ECU students victorious at competition
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ADA — Ways to improve airline and back seats were the innovative entrepreneur ideas that took first and second place for East Central University teams at the 2016 Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Thursday, April 14.
Air-Ez, led by ECU freshman Larisa Bolin of Ada and team member ECU senior Breanna Ragan of McAlester, took first place in the Small Business Division. Air-Ez is an easily attachable system that turns a typical airline seat into a safe and comfortable seat for handicapped and mobility-impaired individuals.
James Brown, an ECU junior from Shawnee, took second with Back Seat Hero. Back Seat Hero is a pressure-sensitive mat with indicator lights that signal the driver to a passenger’s presence in the back seat.
Bolin was also named a 2016 Paulsen Award Scholarship recipient. The $5,000 scholarship, named in honor of Oklahoma Business Roundtable President Don Paulsen, is designed to encourage Oklahoma’s future leaders to continue their education while at the same time contributing their viewpoints to the ongoing dialogue on key economic issues.
The statewide competition, hosted by i2E, Inc., Innovation to Enterprise, encourages team building, academic diversity, market research and financial projections as key elements in creating a winning team.
“I’m proud of the hard work and dedication these students put in. They spent hours and hours getting ready,” said Dr. Stacey Bolin, faculty advisor to the ECU teams. “These two teams felt added pressure because the successes of the teams from last year. They handled it well and achieved great results.”
Last year, ECU teams swept the Small Business Division, earning first place with Team SuiteSeat, Team Gourmet Grub in second and Team Back-Spin took third.
According to Dr. Bolin, this competition has far-reaching effects, not only for the individual students but the state as a whole.
“One of my favorite things is that the judges give constructive feedback to get our students to the next level. The goal is to impact the economy (with small business) in the state of Oklahoma,” she said. “This fantastic learning experience gives students real-world experience in launching a new business.”
Once an idea took shape, a written plan was formulated. It takes a great deal of research and includes a description of the business; industry background; marketing environment, including the primary and potential competition; operational factors; business resources; management; financial capabilities and needs; and, in the case of start-up, the breakdown point and potential.
A pitch contest was next where each team gave a 90-second pitch on its business plan concept. The key to a great pitch is the ability to describe who you are, what you do, how you do it and how much money you need.
Then came the presentation, which told potential investors the market need and solution; described the business model, product and service; size of the industry and market; marketing strategy; sales plan; competitive advantage; marketing team; funding requirements; use of funds; financials; and exit strategy.
This is the fourth straight year in which ECU has sent teams to the Governor’s Cup competition. In addition to the teams’ success in 2015, Miranda McNabb received the Paulsen Award Scholarship and Miles Mitchell won the pitch competition. In 2014, two ECU teams reached the finals and Team LockWall captured second place. In 2013, ECU Team Common Ground reached the finals but did not place. Andrea McKinney was awarded the Paulsen Award Scholarship in 2013.