KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University business students Brennan Vaughn and Danny Rogers traveled to the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge in Minnesota in April and competed at e-Fest 2019. Rogers and his innovation team earned a $10,000 prize for taking second place for finding a creative solution to a problem facing K-12 education. Rogers' team offered an innovative transportation service to get students to their after-school activities. Vaughn and Rogers earned another $1,500 for their pitch of SnapDuct—easy-to-install ductwork that modernizes design with a latch system and an internal gasket that greatly reduces the installation time needed on job sites.
SnapDuct was one of 25 companies selected to pitch at the "Shark Tank"-style competition and the only finalist from Michigan.
Vaughn developed SnapDuct throughout the past several months with engineering student Max Chen, who has assisted on designs and prototypes. Chen brings the ability to work with 3D modeling and CAD to help bring Vaughn’s idea to life. Diligently working in Starting Gate, WMU's student business accelerator, Vaughn has had access to an array of resources for student entrepreneurs.
"It's an honor to have a semi-finalist at this competition where students are coming from schools such as Princeton, Auburn University, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, University of Florida and many more," says Lara Hobson, director of operations for Starting Gate. "Brennan and Danny not only earned some funding for SnapDuct, but they also made great professional connections, received feedback on their pitch and have a better understanding of what direction the company should be taking."
Vaughn's next steps are to continue working with Chen on the details of SnapDuct's design and to explore the full customer base for the product, connecting with HVAC contractors and getting a more in-depth read on the market.
More coverage on e-Fest and SnapDuct here:
About Starting Gate
This is the third year in a row a team from Starting Gate was selected to compete in the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge.
Starting Gate is a student business accelerator that gives students resources to develop their startup companies. Located in the Park Trades Center Building in the heart of downtown Kalamazoo and operated by the Haworth College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in partnership with the WMU Office of Community Outreach, the accelerator is open to all WMU students through a competitive application process. Starting Gate provides a fast-track to business launch.\
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