WMU business students win $5,000 award at GreenLight competition

contact: Cindy Wagner
| WMU News
Photos of members of the AutoMowticCo team.

Team AutoMowticCo

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A Western Michigan University student taking part in the student business accelerator known as Starting Gate has won the GreenLight Michigan Business Model Competition's first Whirlpool Award of $5,000 for his eco-friendly lawn care idea.

Meanwhile, a second WMU student, representing his smartphone-controlled light switch company, was also a finalist in the competition held recently in East Lansing.

Tyler Lemke, of Kawkawlin, pitched his company, AutoMowticCo, during the final round of the competition, earning the Whirlpool Award for his electric lawn mower company, which provides monitored autonomous mowing. The Whirlpool $5,000 Home and Housewares Award is awarded for an innovation that helps keep homes running smoothly.

"Our machine will not only reduce lawn care costs, but also will reduce the carbon footprint we leave behind," says Lemke. "Participating in GreenLight was truly an experience of a lifetime. My team's tremendous contributions, feedback from my peers and instructors and the mentoring session with the judges prior to the competition really helped solidify my presentation for the competition."

Photos of members of the Smart Lighting team.

Team Smart Lighting

Kevin Wolf, a management major from Vicksburg, pitched Michigan Smart Lighting's smartphone-controlled light switches that can be pre-installed in new homes. With this mobile app and smart lights, consumers can set scenes for different activities, schedule lights, deter theft and monitor energy usage.

"It was incredibly rewarding getting to know other entrepreneurs and tech-founders at the GreenlLight competition," says Wolf. "Seeing their products and hearing their ideas was a great experience and very inspiring for our team."

About the competition

The 2015 GreenLight Business Model Competition was open to businesses that have been in existence for one year or less as new startup ventures. Entrepreneurs from around the state applied to the competition. Eight finalists were invited to a mentoring session before pitching their companies during the final competition.

Photo of members of an entrepreneurship class.

Students in this entrepreneurship class took their ideas to the GreenLight competition.

Both Lemke and Wolf worked on their ideas as part of an entrepreneurship course designed for mentoring student-generated business ideas and participating in statewide competitions prior to launching their businesses. Students from a range of majors participate in the course, which is taught by Barcley Johnson, instructor of management. This semester's class included students majoring in business, interior design, psychology and mechanical engineering. Students applied to a variety of competitions, and Lemke's and Wolf's were invited to the finals at the GreenLight competition.

"Tyler and Kevin were rock stars. The audience and judges were all impressed by their ideas, companies and presentations, and were impressed by the way they represented Western Michigan University," says Johnson. "I'm extremely proud of their accomplishments."

Team AutoMowticCo

In addition to Lemke, the AutoMowticCo team includes:

  • Race Bedell, an engineering management technology major from Stevensville.
  • Cody Loyer, an entrepreneurship major from West Bloomfield.
  • Connor Makowski, a management major from Marcellus.
  • Austin Scott, a management major from Spruce.
  • Andrew Schram, a management major from White Lake.
  • Jamirah Terry, a communication major from Eastpointe.

Team Michigan Smart Lighting

In addition to Wolf, the Michigan Smart Lighting team includes:

  • Eric Jones, a management major from Richland.
  • Samuel Manring, an electronic business marketing major from Battle Creek.

Lemke also participates in Starting Gate, a student business accelerator that gives students rich and valuable resources to develop their startup companies. The accelerator is open to all WMU students through a competitive application process.

To learn more about entrepreneurship opportunities at WMU, visit wmich.edu/entrepreneurship.

For more news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.