Pitch Competition draws range of student-led companies

Contact: Cindy Wagner
Photo of winners at the 2015 Pitch Competition.

Finalists and winners at the 2015 Pitch Competition

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Illumipong, an innovative beer pong table, took top honors at the recent Pitch Competition at Western Michigan University.

Tyler Schramm, a sales and business marketing student from Jackson, pitched Illumipong, earning the company $1,700 for first place and $300 as the People's Choice award recipient. The competition was held March 27 and 28, letting students from across campus pitch exciting new business ideas.

"Presenting our idea to a large group of like-minded people was really fun," says Schramm, who adds that he and partner Jonathon Lysik, an integrated supply management major from Grosse Pointe Park, are currently raising capital and creating a manufacturing process. "The most challenging aspect was definitely communicating efficiently and effectively with the judges, as every word had to have substance behind it."

The competition

From an application open to all WMU students, 32 companies were selected for the first round, which narrowed the field to the top eight for the final round. Each company was allowed one person to present the pitch. The eight finalists pitched live on March 28 to a group of judges composed of business community members, including local business owners.

Now in its third year, the Pitch Competition is sponsored by WMU's Haworth College of Business, Educational Community Credit Union and Great Lakes Architectural Products Group. The final round of competition was held at WMU's Starting Gate student business accelerator in downtown Kalamazoo.


Photo of Tyler Schramm and Jonathon Lysik.

From left: Schramm and Lysik of Illumipong

First place

$1,700 award and People’s Choice Award ($300): Illumipong pitched by Tyler Schramm, sales and business marketing.

Illumipong is an innovative beer pong table designed to enhance player experience by using a series of sensors that determine cup count and illuminate three LEDs in the shape of a beer pong rack. Although there are similar products on the market, Illumipong is unique in terms of pricing and target market. Team member: Jonathon Lysik, integrated supply management.

"Winning the People's Choice Award actually had a profound effect on our mindset," Lysik says. "Both awards gave us even more confidence that people truly love our product and would be very interested in possibly purchasing units in the future."

Second Place

$1,200 award: Carbar.com pitched by Rajae Adams, an engineering design technology major from Detroit.

CarBar is a Web-based delivery service of alcoholic beverages and also a mobile bar experience. The services of the company are divided into two entities—one being the delivery of alcoholic beverages to local customers through online ordering and the other a mobile bar available for outdoor events by reservation.

"I think that my passion, knowledge and ability to fluently present my proposed business is what made me stand out," says Adams. "My conviction in the content of my presentation bred my confidence during the pitch."

Third place

$800 award: Chill Out pitched by Mackenzie Sievers, an industrial and entrepreneurial engineering major from Byron Center.

Chill Out is a blanket designed for people who get hot very easily. It cools a person down, yet still allows sleeping with a blanket. Chill Out has cooling packets inside with an air vacuum that comes with the purchase.

"I wanted a platform to show off my product and see if I could convince people that a blanket that cools you down is a worthwhile item," says Sievers. "I think what made me stand out was my dynamic start and memorable ending. I really focused on getting the attention of the crowd."

Other finalists

  • Ball Strategy

    An app that mimics basketball court actions to teach game strategy. Pitcher: Julia Henson, textile and apparel studies-merchandising. Team member: Austin Richie, organizational communication.
  • Agvantics Biosciences

    A company developing technology that accelerates tree maturity from approximately 15 years to less than one year. Pitcher: Alvar Carlson, Master of Business Administration.
  • Dualcast Design

    A web development company. Pitcher: Jarrell Fields, advertising and promotion.
  • Dress Me Mirror

    An innovative mirror that eliminates the need to try on clothes while shopping, providing a three-dimensional image of clothing items in a mirror. Pitcher: Michelle Valente, industrial and entrepreneurial engineering. Team members: Yorkiris Benitez, industrial and entrepreneurial engineering, and Shelby Rhein, engineering management.
  • Ecodock

    The company will offer a solar-powered phone dock and charger for cars. Pitcher: Brad Short, industrial and entrepreneurial engineering. Team members: Matt Haan and Daniel Shorr, industrial and entrepreneurial engineering.

All of the winning and finalist pitches are available online.

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