Grove City College student Andrew Graber ’20 was able to drum up some support for the business he’s building at the Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation’s 2018 Wolverine Venture Battle + VentureLab Showcase, held earlier this month on campus.
Graber, founder of Māhlon Acoustics, won first place and a $9,500 cash prize in the Wolverine Venture Battle, which pits groups of student entrepreneurs against each other in a war of ideas for new businesses. Graber made the winning pitch for an idea to sell handmade wooden drums called cajόns that are designed and crafted by musicians and artists in Nashville, Tenn. He plans to use the money to jumpstart the business over the summer and hopes to be able to bring a product to market soon.
“This competition continues to get better and better. This year marks the first year that every team is either already in business or plans to launch in the near future. In addition, most of the teams have built businesses that also serve a social need in some way. Our students continue to inspire with their drive to make the world a better place,” Yvonne English, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation, said.
Other Wolverine Venture Battle winners were:
- Graphrite, a durable and unique tool for engineering and math students that aids in the drawing of clean and accurate sketches and graphs on homework and notes conceived by students Samuel Kenney ’18, Madeline Williams ’18, Austin Zick ’18, and Keith Meikrantz ’18, won $7,000 in prize money.
- Te Amo, an organic Peruvian tea business created by Mark Sotomayor ’20 and Ryan Budnik ’19, won $2,000 in prize money.
- The GeniusCorps, an educational inclusion program to change the mindsets of students by teaching STEM skills engineered by Jordan Hörst ’18 and Rebecca Krupp ’19 completed the winners’ circle and took $1,500 in prize money.
The Wolverine Venture Battle simulates the real world by allowing teams to compete for prize money without the confines of a cumbersome, administratively-heavy business plan competition. The competition is not limited to business and entrepreneurship majors and has been deliberately designed for all majors to be comfortable participating.
Judges listen to the pitches and act as “investors”, distributing $5,000 each in prize money to one or several teams. Judges this year were Matt Knouse ’92 (Performance Roofing Associates and Performance Realty Group), Scott Wilkes (The Penn-Ohio Group), Michael Kuremsky ’86 (Seek Company), Wendy (Sabados ’88) Mascio (CompletIt Consultants), and Eric Hanson ’73 (Apex Foodservice Group).
Following the Wolverine Venture Battle, three teams that participated in the 2017-18 VentureLab program competed for $500 in the VentureLab Showcase. The Showcase winner was chosen by a popular vote by audience members. Taking home that coveted prize was Chute!, a social business venture that benefits veterans by transforming military surplus into outdoor products. The business was created by Stephen Weaver ’19, Levi Roberts ’19 and Boyce Cubarney ’19.
The mission of the VentureLab is to help the Grove City College campus community explore and develop new ventures based on their own original concepts. It serves as a valuable starting point for innovation and enables aspiring entrepreneurs to gauge the feasibility of their ideas.
Wolverine Venture Battle and VentureLab Showcase sponsors include: CompleteIt Consultants; The Habbershon Family (Tim ’81, Grant ’06, Meredith ’07, Jonathan ’09, and Natalie ’11); Susan and Eric Hanson ’73; Kelly (Tsikalas ’92) and Matt Knouse ’92 and family; Betty Rae (Gray ’82) and Stephen Smith ’81; Wendy (Knight ’86) and Michael Kuremsky ’86; S&T Bank, Splash Kitchen Bath Home; Wesley Family Services; Cindy (Mayfield ’72) and Ed Crooks ’71; Jeanne, George ’88, Chad ’16, and Trey Hall; Elizabeth (Smith ’81) and Peter Hanley; Sisterson Certified Public Accountants and Consultants; Pittsburgh Web Design; and Cedric E. Lewis, JD/MBA.