Higher Education and Small Business & Startups

University fields startup pitches

May 13, 2014
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University fields startup pitches
Rosie Hall, center, her husband and children hold a $1,500 check from WMU after Hall’s team won a startup pitch competition. Courtesy WMU

The winner of a startup pitch competition is moving forward with her product and talking with an investor.

WMU pitches

Western Michigan University said last month that the team behind the Dolly Xtractor pitch won first place at the school's second annual business idea competition, where students competed for a total of $2,500.

Teams of students were invited to apply for the pitch competition for a chance to present an entrepreneurial idea to an audience of potential investors.

Thirty-two teams of students were selected to continue to the first round of competition.

One student from each team had three minutes to deliver a pitch to the panel of judges consisting of faculty and businesspeople. The presentations stated a problem, market competition, how the problem would be solved and what would be needed to pursue the business idea.

Eight teams were chosen to continue to the final round at WMU’s Starting Gate business accelerator.

Dr. Robert Landeros, interim director for the Haworth College of Business center for entrepreneurship and innovation, said the ideas reflected how seriously WMU students view startups.

“It was incredible to have judges from the local business community come together to give our students invaluable feedback,” Landeros said.

First place

The team of Rosie Hall, Jody McBain and Rachel Sherman won first place and was awarded $1,500 for the Dolly Xtractor business idea.

Hall said the product was invented by her husband to eliminate foot and back pain from handling heavy product loads on a dolly.

The tool is a metal hook that attaches to a worker’s shoe to release the dolly tongue from heavy loads quickly and effectively.

“I knew I had a good product, and I knew that we had a proof of concept — and I felt that I had strong answers to their questions, especially in the question-and-answer section,” Hall said. “So I felt like I had a good chance of winning, but entering the day, I never would have thought it.”

Hall said the pitch for the Dolly Xtractor described raising $20,000 to file an application for a patent, create a video and begin a marketing campaign. The prize of $1,500 will go toward funding a video filmed by Absolute Video & Multimedia, a production firm in Kalamazoo, and marketing materials.

Since the competition, Hall said she has had conversations with a potential investor interested in the Dolly Xtractor.

“For me, the best part about the whole thing was that I have two little kids — for them to be able to see me compete in something like that, it was nothing like I had ever done before,” Hall said. “To see the progression of being at the starting point and having them see that whole thing and be there to see me win it, it was just such a good learning experience for them.”

Second and third place

The second-place team was awarded $1,000 and consisted of Elizabeth Mooney, Andrew Eaton and Gabriella Vezzosi. They pitched Savvy Dress Rentals, which provides designer dresses without the extravagant cost, through the existing Savvy Bridal & Formal Exchange boutique.

The GoAnywhere Sleeper won the People’s Choice award, in addition to third place, for a total prize of $750. GoAnywhere Sleeper is a light-weight platform that unfolds in the back of a vehicle to create more than six feet of space for off-roaders to sleep.

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