Entrepreneurially minded students from across the Brigham Young University campus recently pitched some of their best business ideas during the annual Idea Pitch Competition sponsored by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the Marriott School of Management.
“This event kicks off the whole year and leads up to the Business Plan Competition in the spring,” said T.J. Davis, Business Plan Competition student director and a second-year MBA student from Salt Lake City. “It’s a chance for a student who have an idea to start pitching it and get experience answering questions from investors and venture capitalists.”
Chosen from more than 100 competition entries, Spencer Harman, a senior studying actuarial science from Manti, Utah, took top honors and $500 with his idea for G&H. The company would sell a universal power-tool battery that contains removable cells, letting the user replace dead cells for a much cheaper price than buying an entirely new battery.
“This experience has given me so much more confidence in my idea,” Harman said. “Now I definitely feel like it’s worth developing the idea into a business.”
MealDrop, which offers students an on-campus meal ordering system, placed second. Rather than waiting in long lines between classes, Michael Zaro, a junior Latin American studies major from Snohomish, Wash., and Bryan Bennett, a 2010 marketing graduate from Alpine, Utah, created an idea that allows students to pre-order meals and walk straight to the front of the line.
Third place and also winning audience choice went to PhoneSoap, which will provide phone wipes and chargers that safely sanitize cell phones. The idea was conceived by friends Daniel Barnes of Tustin, Calif., a recent marketing graduate, and Wesley LaPorte, a senior studying exercise science from Morgan Hill, Calif., when they heard news reports regarding the unsanitary nature of cell phones.
The event was judged by Rollins Center founders and other local entrepreneurs. During the first round of pitching, judges compared student ideas based on specific criteria, including market size and demand, margin analysis, barriers to entry, capital requirement, ease of bringing in revenue and the scalability of the business. Students had one minute to present their ideas in one of six small breakout groups, followed immediately by a one minute question-and-answer session from the judges. The final round provided an additional opportunity for the top presenters to pitch their business ideas to all of the judges who then voted for their favorites.
“We opened up the competition this year so students could listen in on each other’s pitches, whereas in the past, ideas were pitched to judges one-on-one,” Davis said. “Students’ initial ideas might not be strong enough to develop into a business plan, but through listening to others they might find ways to improve. Our hope is that this event helped students get their engines going.”
The Marriott School is located has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, public management, information systems, and entrepreneurship. Approximately 3,000 students are enrolled in the Marriott School’s graduate and undergraduate programs.
For this and other Marriott School news releases, visit the online newsroom at marriottschoool.byu.edu/news.
Writer: Tyler Weaver