Source: Chad Jackson, 785-341-6423, cjackson@k-state.edu
News tip/hometown connection: Havensville, Leavenworth, Leadwood, Manhattan, Olathe, Spring Hill, Topeka, Valley Falls, Washington and Wichita, Kan.; Belton, Mo.; and Dublin, Ohio.
News release prepared by: Olivia Blanco, 785-532-2753, oblanco@k-state.edu

Friday, April 20, 2012

Big ideas, big success: Students' business proposals earn title of The Next Big Thing

MANHATTAN -- A bag to fund an education project, a feed bunk business using recycled tires and a catering company: These three business ideas are the first-place division winners in Kansas State University's The Next Big Thing.

An annual business idea competition open to all of the university's students, The Next Big Thing is organized by the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business Administration. Each winning team received a $3,000 award to fund their business. Second-place recipients earned $2,000; third place, $1,000; fourth place, $500; and best business pitch in each division earned $500.

Kaitlin Long, junior in entrepreneurship, Leawood, and Logan Gauby, senior in human ecology, Washington, won the social enterprise division of the competition with Rafiki Bags Co. Their business plan involves selling bags to fund educational opportunities for children at the Children and Youth Empowerment Centre in Kenya.

Enviro Feed Bunks, an idea of Britni Beck, senior in feed science and management, Havensville; David Heideman, senior in feed science and management, Havensville; Caleb Wurth, junior in feed science and management, Manhattan; and Grace Bokelman, senior in feed science and management, Washington, won first place in the undergraduate division. Their business proposes feed bunks that are made from recycled tires and plastics -- a product that is affordable, durable, environmentally friendly and easily installed.

Shannon Underwood, master's student in business administration, Topeka, won first place in the graduate division for Chef Shannon, her idea for a small-scale catering company. Underwood also won best business pitch in her division.

During the Next Big Thing competition, students went through a real-life process that included writing a feasibility plan, giving an elevator pitch and making a presentation to a panel of judges composed of local entrepreneurs, bankers and investment experts.

"It was an excellent learning opportunity to formally write a feasibility plan for my business and was great practice having to pitch your idea to a room full of potential investors," Underwood said. "The day of the presentation is a combination of excitement, nerves and confidence. It was all worth it to hear my name called as the winner."

This year, 271 registrations were received, and 72 feasibility plans submitted, up from 251 and 51 respectively last year. Judges looked at originality of each of the ideas, feasibility of the plans and the quality of the presentations.

"Having participated in the Next Big Thing as a judge every year since its inception, I continually am amazed at how Chad Jackson, associate director of the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship, and his team have evolved the program for the better each year," said T.J. Vilkanskas, investment adviser representative with Keating and Associates Inc. in Manhattan. "I feel there is no better way to prepare young entrepreneurs for real-world experiences than the Next Big Thing. From preparing a business plan to giving pitches to potential investors with real money on the line, it is all applicable in today's business environment."

At the competition's awards banquet, the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship gave its annual Entrepreneurship Support Award to Trisha Gott, assistant director for service learning at the university's School of Leadership Studies, and Marcia Hornung, assistant director of UFM Community Learning Center, for their support of student entrepreneurs.

Students also earning honors for their business ideas in the Next Big Thing competition include:

Ryan Willcott, senior in marketing, Leavenworth, third place with his team in the undergraduate division for Dynamic Dine, a restaurant service idea. The team also won best business pitch in the division.

From Manhattan: Michael Dee, junior in milling science and management, second place with his team in the undergraduate division for Plant Ops Productions, a safety video production company; Mark Haynes, doctoral student in industrial engineering, second place with his team in the graduate division for Free Works LLC, an automated fabrication solution; and Justin Murray, senior in entrepreneurship, fourth place with his team in the undergraduate division for A&A Mobile Oil Change, a mobile oil change business.

Keegan Lutz, senior in management, Olathe, third place with his team in the social entrepreneurship division for Wildcat Cycle, a bike-sharing project; Kaleb Anderson, junior in electrical engineering, Spring Hill, third place with his team in the social entrepreneurship division for Wildcat Cycle, a bike-sharing project.

From Topeka: Abbey Brown, junior in management and entrepreneurship, second place in the social entrepreneurship division for ABSolute Design, a jewelry design company to support women's issues; and Kyle Williams, senior in marketing, fourth place in the social entrepreneurship division for JOYN, a textile company employing disadvantaged people in India. Williams also won best business pitch in his division.

Jacob Wessel, senior in milling science and management, Valley Falls, second place with his team in the undergraduate division for Plant Ops Productions, a safety video production company.

From Wichita: Alex Hecht, senior in milling science and management, second place with his team in the undergraduate division for Plant Ops Productions, a safety video production company; Geoffrey Miller, senior in industrial engineering, second place with his team in the graduate division for Free Works LLC, an automated fabrication solution; and Gabe Ryan, senior in entrepreneurship, third place with his team in the undergraduate division for Dynamic Dine, a restaurant service idea, and best business pitch in the division.

From out of state: Nick Young, master's student in architecture, Belton, Mo., fourth place in the graduate division for MDM, a construction delivery service; and Jared King, sophomore in entrepreneurship, Dublin, Ohio, fourth place with his team in the undergraduate division for A&A Mobile Oil Change, a mobile oil change business.

From out of the country:

Stephanie Patterson, senior in anthropology, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, fourth place with her team in the undergraduate division for A&A Mobile Oil Change, a mobile oil change company.

From India: Jose Abraham, master's student in regional and community planning; Prbhakar Thennarasu, master's student in business administration; and Pradeep Malreddy, research technician in clinical sciences, all third place in the graduate student division for Skill Guild, a local service resource website.