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Student entrepreneurs take risks, make pitches

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Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 7:00 am

On Monday, students were given the chance to pitch their plans for budding businesses at The Other 40, SIUE’s annual entrepreneurship competition.

According to competition organizers, 60 percent of businesses fail within five years. The goal of the competition is to teach students to produce a business that remains in “The Other 40.”

Tiffany Smith, a returning MBA pursuing a second master’s degree in education, took home the top prize of $5,000 with her pitch for “From House 2 Home Kitchens,” a shared kitchen that aids local food entrepreneurs to get their products to market.

“I’ve always had this idea to open a shared kitchen space in southwestern Illinois,” Smith said. “For those friends and colleagues of mine that don’t quite have the money to open their own restaurant, I want to not only help them create a great product, but I wanted to create a bridge from idea to business.”

According to Smith, the Metro East lacks a food preparation facility that can help cooks and bakers make the jump from their home kitchens to legitimate food businesses.

“You can have a passion for food, but if you don’t understand the business side of it, you’re always going to fall short,” Smith said.

Senior business major Kevin Caraker took home the $2,500

second prize with his pitch for the Mr. Nice Guy bubble tea cafe to be located in Edwardsville.

“You come to college to alleviate risk by getting your degree,” Caraker said. “Entrepreneurship is taking a risk and at odds with your instincts as a student.”

According to Caraker, The Other 40 competition forces students to understand the risks of business by getting into a competition that fosters the entrepreneurial spirit.

“As a graduating business student, this competition is really a culmination of my work,” Caraker said. “We must go through the uncomfortable process of presenting our ideas to the world, in this case the judges, and hoping we receive the validation that our business idea has merit.”

Caraker said developing strong pitch skills is instrumental in an entrepreneur’s success.

“Anyone can have a great idea,” Caraker said. “If you can’t articulate or sell your idea to your investors, you’ll never get your product off the ground.”

Assistant track and field coach Hassaan Stamps and partner J.J. Akpore pitched their idea to take the Cougar Carnage campus activity nationwide. They said the student body’s reaction to the event led him to think he might have a winning idea.

“To be a finalist in this competition really validates our concept,” Stamps said. “To take a concept and make it real is really at the heart of all of this.”

Students were asked to complete a four-step process that included attending workshops, submitting an executive summary, submitting a full business plan, and, if selected as finalists, presenting the business ideas to the judges.

Pitches could be no longer than three minutes and were followed by a question-and-answer session. Judges evaluated presenters on creativity of idea, potential for success, quality of presentation and quality of responses to judges’ questions.

For Smith, the opportunity to network with people who can really aid her developing concept was the biggest positive of entering The Other 40.

“Through this competition, we have access to the knowledge of several industry professionals, an attorney, an accountant and a marketing executive,” Smith said. “Even if I hadn’t won, I had the opportunity to meet all these great businesspeople who could help me make my business a success.”

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