April 12, 2019

The Morning Sun

Central Michigan University’s New Ventures Competition combined business with several other disciplines to fill gaps in several markets.

The event filled CMU’s Education and Human Services building with several student-ran business prospects on Friday. The event had 35 teams present their businesses to a panel of judges between two rounds to compete for $100,000 in funding for their business.

All the teams came from several different colleges within the university, according to Program Manager Julie Burke.

“We encourage students from different disciplines to present their ideas for a business,” she said. “We have a wide variety of needs being met through these prospective businesses.”

The competition had roughly 75 judges covering both the main competition and smaller aspects of the presentation, including lifestyle venture judges, Michigan impact judges and technology judges, among others. All of the judges are industry professionals that come from a variety of places, including both local and national businesses as well as other universities, according to Burke.

After the first round, only 12 teams moved on to the second round, although, that doesn’t mean that the teams that didn’t advance are finished.

“Some of the judges we have are specialty judges and will give funding awards to those who excel in those specialty areas, like lifestyle and growth potential,” Burke said.

When they weren’t presenting to judges, the teams talked with interested attendees about their business model and how they plan to incorporate them into the Michigan market.

The main goal for the competition is to give these students real-world experience while supporting new businesses to fill needs within the marketplace, said communications specialist Jessica Meyer in a previous report.

“Our goal for the competition is to promote a transformational experience for the students involved,” she said. “It’s a real experience, as they have to go out and do the actual work to start those businesses.”

This year’s keynote speaker, introduced by CMU President Bob Davies, was Former Gov. Rick Snyder, who talked about his experiences as an entrepreneur, his start at Gateway Computers and what he believes is needed to be successful in business and life in general.

“You should try to surround yourself with people who are better than you, but also different from you,” he said in his speech. “It pushes you to think in ways that you usually wouldn’t otherwise.”

Snyder also touched on the importance of civility towards others and how people should be open to listening to differing viewpoints.

“One of our biggest problems in our country right now is that there is a strong lack of civility,” he said. “Being open to other ideas that allows that kind of diversity in thought is good for both business and life.”

He ended his speech by talking about advice he wish he had during his first pitch, his perspectives on business in both national and international markets and his biggest failure, which he said was the Flint Water Crisis, and how it affected him.

One of biggest topics that was covered by both Synder and Davies, among others presenting during the keynote, was collaboration across disciplines. One of those businesses that showed a combination of differing disciplines was Contrl Fitness, ran by exercise science major Daniel Mwaniki and business major Matthew Meyering.

Their business is a training facility that aims to meet the individual fitness and dietary needs of an individual based on their age, body type and other circumstances.

“We know there’s an education gap when it comes to fitness,” Mwaniki said. “We want to teach people how to do it properly.”

The idea for the business came after they shared a class and learned about a shared passion for fitness.

“I know, from my end, that I share that passion and, with my area of study, I’m able to help out in a way that would allow both of our talents to be used to complement each other,” Meyering said.

Their plan is to establish themselves for the first two years they are open by partnering with school districts, local gyms and individuals. They plan to charge $50 for individual client sessions while giving 15 percent to the gyms they use and charge $35 for individualized meal plans. After those two years, they hope to have their own facility to train their clients.

Another business that combined disciplines was Resin, which aims to provide gourmet cannabis-infused foods in the wake of cannabis becoming legal for recreational use in the state. The business team behind it, entrepreneurship major Nolan Schied and broadcasting/communications major Natalie Wiest, said that their business is meant to support both medicinal and recreational uses for the drug for those who do not want to smoke.

“We have a wide variety of options to fit the tastes of everyone,” Schied said. “We also offer the option of not putting cannabis into the food for those who do not want cannabis.”

The menu offers several foods inspired from a variety of cuisines from around the globe. Entrees range from $15-20 and customers could customize the levels of cannabis in the food for an additional charge.

The idea for the business came from a love of food and a need for more options for non-smokable cannabis, according to Wiest.

“We just wanted to offer more options than what’s already out there,” she said.

Their plan is to gain processing, transporter and provisioning center licenses, which are needed to run a cannabis-based business, Weist said. Those will cost roughly $10,000 to $66,000, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Once those are secured, they plan to start selling the food in either Ann Arbor or Lansing in order to market to a college-age audience.

This business won first place the 2018 Make-A-Pitch competition, where they won a $250 Amazon gift card for making the best pitch in a “Shark Tank”-style competition on Dec. 5.