the idea, then grow from there. They’re also planning to start a podcast and livestream tournaments on Twitch. The duo earned a $1,000 prize to bring it to life, taking second place.
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“Technology is about timing and positioning and right now we are ahead of the curve.”
That thought from E-Sure CEO Sherrie Haynes resonated with us, as so often success goes beyond just having a good product. Seeing a need to protect against identity theft in the medical space, the company is looking to bring a chip-encrypted ID card to health insurers. E-Sure won the crowd favorite award, earning $750.
Don’t knock the hustle.
Nikia Madison was awarded the $500 Hustle Award by Pitch Creator founder Jason Tagler for showing the most improvement throughout the six-week program that helps founders prepare for the presentation. She founded Safe Pl8te Grocery, which is creating a space that provides allergen-free food and snacks, as well as resources for people who suffer from food allergies.
Judging a biz competition must be hard.
There’s only so much funding to go around at a business competition, and that means even solid presenters can leave without a big check.
That was the case Tuesday, as Brian Furr and Torianne Montes-Schiff each passed the eye test with us.
Furr created My Furr’s Guitar, a one-string guitar with shapes that correspond with notes and is designed to help kids learn music. He built the first guitar for his daughter, and now sees opportunity to bring it to schools and get students involved in building their own instruments as part of STEAM programming.
Montes-Schiff, meanwhile, founded Almano, a subscription box service that delivers handmade goods. The MICA alum is passionate about supporting local artists as part of entrepreneurial endeavors, and identified a specific target market of millennial women with yoga subscriptions.
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