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April 8, 2014

2014 UNL Global New Venture Award Winners Announced

The Center for Entrepreneurship in the UNL College of Business Administration hosted Entrepreneuring Days@UNL March 18-20 at the Embassy Suites in Lincoln, Neb. The event included two new venture competitions and the Distinguished Entrepreneur Awards Dinner. The competitions were conducted much like the television show “Shark Tank.” Students pitched their business ideas to a panel of professionals who served as judges for feedback and competed for funding.
This was the 17th year for the UNL New Venture Competition which featured two categories – traditional growth/lifestyle businesses or high growth business. Students competed for the grand prize of $50,000 which must be used to fund the business pitched in the competition. 
Grant Stahla

Grand prize winner, Grant Stahla

Grant Stahla, a senior management major from Grand Island, Neb., won the competition with a luxury portable restroom trailer business. His family is in the recreational vehicle business and his uncle in Virginia gave him the idea for this startup. Stahla has booked several outdoor weddings and two big events the Cattleman’s Ball in Harrison, Neb., and the Nebraska State Fair in Grand Island, Neb., this summer. He needs 20 bookings to be in the black.
“I have been working 30 to 40 hours a week since December to get my business off the ground. Winning this competition is a huge step for me to take my business to the next level,” said Stahla.
The UNL New Venture Competition winners were:
  • Grand Prize and 1st Traditional Growth – Stahla Services, Grant Stahla, Grand Island, Neb., senior management major. Stahla Services provides upscale mobile restrooms for outdoor events. 
  • 2nd Traditional Growth – Ox-Bows Natural Landscape Company, Aaron Rerucha, David City, Neb., senior horticulture major. Ox-Bows Natural Landscape Company provides native landscape features and is unique for its use of natural materials and native plants in their designs.
  • 3rd Traditional Growth – Bunker 71 Games, Sam Stockton, Lincoln, Neb., MBA ’13. Bunker 71 Games is dedicated to selling board, card and miniature games by creating a unique customer experience through membership development, competitive pricing and community events.
  • Thomas Guy Team Award and 1st High Growth – Can I Eat This, Kelly Sturek, Las Vegas, Nev., junior management major; Spencer McCoy, Lincoln, Neb., fine arts ’13; Jesse Sierks, Lincoln, Neb., MBA ’13; Lane Phillips, Rochester, Minn., computer engineering ’00; Brock Smith, Lincoln, Neb., economics ’10 and Law/MBA ’13; and Tom Frederick, Omaha, Neb., graduate student and mechanical engineering ’10. Can I Eat This is an allergy detection application for mobile devices which allows a user to scan a barcode to detect food allergies based on personal preferences.
  • 2nd High Growth – Paylancer, Sourabh Chakraborty, Lincoln, Neb., senior computer engineering major. Paylancer is an inexpensive escrow service for freelancers which helps them get paid by their clients when they complete specific phases of a project.  
  • 3rd High Growth – Crowdflare, Dustin Trauernicht, Beatrice, Neb., business administration ’13. Crowdflare is a platform for fans, artists and promoters to crowdfund concerts in a city through social media networks. 

The UNL Distinguished Entrepreneur Awards Dinners honored seven entrepreneurs for their innovation, success and entrepreneurial spirit on March 19. The 2014 award winners include:

Nebraska Distinguished Entrepreneur Award -- David Graff, chief executive officer; Brian Kaiser, chief technology officer; and John Wirtz, chief product officer founded Hudl in 2007 while they were undergraduate students in UNL's Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management. The company provides online video analysis and coaching tools to help teams at all levels win. It serves high school, college and professional football teams as well as other sports including soccer, basketball, volleyball and lacrosse. In 2013, Inc. Magazine recognized Hudl as the 149th fastest growing private company in the U.S. and the fastest-growing private company in Nebraska.

New Company Entrepreneur Awards -- Julie Mahloch, founder and chief executive officer of; and Paul Jarrett, chief executive officer, and Stephanie Jarrett, chief marketing officer, of Bulu Box. Mahloch, of Omaha, is a serial entrepreneur and innovator who started her first company more than 20 years ago. She has more than 15 years' experience revolutionizing e-commerce business through her founding and The Jarretts founded the Lincoln-based Bulu Box in 2012. Bulu Box has revolutionized the vitamin- and supplement-buying experience, giving consumers a new way to sample, shop, share and learn about the best products available.

Start-up Executive Award -- Joe Petsick, vice president of business development of Proxibid, which provides a trusted online marketplace for buying and selling excess assets in 190 countries around the globe. He co-founded the company in 2001.

The Center for Entrepreneurship is focused on helping students learn and practice the art and science of growth. The Center’s mission is to inspire and empower UNL students to become “Startup People”, educating them to be active in creating their own future.

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