So you’ve got this great idea — maybe you could even be the next winner of Shark Tank. The next question is how to take that idea and turn it into a viable product or service.

To be an entrepreneur takes more than a great idea — it takes liberal arts skills. You’ve got to do the research, build and refine your model, and test your business case. Then, if you’re lucky, you can get feedback from people who understand the business, apply that, and keep moving forward.

Denison’s Red Startup is the ideal place for entrepreneurs to develop their skills and their ideas.

“Entrepreneurship must be practiced to be learned,” says Robert Abbott, Denison’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence in the Red Frame Lab. “Just as you can’t learn to swim at the library, you can’t learn what entrepreneurship is about without getting your hands dirty.”

After a semester of coaching and mentorship, exploring business concepts like value proposition, customer segments, and business modeling — and gaining confidence in presentation skills — 10 Red Startup students were ready to present their pitches to a team of seasoned judges.

With the in-person contest moving to online because of Covid-19, Sarah Moon ‘22, a philosophy, politics and economics major, readied for the final pitch competition on Zoom. “I was prepared to answer questions with concise and direct responses because I practiced multiple times.”

Students took on a huge range of topics, from a Somali digital archive to a global news delivery system, from a new dating app to a fashion resource.

Not one but two first-place winners earned the $1,000 cash prize. Physics major William Riffe ‘21 won with his STEM Play concept to bring active and passive learning about STEM to the playground. Moon earned top marks with her E.A.T. (Exclusive Asian Taste) concept to bring Asian food to campus via micro markets and kiosks.

Riffe says, “My favorite part of the competition was listening to the judges ask questions about each pitch. It was very informative as to how investors and entrepreneurs view the feasibility of an idea.”

The judges were impressed with students’ presentation skills, confidence, ideas, and encouraged them to keep pursuing this work. Judge David Hunegnaw said, “When I think about entrepreneurship, I think about two keywords: ambition and audacity. It’s one thing to come up with an idea but it’s another to say ‘hey, I’m actually going to take the risk. I think my idea is good enough and I have what it takes, the ambition and the audacity, to believe I can make the dream happen.’”

Judges for the competition:

  • Bethany George (Managing Director, REV1 Ventures)
  • David Hirsh (President, Atrium Buying Company; Partner, Main + High Investments)
  • David Hunegnaw (Founder, BYLINED and Entrepreneur-in-Residence, LOUD Capital)
  • Lucia Murillo (Former Senior Vice President Design, Justice)

Students and their pitches:

  • Aditi Singh ‘22, Christien Kelly ‘21 and Fatoumata Sow ‘22: Globe Ups, Making News Easier for College Students (14:37)
  • Farah Hersi ‘22: Somali Digital Archive: Reimagining and Rethinking the Columbus community (35:28)
  • Ishaan Gupta ‘20: Nile: An Online Speed Dating App (48:28)
  • Sam Zimmerman ‘21: Swear (1:09:40)
  • Sueshin (Sarah) Moon ‘22: E.A.T. Exclusive Asian Taste (1:27:15)
  • Stephanie Liu ‘22: Style within your closet (1:44:20)
  • William Riffe ‘21: STEMplay (2:00:17)
  • Wizdom Scott ‘21: FullArtist (2:16:05)
May 19, 2020