By Brian Brus
Courtesy of The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – The entrepreneurs of East Central University dominated the small business plan category of the 2015 Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup competition with first-, second- and third-place awards.
The secret, according to ECU faculty adviser Stacey Bolin, is as simple as hard work and market insight.
“I was confident they were all really good, working hard and putting a lot of themselves into the project, but I never dreamed we would win all three places,” she said. “Through the coaching process, I tried to set them up to succeed. Much like the coach of a sports team, I prepared them by presenting difficult opponents for them to train against.”
The first-place prize for a small business plan in the annual competition went to Suite Seat, an idea that takes advantage of wireless technology and the many mobile devices carried by consumers to bring the ballpark shopping experience to their seats.
Suite Seat was promoted by Miles Mitchell. He received $10,000 to help pursue development.
The second-place winning team for the Gourmet Grub concept won $10,000 and the third-place for Back-Spin won $4,000. Gourmet Grub is a quick-service restaurant with a healthy menu that will also offer vending and catering operations for consumers. Back-Spin is a baseball training device that holds a baseball from the top, allowing a batter to focus on the bottom half of the ball and create back spin when hitting the middle or lower part of the ball.
Bolin, who is an assistant professor and director of the Wilburn L. Smith Center for Entrepreneurship at ECU, doesn’t have a traditionally academic background. She comes from a history of buying and selling a few businesses of her own. Bolin said she was excited about working as a coach for the students; this is only her third Governor’s Cup.
In preparation for the competition, she invited several executives who are personal friends to ECU to hit the students with their highest expectations for a successful business. She stressed the need for extensive feedback from customers and potential investors, and then let her students take up the challenge on their own impetus.
The fact that they all did so well in a difficult tournament setting suggests a future of more success in the real-world market, Bolin said. She expects at least two of the three business plans will be realized within just a couple of years, and the likelihood of them staying in the state is high. Mitchell, for example, has a functional prototype of his product he’s showing investors, Bolin said.
“He’ll be making money by the end of the summer,” she said.
The Governor’s Cup is homegrown entrepreneurship at its best, said Scott Meacham, chief executive of i2E Inc., which manages the competition.
“I love the intensity that the students bring to the technologies for which they are writing and pitching business plans,” he said. “I expect to see many of these businesses working their way through our investment pipeline in the next few years.”
Other award winners included AerOcean from the University of Tulsa, first place in the high-growth graduate division, and Raw from the University of Oklahoma, first place in the undergraduate division. First and second places in those divisions will advance to the Tri-State competition in Las Vegas this month against teams from Arkansas and Nevada.