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Idea Pitch competition announces winners

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Twelve Grand Rapids Community College student entrepreneurs competed in Idea Pitch 2012 on Oct. 29 at the Calkins Science Center Auditorium, vying for cash awards and a chance to move on to the regional competition.

The contestants leaned forward in their seats as three judges filed back into the room to announce the winners of Idea Pitch 2012.

Each of the students had 90 seconds to pitch their unique business ideas, not just in front of the judges, but also a small audience under bright stage lights while being filmed.

The anticipation in the room was palpable. When the moment of truth came, host Felix Pereiro, head of GRCC’s Business Department, announced Jeffrey Noel the winner, followed by Damion Harden in second, and Jennifer Vanderploeg in third.

This year’s competition drew a wide range of ideas from self-adjusting bras to custom beer pong tables. Out of all the contestants, the three that took home checks for $800, $300 and $100 used the 90 seconds to their advantage, presenting their ideas clearly and with a passion that left a lasting impression. The winning ideas also sought to solve problems and improve the lives of their target audience.

Jeffrey Noel (right) stands with Business Department Head Felix Pereiro (left) holding a check for $800 after winning the GRCC Idea Pitch competition.

Noel’s “Book Hippie” is an online service that seeks to match students with each other so that they may trade textbooks, as well as purchasing and selling textbooks from students when trading is not an option. Unlike most of the ideas presented, “Book Hippie” is ready for launch.

Noel presented at Idea Pitch 2011 and took third place. This time, he made sure he was ready.

“For ‘Book Hippie’ I had an Honors Contact with Professor Pereiro, so we actually went from start to finish going, ‘How are we going to launch ‘Book Hippie?”” asked Noel, 27, a web designer and Business Administration major at GRCC. “I felt very ready and a lot calmer than last time. I’ve been here before, so it really proves the point of ‘try, try again.’ I’m very excited.”

Harden, 31, a Business Administration major pitched “Glow n Walk” as a glow in the dark leash and harness combination that would allow people to safely walk their dogs at night, an idea that sprang from what would have been a life changing incident.

“I almost hit a pedestrian and their dog while driving late at night,” said Harden.

Vanderploeg’s “ArtMarket” is a service that would pay local business’s to host artwork on a monthly rotation, resulting in exposure for the artists with financial and aesthetic advantages for the business.

“Being an artist myself, I noticed art galleries are closing down and it’s getting hard to advertise yourself as an artist, so I thought it would be a neat idea to join business’s and artists so they can help promote each other,” said Vanderploeg.

The 24-year-old has an associate’s of the arts from GRCC and is currently pursuing a marketing degree.

The judges panel was composed of Randy Walter of GE Aviation Systems, Tony Bowie also of Navigation & Guidance PECOE, FMS Systems at GE Aviation and CEO of Affordable Limousine and Party Bus LLC, and former GRCC business student Justin Williams.

After the 90 second pitches, the judges where given five minutes to provide feedback and ask questions.

Kerri Curtis and Leann Brown pitched a self-adjusting bra, which has clear cosmetic advantages, but also a medical application for breast cancer patients? A woman might have been able to visualize the market and impact of a product like this.

Ashley S. Calvert pitched “Hollywood Styles for Less,” a salon that would utilize stylists in order to make hair weaves much more affordable for the average woman and cut instillation time in half.

Idea Pitch is one of many facets that the Business Department employs to help students develop innovative thinking skills and a “job creator” mind set. In conjunction with BA 276, a business innovation class taught by Pereiro, participating in Idea Pitch and getting feedback has a proven history of laying the foundation of experience that students need to participate and thrive in the business world.

At Idea Pitch 2011, BA students Michael Corn and Danielle Gore pitched “ENTRPRSR,” a social media platform to help entrepreneurs recruit talent they need to start their business, such as graphic designers, artists and coders. Corn and Gore teamed up with 2010 Idea Pitch participator Jason Schemmel to develop the idea. In October 2012 Schemmel pitched “ENTRPRSR” to Start Garden—a small business funding venture started by Rick Devos in spring of 2012—and won $5,000 in venture capital seed money.

Gore also went on to get a full scholarship to the leadership program at Grand Valley State University, and remains the only non-GVSU student to get into the program.

“There has never been a better time to start a business,” said Pereiro, “While others fear uncertainty and change, I teach my students to embrace change; to be job creators.”

GRCC is one of seven colleges in the West Michigan area that partake in the contest, including Aquinas College, Davenport University, and Hope College. The top two contestants from each college advanced to compete in the regional competition at Aquinas College on Nov. 7.

Neither Noel nor Harden placed at regionals.

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