Pitch competition helps students improve business skills

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    Ninety seconds at a time, university students learned how to present their business concepts precisely and effectively to potential investors.

    The Neeley Entrepreneurship Center’s Values and Ventures program held its spring Elevator Pitch Competition Thursday. Eighteen contestants pitched their business ideas for a new product or service in 90 seconds to three judges.

    This semester's first place and $300 went to Zach Freeman with Veterans Moving America, a moving company that exclusively hires veterans stuck in unemployment.

    Winner of second place and $200 was Brooke Bettis with beeLive Publishing, which will help children publish their literary works while in grade school.

    Steve Hofmann took third place and $100 for U Jersey, a sports jersey rental company that provides affordable player and team jerseys for fans to wear to games.

    Pitches ranged from a shuttle service on college campuses that combat drunk driving by transporting students to and from their destinations to an online rental company that specializes in exercise programs.

    The judge's included BBVA Compass Fort Worth Market President Brian Happel, CEO/President at Charles Alan Incorporated Margaret Sevadjian and owner of Austin Company Commercial Real Estate Jim Austin.

    Director of the Neeley Entrepreneurship Center Brad Hancock said that elevator pitch competitions force students to really focus on their ideas and create a pitch that conveys the compelling reason an investor should ask them for a meeting to learn more.

    “You have to be prepared, succinct and compelling," he said. "This is great training for students to not only think about doing this for a business, but also how they would pitch themselves to a potential employer or their idea inside a large company to get the desired result.”

    Sevadjian said she is looking for students who have the ability to be able to deliver the information with a level of enthusiasm that sells them as an individual.

    “If you are ever going to go into your own business and be an entrepreneur, this is probably the best training I can imagine,” she said.

    In addition, Happel said he is looking for someone who can speak on their feet, is cool under fire and can generate attention especially in ninety seconds.

    The competition was open to undergraduate students of all majors, according to the event poster.

    However, most of the contestants were from the business school, Blake Burch, the vice president of marketing for TCU CEO, said.

    Burch, who competed last year, said that the competition is open to anyone who has an idea and would like feedback.

    “It works your presentation skills a lot, and it makes you think more about your ideas," he said. "It is an incredible experience to be able to throw myself and my ideas out there."

    Patrick Browning, who competed this year, pitched an idea for the Bucket List Travel Agency. He said the competition made him look at his business plan from a different perspective and be more critical of it so that he thinks like a potential investor.

    Students will have the opportunity to compete in the Elevator Pitch Competition again in the fall, and the winners will have the opportunity to compete in the CEO National Conference, Burch said.