May 2013 | Haworth College of Business | Western Michigan University

Haworth College of Business News

PITCH Competitors Make Their Case

Classrooms humming with energy, new business ideas, creativity—and that special brand of passion that only a prospective entrepreneur can bring to a burgeoning venture.

That was the scene this spring in the Haworth College of Business as the college hosted PITCH: A WMU Business Pitch Competition, a University-wide event, organized by the Department of Management and sponsored by Educational Community Credit Union, where students from any discipline could test their ideas, presentation skills and their effectiveness in making a case for funding their businesses.

The competition drew 32 teams, the maximum capacity for the event for this first year, and students were judged in progressive rounds by faculty, administrators and business community members, including many local business owners.

The field was narrowed to eight finalists for the final round of competition where Nate Norman, a sales and business marketing major from Portage, Mich., captured the top prize of $1,200 with his business idea for Fish Ninja Labs, a business providing aquarium solutions for the everyday aquarium enthusiast through automated monitoring and maintenance.

Second place and a prize of $700 went to Erik Chmelar, an MBA student from Midland, Mich., who presented TPimPAWster, a spinning cylindrical cat toy that keeps cats occupied and out of mischief. Chmelar also captured the $200 prize for most entertaining pitch, which was awarded by audience votes.

Third place and a prize of $400 went to a team of graduate students comprised of John Fry, a graduate student in educational leadership from Boyne City, Mich.; Ashley Agler, a graduate student in earth science from Watervliet, Mich.; Pawel Majkowski, an MBA student from Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Ryan McNally, an MBA student from Portage, Mich., for Tech Guardian, an app that disables a teen driver’s ability to text or make non-emergency calls while driving.

Encouraged to use the prize money as an investment in their businesses, the students are doing just that and are looking for opportunities to refine their ideas and gain more feedback and investors. All three winning teams have competed or plan to compete in Start Garden, a funding initiative for startups, based in Grand Rapids.

The growing emphasis on entrepreneurship in the Haworth College of Business is a vital part of the business curriculum. “There is an entrepreneurial fire that the students at WMU have,” says Dr. Robert Landeros, chair of the Department of Management and acting director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “Our students are creative, innovative and strategic. With more than 40 percent of Haworth College of Business students expressing a plan to own a business during their careers, the Department of Management has expanded its course offerings in entrepreneurship. Dr. John Mueller and Dr. Laurel Ofstein joined the faculty in 2012 to further entrepreneurship education, spearheading new courses and initiatives. Dr. Mueller’s work on PITCH is a great example of building further opportunities for our students to pursue their entrepreneurial ideas.”

Reflections on the competition