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Mitchell DeWalt Wins 2020 Emporia Entrepreneur Challenge

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Mitchell DeWalt was announced the winner of the Emporia Entrepreneur Challenge on April 15, the first time the competition used a virtual format.

The Emporia Entrepreneur Challenge is a venture idea competition that is open to all students from Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College, with $4,500 in cash prizes: $2,500 for first, $1,500 for second, and $500 for third.

The competition started with a Meet & Greet event on Jan. 28 to help students find partners for the competition. Three judges graded 42 executive summaries to arrive at the top 21 that would go on to the final round of competition — their oral pitches. Teams were judged on Business Model/Product, Feasibility, Justification, Specificity, and Originality.

Because of classes moving to online after spring break, the challenge took a virtual turn with the teams submitting their oral pitches electronically.

DeWalt, a junior business administration student from Overland Park, took first place and $2,500 for Overland Camping Equipment, the company he started three years ago.

“At OCE, we offer a variety of innovative camping supplies aimed to make your weekend getaway more enjoyable,” says DeWalt. “For this challenge, I focused on one specific product called the Sleep Anywhere Bag. The Entrepreneurship Challenge allowed me to truly test my innovative abilities and challenge myself on bringing a product from an idea to reality. I appreciate the opportunity to not only compete but learn from the mentorship in the program.”

Second place and $1,500 went to Aren Trost, a sophomore business administration student from McPherson, with Falls Craft Furniture, a company that offers custom welded furniture designs for the modern homeowner with the ability to make completely new custom pieces based on the needs and desires of the customer.

“The Entrepreneurial Challenge was such an exciting project to stir the imagination on what could be,” said Trost. “It helped me get a better idea through research and learning of what my business is going to look like in the future.”

He continues, “So many thank-yous go out to the individuals that were willing to share their knowledge of business with me in order to help me succeed. This has been a great opportunity to spark the fire of excitement for the future, and I have loved every second of it.”

Students Hayden Schaeffer, senior management student from Thornton, Colorado, and Brigham Mooney, senior business administration student from Lees Summit, Missouri, took third place and $500 with Bioplastic Solutions, a single use biodegradable plastic product.

Said Schaeffer, “The entrepreneur challenge gave me the opportunity to apply my business education in a real-world situation, and I couldn't have had more fun doing it.”

Normally, the top two finishers would have competed at the State Entrepreneur Challenge at Kansas State University on April 28. That competition was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Douglass Smith chaired the Entrepreneur Challenge committee. “We are incredibly grateful to have dedicated students that continued to participate during this unprecedented time,” says Smith. “We are proud of these students and their commitment to finish what they started and encourage them to continue their entrepreneurial dreams!”

Click here to watch the announcement video produced by Smith.

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

Judges for the first round of the competition (grading the executive summaries) included Dr. Marian Riedy, Dr. Michael Dennis, and Lisa Kirmer.

Judges for the second round of the competition (virtual oral pitches) included Kandace Wakeman, Jeanine McKenna, Lisa Brumbaugh, and Blaine Warkentine.

The Elevator Challenge

As a complement to the EEC, 44 teams participated in the Elevator Challenge on Feb. 11, with some of the same teams moving on to compete in the EEC. Rich Avery judged this event.

At the Elevator Challenge, students were eligible to win one of three $100 prizes. The winners were:

  • Best Pitch: Edmundo Chacon
  • Best Idea: Sam Pascuzzi, Taybor Miller and Chantel Dunn
  • Judge’s Choice: Mitchell DeWalt

Above, Mitchell DeWalt is shown during his virtual presentation in the 2020 Emporia Entrepreneur Challenge competition.