A group of University of St. Thomas students are taking home their piece of $48,000 in scholarships awarded Nov. 15 at the fifth annual Fowler Business Concept Challenge at the university’s Schulze School of Entrepreneurship.

Teams of one to three students submitted a record 107 business concepts as a part of this year’s competition. The top four teams in the undergraduate and graduate divisions were awarded St. Thomas scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per team.

Students who participate in the challenge develop and submit a business concept that has the potential to become a viable, high-growth business. Entries are judged on their originality, clear and compelling value proposition, competitive advantage, market opportunity and feasibility.

Jane Kramer, along with teammates Nana Yaa Dodi and Marine Melin, won the graduate competition for her concept Lou Lou Ingredients. The idea was born in Kramer’s kitchen, preparing gluten- and dairy-free snacks for her kids and their friends dealing with food allergies. She noticed grocery stores made similar products but didn’t offer full meals. She plans to change that.

With the advice from competition judges, she has a focused plan and hopes to have her allergy-friendly meals in a grocery store by the time she graduates from her MBA program in May.

“The advice you receive from these judges is invaluable,” Kramer said. “This was a great experience to pitch your company to an investor, but to hear from all of these judges, who are all successful, and have all this knowledge and wisdom. They give you feedback and tell you where you can improve and what you need to work on.”

In the five years of the competition, 716 St. Thomas students have participated, and scholarships totaling $230,000 have been awarded. The 157 students who participated on teams this year represent 23 St. Thomas academic programs. Winners came from nine different disciplines. This year’s winners are:

Undergraduate Division

  • Dennis Gisch and Jacob Rocheford – first place ($10,000 scholarship) for their iced-coffee concept Coffee Rocks!
  • Kara Gamelin and Katie Hasslinger – second place ($5,000 scholarship) for Simpliform Systems, a concept for streamlining college activity boards’ operations.
  • Kyle Andrews and Bobby Mason – third place ($2,500 scholarship) for OneU, a degree planner for students to easily create combinations of majors and minors from multiple universities.
  • Paige Norris and Courtney Wosick – fourth place ($1,000 scholarship) plus “best presenter award” ($1,000 scholarship) is a proprietary service that rebinds published music books, sheet music and musical scores by a method that allows them to stay open and lay flat.

Graduate Division

  • Jane Kramer, Nana Yaa A. Dodi and Marine F. Melin – first place ($10,000 scholarship) for Lou Lou Ingredients, a service to help serve allergy-friendly meals conveniently.
  • Ajay George – second place ($5,000 scholarship) and “best presenter award” ($1,000 scholarship) for Qronikle, a mobile app to track the health of your vehicle.
  • Donara Rudman – third place ($2,500 scholarship) for Survivorship Training & Counseling Center, an idea for a counseling center and boxing gym to provide PTSD treatment for survivors of sexual abuse and violence.
  • Jon Ochs – fourth place ($1,000 scholarship) for Barnabas Wall, a web-based, individualized church-run portal that helps church communities to bring together those that want to help and those in need.
Left to right, Trustee Ron Fowler, student Blake Reid (Entrepreneurship), student Ethan Imdieke (Entrepreneurship), student Mason Perry (Entrepreneurship), and Opus College of Business Dean Christopher Puto are pictured at the Fowler Business Concept Challenge.

Left to right, Trustee Ron Fowler, student Blake Reid (Entrepreneurship), student Ethan Imdieke (Entrepreneurship), student Mason Perry (Entrepreneurship), and Opus College of Business Dean Christopher Puto are pictured at the Fowler Business Concept Challenge.

Social Venture Division

  • Benjamin Carlson – first place ($5,000 scholarship) for Fetch by Getitlocal, a web platform for small businesses to display products and services to a local audience.
  • Mason Perry, Ethan Imdieke and Blake Reid – second place for Blue Water Pumps, an idea to lease specialized pumps at boat launches to clean watercraft from Eurasian water milfoil and zebra mussels.
  • Lindsey Landgraf and Jen Strong – third place ($1,000 scholarship) for ReWrite Boutique, a concept to give new clothes to single mothers below the poverty line, with the help of stylists.
  • Nicolas Styles – fourth place ($500 scholarship) for Gamefication, a concept that allows parents to create individualized, interactive stories for use on tablets and smart phones.

The Fowler Business Concept Challenge is named for 1966 St. Thomas graduate Ron Fowler, chairman and CEO of Liquid Investments Inc. Gifts to the university from Fowler, Alan and Marcia Bignall, and the Cade family have made the annual competitions possible.

“The University of St. Thomas has long been recognized as a leader in nurturing and enhancing the entrepreneurial spirit in our community,” said Christopher Puto, dean of the Opus College of Business. “Students throughout the university are encouraged to explore their potential, search out new opportunities and use the skills and knowledge they have acquired to make a difference in the world. This competition honors that philosophy while allowing the university to demonstrate the caliber of its students in a very public way.”

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