Friday, April 19, 2024

LSUS students showcase entrepreneurial talents in Pilot Pitch business model competition

by BIZ Magazine

Students at Louisiana State University Shreveport (LSUS) recently pitched their business ideas for the 2023 Pilot Pitch competition.

The competition was presented by the LSUS College of Business and BRF’s Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP) — which provides services to innovative startups and works to stimulate entrepreneurship opportunities in North Louisiana. LSUS and EAP have partnered for a seventh year to continue their work to help prepare students for entrepreneurship and provide an experiential learning opportunity.

This year, 37 students applied to the Pilot Pitch, with 17 completing all competition requirements. Three undergraduates and five graduates were selected as finalists to compete in separate divisions for $9,000 in cash and additional prizes during a hybrid business pitch event held by LSUS and EAP. To prepare for the final event, student competitors first participated in an extensiveconsulting and business development workshop. They then submitted a business plan, financial analysis, andpitch presentation for evaluation to determine the finalists who would be eligible to compete for prize money. Before the final presentations, students participated in one more workshop to hone their ideas.

The top cash prize of $3,000 was awarded to Dakota Ferry in the undergraduate division, and Tara Lauther took first place in the graduate division.

Ferry’s idea was for a graphene manufacturing business using hemp-derived acid during the process. Ferry holds the patent for this manufacturing process.  

“I’ve always been interested in fixing problems, and I want to help as many people at once as possible, so developing graphene production has been my goal since I figured out I could use a plant-derived acid to make it,” said Ferry. “I was inspired by science-fiction series such as Continuum and The Expanse, which imagined worlds where graphene is a common material and is the foundation for spaceship computers, liquid electronics, and other imaginative ideas. I would love to see a future world where we have resolved our current set of crises.”

Lauther’s winning business idea was for Tag It, a system to manage medications using RFID tags to track inventory and expiration dates.

“The decision to enter the Pilot Pitch was driven by my passion for improving healthcare practices. Recognizing the critical issues in medication management during my volunteer experience and my studies in Health Sciences, I saw the Pilot Pitch as a platform to bring my innovative solution, Tag It, to a wider audience and make a meaningful impact in the healthcare sector,” said Lauther.

“Participating in the Pilot Pitch has provided me with invaluable real-world experience in pitching a business idea. This has given me an insider view of the practical aspects of entrepreneurship, preparing me for future endeavors in the business world. I have always had my heart set on practicing medicine as a clinician, and I am excited about this added dimension.”

The runners-up for each division are:

2nd Place Undergraduate Division:

  • Royal Toussant, Playground Entertainment

3rd Place Undergraduate Division:

  • Cardell Hardman, Rite Now Loans

2nd Place Graduate Division:

  • Dr. Sharada Damaraju, Dignity

3rd Place Graduate Division:

  • Valerie Lopez, Parenting Innovations

All winning teams also receive professional services from EAP for six months and will be eligible to compete in the 2024 Entrepreneurship Pelican Cup, a statewide business pitch competition with a grand prize of $50,000.  

“The Pilot Pitch provides students across all disciplines, not just the College of Business, the opportunity for hands-on learning experience,” said Dr. Mary Lois White, Dean of the College of Business. “Employers are always looking for students with practical experience, and this competition helps develop skills and prepare students to enter the work force.”

The following LSUS board members and community business professionals served as judges during the final pitch competition:

  • Julie Milam, Senior Financial Analyst, Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program (EAP)
  • Terry Moore, LSUS Foundation Board Member and BRF Board of Directors Chairman
  • Mike Woods,LSUS Foundation Board Member

“It was a pleasure to be a judge for the Pilot Pitch Competition at LSUS. I know it is a lot of effort to complete a lean canvas, financial analysis, business plan and pitch deck, but these students had great ideas and presented them in an impressive and professional way,” said Julie Milam, Senior Financial Analyst for EAP. “I believe these contestants will leave LSUS and use the skills they developed there to become great entrepreneurs.”  

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