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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, April 12, 2024
The Echo
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Shark Tank 2022 encourages student entrepreneurs

Students win prize money for businesses

Thursday night’s Shark Tank 2022 consisted of five business pitches, three sharks and the opportunity of a lifetime. Student entrepreneurs presented for the chance to win up to $5,000 in prize money to expand their creative business ventures.

The event was sponsored through donors and corporate sponsors such as Mammoth and Vestia, and is associated with Promising Ventures, an initiative out of the Calling and Career Office (CCO).

This year’s panel of judges was composed of Tommy Martin, Jeffrey Gladd and R.J. Talyor, all of whom have years of unique experience in the business world. 

Presenters were given seven minutes to pitch their idea, with an additional three minutes for a Q&A with the sharks.

The ninth annual Shark Tank pitches included  Godspeed by junior Wade Frances, Pocket Dorm by senior Isaac Wickham and junior David Mitchell, CordPuck from freshman Lextin Willis, The Neighborhood Exchange by senior Ariana Layton and LongHaul by sophomore Cayden Skaggs. 

Sharks awarded a first place prize of $3,000 to Willis, $1,000 to Wickham and Mitchell and $1,000 to Frances.

Willis’ product CordPuck is a storage device for charger cords to prevent entanglement or damage. He plans on contributing his new funds toward marketing, internal growth and research and development for his product.

“(It’s) just cool to see how much, like, Taylor values not only business but entrepreneurship and new ideas,” Willis said. “Just the fact that they also fund them is just super cool.”

Wickham and Mitchell’s Pocket Dorm product uses 3D printing to create a one-twenty-seventh scale model of dorm room furniture. Customers can use the objects to simulate mini, tangible dorm configurations. 

The pair plans on investing their prize money into more technology to increase print time for their product. Doing so will allow them to more efficiently market Pocket Dorm to various university administration offices.

Frances’ product, a family-owned business venture, is a pre-workout supplement that fulfills all the comparative advantages of price, taste, pump, health and focus. He and his family plan on using their award to improve marketing, research and development.

“I think my favorite part is going to be afterwards when we all talk together and just kind of get insight on how we can be better,” Frances said, referring to the new connections he will have with the judges. 

Skaggs’ LongHaul is a business idea that links people going in the same direction. LongHaul functions as a rideshare service based on direction of travel rather than destination. Customers could pair up with a driver passing through their necessary destination and pay a fee for things like gas.

Although Layton’s business idea The Neighborhood Exchange did not earn any prize money, Martin, chief executive officer at Mammoth, provided Layton a personal $500 loan with no interest to start up her business. The Neighborhood Exchange provides similar services to Etsy and operates as a monthly subscription instead of taking a percentage of users’ sales. 

“We are so thankful Taylor is making entrepreneurship more and more of a focus,” Martin said at the event.

Director of Promising Ventures Andrew Fennig headed Shark Tank. 

He stressed that entrepreneurship is not strictly a business endeavor; it is also a creative one. 

“The whole idea of Shark Tank is just to celebrate risk-taking and to celebrate the students who are willing to use their free time and their imagination and creativity to try to start ventures with the world,” Fennig said.

Despite the excitement and competition, the biggest outcome of Shark Tank is not the money; it is the relationships, mentors and networking opportunities gained along the way. 

After all, Fennig said, their mission was not necessarily to create successful startups but to develop entrepreneurs. 

Director of the CCO Jeff Aupperle started Taylor’s annual Shark Tank in 2014. Although he has taken a step back in recent years to focus on other things, he continues to push students to participate. 

“Students learn a ton through that experience,” Aupperle said. “Some of them are still businesses that exist today. We have alumni that are running businesses now that were Shark Tank pitches when they were here as students. So that's really rewarding to see — our students go on beyond graduation and end up starting their own business and — you know — pursuing those dreams.”