Mercer business students on the Macon and Atlanta campuses pitched their ideas for non-profit and for-profit businesses in the 2022 Elevator Pitch Competition on April 1 for a $500 prize to help develop their ideas.
“Elevator pitches” are notable for being about two minutes long, and are meant to capture an entrepreneur’s ability to explain their business concept at an organized and effective pace. The entrepreneur should be able to walk into a hypothetical elevator, meet a potential investor, and convey the essence of their business by the time the elevator reaches the 20th floor to keep investors interested to schedule another meeting for more information.
The competition was open to all students currently enrolled at Mercer University, both undergraduate and graduate, from any campus. There were 19 submissions this year with judges selecting the top eight finalists to present last Friday over Zoom. The judges then asked each presenter questions and selected a winner from a for-profit business and a non-profit business.
Briana S. Stenard, the assistant professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at the Stetson-Hatcher School of Business, was the faculty advisor for the Elevator Pitch Competition for the third year in a row and enjoyed seeing all the pitches last week.
“I love seeing students present their ideas,” Stenard said. “I know it takes a lot of courage to present your ideas to a panel of judges, so I am just so proud of our students. I am always so impressed by the high quality of their presentations. I love seeing them share their passions and try to solve important problems.”
Stenard started the competition in 2020 to help students pitch their ideas and get feedback from mentors and judges before putting together a full business plan. The competition is meant to allow students to think through their ideas and decide if it might be something they would want to pursue in the future.
“The Mercer Innovation Center’s goal is to support our Mercer student entrepreneurs through mentorship and funding,” Stenard said. “This competition accomplishes both goals by giving students feedback on their ideas and some start-up money to help get their ideas off the ground.”
Stephanie Troemel, a graduate student working on an MBA with a focus in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the for-profit business winner of the competition, first learned about the competition from Stenard and was intrigued by the chance to practice in a low-stakes business setting while receiving feedback for her pitch. She also almost missed it due to health concerns but was glad she could participate just in time for the competition.
“I really enjoyed hearing the other student's pitches,” Troemel said. “The other finalists have amazing ideas and are really passionate and excited about them. I hope they're able to move forward with their ideas!
Her winning pitch was for MakeNow, an app that takes craft pattern PDFs and makes them mobile-friendly and easy to use which would save time, paper, and frustration for a successful interactive experience. Coming into the competition, Troemel was understandably nervous about giving her pitch.
“This was something that scared me!” Troemel said. “I am not a huge fan of public speaking and it usually takes me a good 10 minutes to get comfortable in front of a room.”
Troemel, however, found her pitch to be something she was passionate about and thought would bring a lot of positivity to the world. This made it feel worth it to push through on presenting in order to receive feedback from professionals.
Holly Burke, an MBA student and the non-profit business pitch winner, also enjoyed listening to the other pitches and was able to learn a lot from the other students and judges.
“I think participating in events like this is a great idea,” Burke said. “I learned a lot through the process.” and it's also a great way to move outside of your comfort zone.”
Burke’s idea was Intentional Freedom, a non-profit program intended to educate prior offenders on proper money management, saving habits, budgeting habits and investing to give them the ability and opportunity to take control of their finances and futures and allow them to make changes towards a pro-social lifestyle.
Burke originally submitted her pitch for extra credit, but then entered the competition with Dr. Stenard’s encouragement.
“I wish I had participated in events like this earlier in my education journey,” Burke said. “It's a great way to move outside of your comfort zone.”
With the competition coming to an end this year, Stenard hopes that more students from Mercer will participate in future competitions. She believes that you don’t have to only be a business student to have a good idea for a business.
There will be a follow-up event, the Next Big Idea competition, which is a full business pitch competition event that all students will be able to apply for. The Next Big Idea has longer pitches and larger prizes and even more encouragement.