NACOGDOCHES, Texas — From board games to muscle car parts to fireproof stucco, Stephen F. Austin State University students pitched their business ideas to win the second annual “Shark Tank” style Lumberjack Entrepreneurship Competition April 21.
“Entrepreneurship is alive and flourishing at SFA!” said Matthew Smilor, director of the Rusche College of Business’ Arnold Center for Entrepreneurship, which sponsored the competition. “This year’s participants were fantastic. They each created unique solutions to problems, provided well-rounded pitches and gained valuable insights. I was truly amazed and inspired by their ingenuity, professionalism and entrepreneurial spirit.”
The competition began with the lightning round, during which 10 students pitched their ideas. The judges narrowed down the contestants to six finalists, who presented longer pitches during the final round.
“The competition was really fierce,” said Dr. Raymond Jones, associate professor and director of the entrepreneurship program at SFA. “Each of the finalists was prepared and handled the tough questions from the judges very well.”
Contestants were judged on the market opportunities for their businesses as well as their situational awareness, pitches, business models and go-to-market strategies by three judges: Jeremy Cleverly, SFA alumnus and founder and chief executive officer of the Connect Cleverly networking app; Jon Lambert, chief executive officer of The Cannon startup community platform; and Erika Tolar, SFA alumna and national vice president of sales for Forward Air Corporation.
“Every one of those ideas we just saw has legs,” Lambert said of the tough competition.
The first-place prize of $5,000 went to Clarity Vape Filters, a one-size-fits-all filter for electronic cigarettes by Walker Ridgeway, a senior in entrepreneurship from The Woodlands. Management exchange student Bacem Ben Daly from Tunisia earned the $3,000 second-place prize with Salve, a social networking app that matches locations and similar interests. The $1,500 third-place prize went to Abbi Williams, a business junior from Nacogdoches, for Conceal What Matters, a line of modest, conceal-carry athletic wear.
The three remaining finalists were entrepreneurship junior Katie King of Nacogdoches for the Nac Gaming Café, accounting sophomore Isaiah Turner of Houston for the Bulkers Gum protein supplement, and general business junior Quinton Williams of Dallas for the Vintage Vogue Auction.
“The entrepreneurship competition gave me an amazing chance to showcase the hard work I've been doing to turn my idea into a reality,” Ridgeway said. “The development of this idea would not have been possible without the various resources around campus that I took advantage of. I was able to get help from professors in the chemistry department and students from the engineering students organization. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen.”
To learn more about the competition, center and SFA’s entrepreneurship program, visit sfasu.edu/ace.