Ivy Tech students vie for startup funding

September 13th, 2013

News Coverage:

Ivy Tech students vie for startup funding

Posted: Friday, September 13, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 8:42 am, Fri Sep 13, 2013.

By Doug LeDuc

A couple of students at Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast have launched an outdoor adventure gear rental business and a clothing company that employs combat veterans in an effort to win the university’s 2013 New Venture Competition.

They are finalists in a business-plan competition there, which awards $20,000 in startup funding to the student with the best business plan. The competition is in its third year. The other finalist had launched a photography business before entering the contest to refine its business concept.

Participation in the contest is part of the Business 280 50C course, also known as the Internship Launch: New Venture class taught by James Tolbert. This year’s version of the competition started June 10 with 16 students and the field narrowed to the three finalists last month.

“We were hopeful this would be successful in teaching students to be entrepreneurs and not just teaching someone to win the grand prize. All three of the finalists have launched their business whether they win or not,” Tolbert said.

A panel of more than 40 judges including successful entrepreneurs, business owners, business managers and small business loan officers from area banks will select the best business plan based on presentations they hear from the finalists at a 5 p.m. Sept. 19 awards banquet.

The judges will use seven criteria, including traction, to evaluate the business plans.

“The more traction you can demonstrate, the more likely you are to win and the best traction is sales. As the students did more and more research, they decided, ‘We really need to get started,’ and they put themselves in a better position to with the competition,” Tolbert said.

“It’s really thrilling to watch them start out kind of tentatively and as the process unfolds you can just see the students catch fire and say, ‘Hey, I can do this.’”

Robert Bibbo launched American Combat Veteran Clothing after discovering through a survey of potential customers that they would be willing to pay a premium for clothing made by combat veterans.

Faith Maslonka launched Outdoor Gear Fitters after she discovered through market research that there are many retailers specializing in camping and backpacking equipment sales but very few who rent the outdoor gear.

Adara Fath started Addie Fath Photography to specialize in portraits that appear candid instead of posed. It also is competing againt photo studios that keep copyrights of everything they shoot by including the copyright in the photo packages she sells her customers.

The business-plan competition class uses a textbook and software called Business Plan Pro. Its students cover five chapters in the textbook related to business plan development and use the software each week on laptops they bring to class to work on their business plans.

Instruction on business plan development and work on the plans takes about 60 percent of two hours the students spend together each week and the rest is spent delivering 60-second elevator-pitch summaries of their business models and updating the rest of the class on research conducted to start the business.

Many students in the class who did not make the finals are planning to attend monthly meetings Ivy Tech will begin holding for them this year to continue working together on the development of their business plans, and Tolbert said a number of them are likely to result in business startups. The monthly meetings will take place until the 2014 round of competition starts next summer.

Tolbert said some of the standout business concepts that did not make the finals but eventually could result in a startup included a rapid prototyping business that makes models through 3-D printing, a bakery cart food-service style truck for desserts and a nonprofit designed to mentor at-risk girls.