Robert J. Trulaske Sr., College of Business, University of Missouri

MU Business Students Win Top Spots in Entrepreneurship Contest

Novel ideas and compelling presentations earned two Trulaske College of Business students high honors in a North American entrepreneurial competition in October. Maria Holt, a senior in management, won second place with her proposal for a double-sided nail polish pen at this year's annual Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization (CEO) Elevator Pitch Competition. Meghan Orbe, a junior studying marketing, placed fourth in the contest for her presentation on a frozen- meal delivery service geared toward college students.

Both students have taken steps to realize their business plans. "I would like to have a working prototype by next summer," Holt said.

With sponsorship from MU's Flegel Academy for Aspiring Entrepreneurs, five business students attended this year's CEO contest competing against other students from across the U.S. as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. The MU students, who are all in the academy, condensed their business ideas into presentations that could be completed during a 90-second elevator ride. They made the presentations to a panel of judges who scored each proposal for content and delivery.

MU's Flegel Academy has sponsored student entries in the CEO competition for the last four years, aiming to encourage presentation skills that business people consider vital for success, said Greg Bier, director of the academy and an MU associate teaching professor. The academy is matching the $2,000 Holt won and the $1,000 Orbe received from the CEO for their top finishes in the contest, Bier said.

Previously, Holt's presentation on her proposed nail polish pen earned first place in the 2007 MU New Venture Idea Competition for the idea. She also drew high scores from CEO elevator pitch judges when she previously competed in 2007, earning 12th place.

Encouraged by such favorable reactions, Holt is working on building a functional prototype of the pen and seeking a manufacturer for mass production. The pen, which would feature exchangeable nail polish tips at one end and polish remover at the other end, targets both the working women and pet accessory markets, she said.

Orbe's presentation also earned kudos in another venue. She and teammate Kelsey Meyer won the MU New Venture Idea Competition's grand prize in 2008. Their idea to prepare and deliver homemade meals topped 60 other ideas submitted for the contest.

While Orbe said she is focusing on earning her college degree right now, she and Meyer have started laying the groundwork to proceed from concept to actual business. "We love having the idea in our ‘back pocket.' If an opportunity comes up, we'll pursue it," Orbe said.