KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A class project with a solution to make freezers work smarter (not harder) for those with limited space or who need to optimize their freezers for meal prep is the winner of the K.C. O'Shaughnessy Bronco Pitch Competition and Showcase, which was held virtually on April 9.
The Freezer Smart team comprised of industrial and entrepreneurial engineering students Carlie Moon of Jackson, Katrina Hoyt of Portage, Slava Vorobyov of Kalamazoo and Madison Wegner of Freeland presented the winning pitch, which covered how their durable, metal storage system helps people with freezer units at the top of their fridge organize their frozen items for maximum space, visual display and ventilation. Uniquely designed to be adjustable both vertically and horizontally, the shelving system also has design features that make it impossible for food to fall out of the freezer and onto the floor—features that help ice out the competition in this market.
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 ideas. This year featured a high school showcase for the third time.
2021 Top Teams
Four companies won prizes totaling $5,000 during this year's competition. In addition to the $2,000 award to Freezer Smart, the following teams placed at the competition:
- Second place and the People’s Choice Award went to The P & C Golf Club Swing Correction Golf Tee, earning founder Spencer Rochowiak of Canton $1,700 total prize money. The tee is a reusable device that gives you feedback on your golf swing—and was a hole in one for this company, with one semifinal judge even purchasing the product online after hearing the pitch!
- Third place was awarded to String Ease, with Adeline Cichon of Grand Rapids, Collin Eager of Scotts, and Abriana Littleton of Detroit winning $800 for their innovation, which helps re-string drawstrings from hoodies and active wear that have worked themselves loose in the laundry.
- Fourth place and a $500 prize went to Bronco Propeller, comprised of team members Aarush Gupta of Naperville, Illinois, Ryan McIntosh of Bay City, Seth Paige of Portage, and Noah Tanguay of West Bloomfield. The team's low-drag propellers for consumer and commercial applications create sustainable solutions for boating and shipping, leaving competitors in their wake.
About the Competition
More than a dozen teams from across the University participated in the 2021 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 the business and campus communities. Six companies made it to the final round.
"Whether students are participating in the competition as a class assignment or because they are in the later stages of developing an idea and growing a business, the competition highlights the importance of clear, descriptive and engaging communication," says Dr. Laurel Ofstein, associate professor of management and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. "The students are only allowed three minutes to communicate what is exciting and unique about their business idea and to leave the listener wanting a follow-up meeting. WMU is proud to offer ways—like this competition—for students to explore and develop their entrepreneurial interests."
The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in WMU's Haworth College of Business organizes and hosts the competition. More information is available online.
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