Young entrepreneurs offer business ideas at #BOOM Pitch Competition

Friday, April 11, 2014 | 8:02 p.m. CDT
Young entrepreneurs presented their business ventures at the #BOOM Pitch Competition on Friday in Windsor Auditorium at Stephens College. Thirty-six contestants pitched business plans in the hopes of winning up to $5,000 to fund their projects. The event took place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

COLUMBIA – Brandon Banks has always loved art and business. At 15, he launched his own theater company for kids and started making money. At 17, he opened a Web design company.

Banks, 19, was at the #BOOM Pitch Competition, organized by Regional Economic Development Inc., on Friday to present a new business. With Edge Photography, he wants to help young photographers from Missouri start their own business.

Winners of the #BOOM Pitch Competition

Overall winners:

1st Place: Bryce Monroig, Archery Product: $5,000
2nd Place: Foster Honeck and Preston Owen, Farming Spot: $2,500
3rd Place: Alex Cruz, Pen Path: $1,500

High school winners:

1st Place: North Callaway High School FFA Program: $1,000
2nd Place: Southern Boone High School, FBLA Program: $750
3rd Place: Macon High School, Business Education Program: $500
4th Place: Garrett Fuller, Garrett's Websites: $250

Most Innovative Business Concept Award:

1st Place: Clint Matthews, CoMo Medical: $1,250

Social Entrepreneur Category:

1st Place: Jack Jones, The Healthy Gamer: $1,250
2nd Place: Hanna Taylor, Re-do Designs: $1,000

"Usually, photographers hate business and want to have a creative freedom," Banks said during his pitch. "I love both art and business, so I want to help them with that."

A sophomore representing the University of Central Missouri, Banks was one of the 36 contestants at the competition on Friday in Windsor Auditorium at Stephens College.

Sean Siebert, chair of the event's task force, said the competition aims to give young entrepreneurs opportunities to meet with other innovative people, create contacts, and learn from more experienced entrepreneurs and judges.

Contestants had five minutes to pitch their business stories and three minutes to answer the judges' questions.

Dennis Roedemeier, 68, a retired businessman and member of the Missouri Research Corporation, was one of the three judges, along with businessmen Brian Null and Randy Minchew.

The categories were best high school entrepreneurs, best social entrepreneurs and the most innovative, in addition to overall winners. The total amount of prize money awarded was $15,000.

"We are looking for entrepreneurs and students led by ideas and innovation," Roedemeier said. Roedemeier said creativity and the sustainability of the business were essential.

Siebert liked the diversity of the contestants, whether it was agriculture business, health care, shoe retailers or entertainment.

For REDI President Michael Brooks, the diversity is essential to mid-Missouri.

"Students that are in our community have to be one of the biggest assets we have," Brooks said.

But Brooks thinks young entrepreneurs have to be better understood in their needs and the challenges they face. He decided to create a welcome program for students, starting this summer, to help them start thinking about a business and building it during their four years of college.

"There are 8,000 students that graduate from colleges in Boone County and Columbia area every year," Brooks said. "If we can attract 0.5 percent of those 8,000, that’s 40 new businesses to be organized every year."

Siebert sees #BOOM as part of the process to make mid-Missouri more attractive.

"We have amazingly talented potential entrepreneurs here," Siebert said. "What we lack is a vehicle to help them start their companies and grow faster."

Among the 18 businesses presented last year, 13 are still present in the Missouri marketplace, Siebert said.

"Many of the contestants see #BOOM as a competition for entrepreneurship," Siebert said. "I see it as a celebration of entrepreneurship."

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