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(Back row, from left) McIsiah Kendema, Devin Rhode, Andy Grengs, Ryan Rivard, Gavin Wagoner, and Pat Borchert, (Front Row, from left) Jared Freudenberg, Ian Prock, and Marcus Koplitz.
Gavin Wagoner, Marcus Koplitz, and Ian Prock.
UMD students are going after their entrepreneurial dreams and creating their own jobs in the spirit of competition.
The UMD LaBounty Entrepreneur Competition was established last year by the Entrepreneurship Club and its advisor, Pat Borchert, assistant professor, Strategy and Entrepreneurship in LSBE. It's purpose is to help students determine the feasibility of owning their own business.
"The contest itself is an entrepreneurial venture," Borchert said. "We didn't know if anyone would want to do it or if we had the resources for it, but we've had a great response and we're really glad it's been successful."
The contest is funded from a generous gift donated by Minnesota entrepreneur Roy LaBounty (1917-2007), the recipient of the Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1999.
“Roy LaBounty wanted to encourage entrepreneurship in Northeastern Minnesota,” Borchert said. “The hope is that, by having a competition with UMD students, it might also create some new industries or companies in the Duluth area.”
The competition is a two-stage process. Stage one is to propose a business concept. The concept statement discusses the market need and the viability of the business venture. These were done in December and the winners were announced in January. This year, there were 15 concept entries and $100 was given out to the top five concepts.
Stage two was a feasibility study. After the concepts were proposed, Borchert hosted feasibility workshops in February to help students create an analysis for their business concepts.
“I have students plot out the financial aspects of starting a business, from the start-up costs to a one-year projection of expenditures and revenue,” Borchert said. “They determine how much money they can make after one year.”
Some of the business ideas generated a profit and others broke even. However, Borchert believes that all of these students will be successful.
“Most of the concepts are viable,” Borchert said. “The contest is not limited to LSBE students so it gives everyone on campus access to business fundamentals.”
A panel of judges of local bankers, entrepreneurs, and investors read each feasibility study and selected the top three winners. The three winners were then interviewed by the judges.
"The final decisions on ranking were based on clear communication and the potential of their business venture," Borchert said.
The feasibility studies were judged by: Kurt Johnson, Northland Foundation; Dave Guckenberg, a retired UMD alum entrepreneur; Brian Shelton, Republic Bank Inc., Tom Van Hale, Van Technologies; and Curt Walczak and Dick Braun UMD Center for Economic Development.
Shelton, Van Hale and Walczak conducted the finalist interviews, putting the finalists through a process they would face if pitching their ideas to actual investors.
On April 26, the top three winners of the feasibility studies received their prizes.
Marcus Koplitz, Gavin Wagoner, and Ian Prock won third place, $500, with ESCI Greenhouses. They also won the award for a sustainability business venture, $100.
"We would build a greenhouse within 30 miles of Duluth that would produce high quality, vine-ripened tomatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, and raspberries year round for the Arrowhead community," Koplitz said, "Providing local foods can strengthen our economy, community, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil and corporate food industries that ship their products thousands of miles. Our business can be a model for other communities to follow as a way to become more self-sufficient."
Ryan Rivard won second place with Rivard Vending, $750. His business plan is to implement "owner operated vending services company that places state of the art DVD kiosks on all college campuses," Rivard said. "We pride ourselves on breaking into a new market that is largely unexplored so far. We'll be implementing kiosks at UMD on Sept. 1."
Jared Freudenberg, senior with a double major in mechanical engineering and business, won first place for his AutoKeg System.
"Ace Innovations Company is aimed at revolutionizing the keg changing process in bars and restaurants," he said. "When one keg runs out, an automated system changes to the next keg without interrupting the constant supply of beverage. By automating this keg changing process, the AutoKeg saves money on wasted product and saves the bartender's time."
Freudenberg is proud of all the hard work he put into this project and is hoping to implement it in some bars. "It's great to see the hard work pay off," Freudenberg said. "We're in the prototyping stage at the moment so hopefully, in the next few months, we will get into some bars down in the Twin Cities."
This contest will begin again next year so Borchert encourages anyone with a business dream to enter.
Just as LaBounty hoped with his donation, the spirit of this competition is to provide an outlet for students to dream and to promote business development. It also helps students get their foot in the door in making connections with potential investors.
However, the goal of this contest is to encourage students to find their own path. “We want students to know that it is possible to start your own business,” Borchert said. “This competition encourages people to think in terms of ‘what could I do?’ As opposed to ‘what job could I do?’”
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