Travel agency with a twist wins WMU's business pitch contest

Contact: Samantha Hooker and Jeanne Baron
Desi Taylor holding up a giant mock check for $2,000.

Desi Taylor, this year's winner

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A company that puts a creative spin on traditional travel won first place at Western Michigan University's sixth annual K.C. O'Shaughnessy Business Pitch Competition and Showcase held on campus March 23.

Desi Taylor, a senior from Portage majoring in Spanish, earned the top spot after making a pitch for her company Cluventure, a travel agency with a twist.

Cluventure Travel combines mystery and adventure to create an interactive vacation experience. Each trip is 100 percent customized for the client, with the company securing transportation, lodging, activities and support. The only catch is that the clients aren't told where they're going. Instead, travelers solve real-time clues that guide them to their destination.

"I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to have competed and to the judges for selecting Cluventure as the winner," Taylor says. "I'm really excited to use the prize money to further my business and send clients on some really cool adventures."

WMU's pitch competition serves as a test run for student entrepreneurs wanting to present their original business ideas to potential investors. During the event, participants compete for cash prizes while obtaining valuable feedback about what it would take to launch their product or service.

Top finishers for 2018

Two judges listening intently to a student's pitch.

Multiple panels of judges evaluated the competitors.

Four companies won prizes totaling $5,000 during this year's pitch competition.

  • First place and a $2,000 prize went to Cluventure, an individual company pitched by Taylor.
  • Second place and a $1,400 prize went to Cleat Guardians, a team company pitched by freshman Charles Bailey, a supply chain management major from Wyoming, and his business partner Alexis Kaanta, who is not a WMU student. Their product is a custom rubber mold that users wearing cleated footwear step into after leaving a playing surface so they won't damage non-playing surfaces.
  • Third place and an $800 prize went to Seat Swap, an individual company pitched by junior Lincoln Heaphy, a sales and business marketing major from Fenton. His product is a smart phone application that aims to connect fans with tickets to the same event. Fans who are unable to attend the event or choose to leave early can use the app to list their seat, while fans at the event can use the app to buy the newly open seat if it would be an upgrade for them.
  • Fourth place and a $500 prize as well as the People's Choice Award and a $300 prize went to Perfect Shake, a team company pitched by junior Anna Ryan, an industrial and entrepreneurial engineering major from Fenton. Her partners are sophomore Alex Berardelli from South Lyon and freshman Charles Motley from Canton, both of whom are industrial and entrepreneurial engineering majors. Their product is a cylindrical container capable of grinding crystals, seeds or whole peppercorns that takes the guesswork out of cooking because it includes a mechanism to set exactly how much seasoning should be dispensed.

About the competition

More than 25 individuals and teams participated in the 2018 O'Shaughnessy Business Pitch Competition and Showcase, which honors student innovation and entrepreneurial spirit at WMU. Three-minute pitches for their companies were evaluated during progressive rounds by panels of judges representing business community members and WMU faculty. Six companies made it to the final round.

"The pitch competition serves as an excellent bridge between our local business community and our students," says Dr. Robert Landeros, chair of the Department of Management, "I believe the high caliber of ideas that were pitched this year illustrates how important innovation and leadership are to WMU students."

The management department in WMU's Haworth College of Business organizes and hosts the competition. For more information, including videos of recent competition winners, visit Direct questions to Landeros at or (269) 387-5802.

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