In a crowded, dimly-lit Leadership Auditorium in the MU Student Center on Monday, 15 MU students gave an elevator-style pitch for their business ventures at the Entrepreneur Quest Pitch Competition.

On Tuesday, the top 11 teams that will move on in the EQ competition were announced based on the decision of a panel of judges who heard the pitches.

According to a MU news release, “The EQ program is an opportunity for Mizzou students from any degree program to learn how to translate their innovative ideas into viable business models ready to pitch for startup funding.”

Starting in January, the teams will participate in an eight-week educational program which includes “educational workshops and mentoring from alumni, industry leaders, investors and subject-matter experts,” according to the news release.

After the educational program, the semifinalists will then pitch in another competition on March 16 in hopes of winning up to $30,000 in startup funding. These top three winners will split the $30,000 startup funding; $15,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for third place.

Originally, only 10 teams were expected to move on in the competition. However, in an announcement Greg Bier, the executive director of entrepreneurship programs, said, “after working through the five judge’s evaluations (and validating their comments with what the 10 reviewers said when they screened all 50 applications) we have decided to take 11 student teams into the EQ program.”

The top 11 MU students consist of a variety of majors and business ideas. Madison Read, one of the semifinalists, pitched her business, “Doodle Bed,” a company that would create coloring pages on white sheets for hospital patients. Read’s key audience for this product are patients who are children or elderly patients with dementia.

“Doodle Bed has the ability to create a better hospital experience so we can change the atmosphere and make it a more positive, up-lifting place,” Read said.

Audience members also were able to vote by paper ballot for their favorite team of the night. Trent Esser, whose idea was “Printerior,” a company that would create custom-made furniture from 3D recycled plastics, was the winner of the audience favorite and received $500 in funding.

The EQ program spans across each of the four UM System universities.

“The idea behind EQ is to create a safe place in our University where you can learn by doing,” said Bill Turpin, MU interim associate vice chancellor for economic development. “Some of these companies will turn out to be successful, many will not, but that’s not the point. The point is that you’re here, you’re learning the entrepreneurial mindset and the whole rest of your life and career will be better because you’re learning these skills.”

After the second pitch competition on March 16, MU’s three finalists will compete in an additional pitch competition on April 8 against finalists from the three other UM System universities to win additional startup funding. The winners would receive either $15,000, $10,000 or $5,000 on top of what they earned from the MU competition.

The 11 semifinalists:

Zach Cook, MBA student. Vesta: One-stop cold storage container for the e-food and beverage delivery industry.

Trent Esser, business management. Printerior: Custom-made furniture from 3D recycled plastics.

Maxwell Fazekas, electrical engineering graduate student. Max Fix: Economical cellphone repairs.

David Goddard, finance graduate student. Kimberling City Bait and Tackle: Provides guide service, gear and lures.

Daniel Hoffman, executive MBA student. Norah Health: Patient satisfaction platform.

James Hopfenblatt, architectural studies & design with digital media. avanzAR: Evidence-based stroke rehabilitation game platform.

Emily Housey, journalism strategic communication. Housey Designs LLC: Customizable products for Generation Z.

Hayden McCarter, business management. Scoreboard: eSports bar for gamers.

Drew Patel, computer science. Pollinate: Blockchain login for package deliveries.

Madison Read, graphic design. Doodle Bed: Creates coloring page on white sheets for hospital patients.

Daniel Serres, political science and communications. Fresher Than U: Provides canvases in everyday items for digital graphic artists, beginning with car air freshener.

Supervising editor is Fred Anklam Jr. 

  • Business reporter, Fall 2019 Reach me at

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