Lincoln, Neb. —When you think of a business pitch competition, you probably envision a boardroom or maybe even an elevator, but what about a Ferris wheel?
Over 25 students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln pitched their business ideas to judges as they rode the Scheels’ 65-foot Ferris wheel at the Rotating Pitch competition hosted by the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program on Nov. 18. The competition featured novice and experienced categories with $500 and $1,000 prizes in each category.
Pitch competitions create opportunities outside of the traditional classroom setting for students to gain experience communicating and validating their business ideas. Miranda Hornung, Engler’s administrative intern and a senior agriculture education major, took ownership of coordinating this event.
“We believe experiential learning is vital for students to take the leap and start a business. The Rotating Pitch is a perfect way to get our students real-world experience while also having fun,” Hornung said.
Some students who participated in the Rotating Pitch took advantage of the chance to conquer their fears in more ways than one. Megan Gilmere, who owns MMM Dry Goods, conquered her fear of heights and pitching for the first time. Her courage literally paid off as she earned $500 for her second-place finish in the novice division.
“I was super nervous to do it because I have a fear of heights. I tried to focus solely on making sure I pitched to the best of my ability instead of focusing on my fears,” Gilmere, a freshman agribusiness major, said.
These competitions provide more than cash prizes. The feedback students receive from guest judges helps bring in other perspectives to enhance their business strategy. Starting a business is no small task, particularly when balancing life as a student.
“My biggest constraints are time and finances, which keep my business from being at the level I want it to be,” said Mekenzie Beattie, a senior animal science major who owns the direct-to-consumer pork business, Sassy Sisters Swine. “The resources provided to us through opportunities like this help tremendously, and I am grateful for them.”
The fun did not end at the Ferris wheel. Engler hosted an awards ceremony in the Dinsdale Learning Commons complete with carnival games, raffle prizes and a cakewalk.
“Having the carnival at the end of the day invites our community to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate the progress everyone has made. That’s really what it’s all about – uplifting one another,” Hornung said.
To learn more about the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program or how you can support collegiate entrepreneurs, please email program director Tom Field at email@example.com.
Winners of the 2021 Rotating Pitch Competition:
First Place, $1000: Mekenzie Beattie
Runner-Up, $500: Emma Hoffschneider
First Place, $1000: Layne Miller
Runner-Up, $500: Megan Gilmere