For nine years, K-State Launch has been giving students from across the Kansas State University campus a shot at entrepreneurial success. The pitch competition, led by the Center for Advancement of Entrepreneurship, is open to any graduate or undergraduate students on campus and encourages cross-collaboration between individuals and their colleges of study.
“Every year we’ve had student representation from every college on campus,” said Chad Jackson, Ph.D., Jack Vanier Director of Entrepreneurship at K-State. “That’s a really big pride point for us because it truly is a university-wide competition.”
The program encourages students of all backgrounds to explore their entrepreneurial strengths that perhaps they haven’t expressed before. Jackson said they get a lot of students who come in and say, “I’m really interested in this launch thing, but I don’t have an idea.” Those students can be matched up with teams that can best utilize their strengths, ensuring a greater chance of success for everyone.
“We go out and identify champions across campus from other disciplines who can help promote the program,” said Jackson. “The success rate of those students from across campus is really high. Last fall, the winner was in mathematics. The year before, the winner was an industrial engineer.”
Past winners also include students from agriculture, human ecology, and arts and sciences. Jackson said that teaching students from different backgrounds and educations to work together is what entrepreneurship is all about.
“That’s the real world,” said Jackson. “You’ve got to learn to speak the language of your teammates and coworkers, and you have to learn how to create a solution together.”
Participating students research and write 3-page executive summaries on their concepts. Some students participate as part of a class, but Jackson said the majority of our students come from outside the entrepreneurial classrooms.
Students submit their plans, then a panel of community leaders, alumni and entrepreneurs review them. Top teams then go on to present their plans to a second panel of judges who chose the finalists.
The most recent round of K-State launch took place on Friday. The finalists from that round are:
- Discover Nomadic = “The company provides travel expertise, a space to post blogs, information sessions… to (digital nomads, or) individuals who work remotely, travel, or live away from their permanent homes.”
- Genie in a Bottle = This business advises salon and spa businesses and stylists through IT and business management. They offer continuing education classes, in-person coaching, and online programs.
- Health Hut = Vending machines with healthy options, strategically placed at college campuses.
- Hitched Social Media = Offers expertise and digital content strategy for small and medium-sized businesses in the wedding industry.
- IRIS = A web platform that “provides customized video animation and content marketing to professional services […] allowing customers to create custom professional-quality video content in less than 10 minutes via a subscription model web platform.”
- Potty Patch = A mat made from natural resources for pets to use indoors.
- Ruth School of Business = A proposal for an educational institute to be built in Surin, Thailand. Specializes in business and English education for women 15 years and older.
- Victory Pyrotechnics & SFX = “Victory Pyrotechnics provides elite and creative designs of outdoor fireworks, special effects, and laser displays for the entertainment and enjoyment of various audiences around Kansas.”
- Wonderfully Made = “An online platform connecting third world poverty stricken artisans with the US market through missionaries, while also providing a way for missionaries to be financially sustained.”
The nine finalists will take part in a pitch-prep workshop today to prepare for the competition. The university sponsors the program every semester, giving out $6,000 each time to the top teams.
From there, they’ll receive additional support from the Center for Entrepreneurship including things like office space, technology access, and help from entrepreneurs-in-residence.
“Students can come in and meet with entrepreneurs during office hours and get help and support to advance their ideas,” said Jackson. “We also have an additional venture fund that we can use to provide capital to those that really need it. We do stay involved for those who are moving forward with their ideas.”
The winners from the fall and spring Launch events will represent K-State at the statewide Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge on April 24.
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.