Student entrepreneurs were in the spotlight at JWU Denver’s second annual Sharkfest competition, which featured 7 teams vying for a spot in the universitywide contest.
“I was really impressed with the caliber of thinking from these students and I see some successful concepts here,” noted judge Peter Casillas, publisher of the Denver Business Journal.
Each entrepreneurial endeavor was judged on 5 criteria:
- Presentation quality
- Chances of success
- Return on Investment (ROI)
- Whether it was a realistic venture
- Judges’ willingness to invest
This year’s winning Denver business pitches are:
- First place: Seniors Josh Novorr '16 + Anthony Espinoza '16 created 3 Step Cheese Mix, a make-at-home cheese dip with a specially-created seasoning.
- Second place: Senior Courtney Drewlo '16 created 2HOT!, a medical device designed to prevent vehicular heat stroke.
- Third place: Sophomore Colyn Goins '18 pitched SkyMind Media, an exclusive HDTV advertising agency.
Discovering a Passion for Entrepreneurship
Whether or not they walked away with the top spot or a cash prize, students were unanimous in praising the experience.
Freshman Kari Schwartz '19, whose team Knife Light won first place in the First-Year Students’ Sharkfest held during Homecoming, said, “I [went] from not wanting to be an entrepreneur at all, to … actually feeling like I have a pretty good chance at starting something.”
Espinoza and Novorr teamed up after meeting in a marketing class taught by School of Business professor Kris Hefley, who is also a consultant with the Small Business Development Center’s satellite office on campus.
“[Josh and Anthony] got it figured out, they just need to work on the marketing and distribution of their product,” said Hefley, who also remarked that the duo has a great chance of success in getting their product to market.
Judge Casillas agreed: “I think … 3 Step Cheese Mix could go to market with a lot of success. It’s a really impressive product. With a smart name and distribution, I expect to be eating this cheese in 6 months.”
“I never thought I’d call myself an entrepreneur, but I’d love to be,” said Espinoza. When asked what the next steps are in the process for their idea, Espinoza said, “It will definitely happen. The next step … is to get FDA approval and a patent.”
What’s Next for the Winners?
The 3 highest ranking finalists received a stipend for $1500, $1000 and $500, respectively. First place winners Novorr and Espinoza will continue on to the JWU Providence Sharkfest, to be held April 2016. Read all about last year’s Sharkfest here.
In addition to Denver Business Journal’s Casillas, the judges represented a cross section of industries:
- Gwendolyn Bonnilla, Accion Colorado loan officer
- Steven McCarthy, CEO of Além International Management
- Robert Corey MBA '15, JWU Denver culinary chef instructor
- Therese Zuercher, Rocky Mountain Hydrostatics
- Mike Ross '07, United Natural Foods inventory planner/buyer
JWU Denver Sharkfest was generously sponsored by Cascade Financial Management, Inc., US Bank, Italco Food Products, Inc., TKM Foundation, and Partners Colorado Credit Union.