If you’ve seen “Shark Tank,” you know the drill.
A budding entrepreneur must step up to the mic to make their pitch in front of a panel of judges, who listen and wait to ask questions about the viability of the idea.
For Janae Robinson, a senior management major, the experience was a little nerve-wracking. But the idea she pitched to the three judges was one that was very personal to her.
“I don’t love public speaking, so that wasn’t fun,” she says. “But it was cool to get their feedback on something that’s been floating around in my brain for a few weeks.”
Robinson’s idea for a personalized storybook for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease won her $200 during the Entrepreneurship Club’s first student pitch competition, held this spring in the North End Zone Facility. She was among a handful of students participating in the event, with each one given 90 seconds to make their presentation – which could be for a product or a service – in front of the judges.
Judges evaluated each pitch based on its feasibility, the impact it could have, how it will serve the market, and the quality of delivery. Participants pitched ideas such as a travel service for university students; an online, one-stop shop for people experiencing mechanical difficulties with the car; and an app for students that consolidates all the important information they need on a given day.
Winners of the competition have the opportunity to continue on to the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization’s Midwest Entrepreneurship Conference in April.
Serving as judges were Loni Smith, director of small business incubation at the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce; Aaron Smith, owner of the Joplin business Sprout Faster; and Douglas Myers, a management instructor at Missouri Southern.
Loni Smith says the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce hopes to launch a similar pitch competition for area high school. Winners from those events would attend a summit on the MSSU campus. Smaller-scale pitch competitions can help improve students’ confidence, she says.
“The questions we ask them make them better presenters and gets them ready for the next (competition), with bigger markets and bigger prizes,” she says.
Kenneth Surbrugg, director of the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship, says he hopes to see the pitch competition become an annual campus event.
“We want to help build a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and build that culture up,” he said. “I think this is something that would interest a lot of students because there’s not really an outlet for it. Pitch competitions can lead to other opportunities.”