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ESU Students Win Cash for Business Ideas

May 1, 2019

Two Emporia State students each earned another $2,500 for their ideas for new businesses. Joshua Peck and Anni Paunisaari competed at the Kansas Entrepreneur Challenge at Kansas State University on Tuesday, April 30. Both earned honorable mentions.

Peck and Paunisaari earned the right to compete at the state level by winning the Emporia Entrepreneur Challenge on March 27.

Peck, a senior management major, won first place and $2,500 for “Outdoor Buddy,” a mobile application that puts hunters and anglers one click away from the rules, regulations, seasons, and limits for the exact location in which they are standing.

“The entrepreneur challenge was a great experience,” says Peck. “It gave me an opportunity to pitch my business idea and get constructive feedback to build upon. The challenge helped me refine my business idea and make it even better.”

Paunisaari, an ESU non-degree seeking graduate exchange student from Finland, earned second place and $1,500 for “The Circle,” a concept café striving to reduce the amount of food waste in the United States.

“The Emporia Entrepreneur Challenge has been a great platform to work on an entrepreneurial business endeavor,” she said. “The whole experience from the elevator pitch to the community showcase has simulated real-life situations and pushed one to develop and refine a business idea all while improving one's own skills on a personal and professional level." 

Lisa Foster, ESU senior management major, won third place and $500 at the Emporia competition for “Chair Flair,” a company that is dedicated to providing wheelchair wraps and accessories for an affordable price through an online store to allow customers to decorate and personalize their chairs.  

The 2019 Emporia Entrepreneur Challenge consists of three rounds of competitions:

  • Executive Summary Review, which drew 43 teams;
  • Oral Presentation; and
  • Community Showcase.

During the Community Showcase, the 17 finalist teams present their business proposals to a team of judges and the community during the event. Teams were judged on Business Model/Product, Feasibility, Justification, Specificity, Originality. The three finalists each present a short pitch before the winners are named.

While at the Community Showcase, guests were invited to cast their vote for “Community Choice” based on displays and interactions with the competitors. Michaela Tindle, ESU senior communication major, won a gift for winning the Community Choice award for her concept of “Auntie M’s Story Books.”

Dr. Ed Bashaw, dean of the School of Business, enjoys the spirit of this competition.

“These top 17 teams offer a wide diversity of business ideas. This competition reflects our strategic intent of growing tomorrow’s entrepreneur. We have spent resources and have private donors who also believe in our entrepreneurial endeavors and will help move us forward in achieving this goal.”

Another component of the challenge included “Share Your Story Night” hosted by the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce on April 25. Peck and Paunisaari delivered their pitches again to a group of local business professionals for feedback to improve their concepts before competing in Manhattan.

As a complement to the Emporia Entrepreneur Challenge, 46 teams participated in the Elevator Challenge in February. Rich Avery, owner of Pizza Ranch, judges the event in which each team rides the elevator in Cremer Hall with him. They deliver their pitches with the time limit of the elevator ride.

Three $100 prizes were given. Foster won Best Pitch for “Chair Flair.” Other winners were Judge’s Choice for “Geared for Greatness” to Kyle Harrison, ESU communication major, and Best Idea for a heated bat box idea from Tanner Arst, ESU management major.

The EEC Committee included Dr. Jeff Muldoon, ESU, EEC Director; Dr. Sheryl Lidzy, ESU; Beth Ginter, ESU; Dr. Carol Lucy, ESU; Dr. Douglass Smith, ESU; and Kim Dhority, FHTC.

Judges for the first round of the EEC competition (grading the executive summaries) included: Dr. Steve Catt, ESU; Jacinda Kahle, FHTC; Dr. Will Senn, ESU; and Dr. Marian Riedy, ESU.

Judges for the second (oral presentations) and final rounds (Community Showcase) included Lisa Brumbaugh, Kansas Small Business Development Center; Jessica Buchholz, Emporia Main Street; Jeanine McKenna, Emporia Chamber of Commerce; Ryan O'Meara, ESU; Kim Redeker, The Sweet Granada; Chris Linebarger, Do-B’s; and Jordan Gilman, Northwestern Mutual.

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