KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A startup company offering a mess-free alternative to traditional power strips won first place at Western Michigan University’s eighth annual K.C. O’Shaughnessy Competition and Showcase held on campus Feb. 21.
A team comprised of industrial and entrepreneurial engineering students Brooklyn Smith of Mattawan, Bridgitt Cornish of Kalamazoo, Trevor Dendel of Otsego and Emily Mouat of Jenison, claimed the top spot after making a pitch for their company No Mess Power Strip.
The company’s value proposition offers a tangle-free alternative to traditional power strips by including a spring coiled retraction system in the design. The product eliminates the clutter of excess cords by featuring five containment chambers—three for standard U.S. electrical sockets and two for USB connectors. Excess cords can be wrapped around the retraction system and stored within each containment unit until the user is ready to access a particular cord.
“The Bronco Pitch Competition was a great way to put into practice what our team has been working so hard on in class,” says Smith. “The recognition from the judges, in addition to the prize money that will keep our company going, is worth more than we could have imagined.”
WMU's Bronco 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 innovative ideas. This year featured a high school division for the second time with four students presenting their ideas.
2020 TOP FINISHERS
Four companies won prizes totaling $5,000 during this year’s competition. First place and a $2,000 prize, as well as the People’s Choice Award and an additional $300 prize, went to No Mess Power Strip.
Second place and a $1,400 prize went to Alpha Portal, a company pitched by Josh Wenke, a computer information systems major from Kalamazoo. Alpha Portal is an application designed to help student organizations across the country manage membership, send mass text messages, collect payments, track events and more.
Third place and an $800 prize went to EasyWax, a company pitched by industrial and entrepreneurial engineering students Jacob Cable of Brookville, Pennsylvania, Matthew Baker of Williamsburg, and Caleb Norder of Eaton Rapids. EasyWax takes the cost and hassle out of traditional methods for waxing skis and snowboards. The simple design allows wax to transfer from parchment paper with just a household iron and is a fraction of the price of professional equipment waxing.
Fourth place and a $500 prize went to Kiaer Research, a company pitched by Nathan Browning, a Master of Science in evaluation, measurement and research student from Kalamazoo. Kiaer Research is a firm that conducts applied social research studies to provide new knowledge, tailored solutions, and evaluation for businesses, nonprofits and public entities.
ABOUT THE COMPETITION
Dozens of individuals and teams participated in the 2020 Bronco Pitch Competition and Showcase, which honors student innovation and entrepreneurial spirit at WMU. Three-minute pitches for companies were evaluated during progressive rounds by panels of judges representing business community members and WMU administrators. Five companies made it to the final round.
“Our students have so many business ideas throughout their time at WMU, and the pitch competition gives them the opportunity to move an idea one step closer to reality,” says Dr. Laurel Ofstein, associate professor of management. “Synthesizing an idea into a coherent, three-minute pitch—especially one that makes the listener want to learn more—is no easy feat! We are pleased to have a forum for students to practice this skill, and to be rewarded with funding to help take that idea even further."
The Department of Management in WMU's Haworth College of Business organizes and hosts the competition. More information, including videos of recent competition winners, is available online.