Into the ‘Shark Tank’
Student entrepreneurs pitched business ideas for the chance to receive startup funding
Growing up on a family farm allowed Libby Martin, a first year veterinary medicine student and CEO and founder of Calving Technologies, to see firsthand the problems during calving season for Missouri farmers. Martin developed a solution for this growing hardship — a collar that tracks cattle during calving season to provide farmers detailed information on their herd.
For eight weeks, 10 teams of Mizzou students researched and tested their business idea to reach this point — a 10-minute pitch to established business professionals, much like on the television series Shark Tank, for a chance to further the dream and win thousands of dollars. First place took home $15,000 in startup funding, second place took $10,000 and third place walked away with $5,000. Following the competition, Martin had some exciting news to share with her family in California, Mo. — she had won $15,000 in funding for Calving Technologies as the winner of Mizzou’s Entrepreneur Quest program.
“I’ve been developing this since 2015,” Martin said. “I’m excited to take the next step to help cattle farmers increase profit and make their jobs a little easier. I’m so happy about the number of people this could help.”
The top three teams chosen by the judges each gave presentations with cutting-edge ideas and a thoroughly researched plan for the future of their startups.
“I believe most new jobs in the state of Missouri will be created by startups,” said Greg Bier, director of the Entrepreneurship Alliance at MU. “We can enhance the economy of our state by fostering an entrepreneurial atmosphere among our most innovative young residents.”
Teanna Bass, a senior studying textile apparel management, is the CEO and founder of Sweet Tea Cosmetics. Her beauty retail brand was awarded second place at the competition. Sweet Tea Cosmetics is transitioning to a fully digital presence. Bass and her team plan to drive sales and reach underrepresented groups through a makeup subscription service.
“This competition really pushed my team to places we never thought we could be,” Bass said. “We are trying to follow in the footsteps of other subscription services like Amazon Prime and Spotify and really develop our website and digital presence.”
Clayton Cary, a senior studying business administration, and his team finished third with their business idea, Infoproduct. As a self-described “Yelp of online education,” this website provides product reviews for e-books, online training sessions and online classes.
In addition to their cash prizes, Martin is receiving an additional $10,000 from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Bass is receiving an additional $6,000 from the College of Human Environmental Sciences and Cary is receiving an additional $3,000 from the Trulaske College of Business.
On April 5, these three students and their teams will compete against other University of Missouri System student teams for another chance at $30,000 in cash prizes. The other universities within the UM System are University of Missouri – Kansas City, Missouri University of Science and Technology and University of Missouri – St. Louis.
“The Entrepreneur Quest program gives students a safe environment to try their hand at starting a real company,” said Bill Turpin, interim associate vice chancellor for economic development at MU. “We will continue to support our entrepreneurs with mentoring and access to resources. The UM system competition will be an annual event, and we hope even more students will be involved next year based on all the interest we’ve created for the program this year.”