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Huskers Collaborate to Create Businesses at 48-Hour Challenge

University Students Compete for Cash Prizes by Building Functional Startups
Huskers Collaborate to Create Businesses at 48-Hour Challenge
Huskers from across campus competed in the 48-Hour Challenge, Feb. 15-17, in Howard L. Hawks Hall.

Twenty-three University of Nebraska–Lincoln students worked together to bring new start-up business ideas to life during the Center for Entrepreneurship 48-Hour Challenge. Collaborating with students in a variety of majors across the university while under strict time constraints, they competed by developing and pitching a new business to win cash prizes.

“The 48-Hour Challenge is a unique opportunity for students to stretch themselves and find out how far they can go with a business idea in just a few days. Teams naturally form around compelling concepts, and students are pushed beyond their comfort zones to find data and potential customers to validate their product idea,” said Samantha Fairclough, associate director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management. “Feedback from community mentors is a key part of the process, helping them refine their business models and fostering connections that extend beyond the event.”

The Street Eats student team celebrated their first-place finish.
The Street Eats student team celebrated their first-place finish.

Students represented several colleges and programs across campus including the College of Business, Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, College of Engineering and more.

“Participating in the 48-Hour Challenge showed me how my skills are compatible with those of other students,” said Micah Fullinfaw, a senior emerging media arts student from Omaha, Nebraska. “I learned how important it is to work with people of different backgrounds and skill sets.”

Fullinfaw pitched an idea for a smart pantry on the first day of the competition. He then found five students to join his team for the competition.

“Over the two days, we constantly pivoted our idea until we landed on a new, solid business plan,” he said. “Restaurants would pay to be featured on an app called FOODI and users would connect with each other over their pursuit of finding new restaurants,” he said.

The competition was also offered as a one-credit pop-up course. Called the 48-Hour Challenge: Building Entrepreneurial Teams and Testing Ideas (ENTR 325), the class allowed students to earn credit for developing a business.

Open to all students in any major across the university, competitors had the opportunity to leverage the expertise of local entrepreneurs in person and others outside of Nebraska via Zoom. Emily Kist, '22, venture and innovation associate at Nelnet in St. Paul, Minnesota, helped guide and mentor students.

“Participating in new business startup competitions is so important for students because it teaches them how to navigate the framework of starting a new venture. They get to practice things like customer discovery, market research, storytelling, building a pitch deck and more, which are the most essential steps to starting a company,” Kist said.

She added that even if the idea isn’t going to be a billion-dollar startup, it will teach them essential skills for when they are ready to build the next successful venture.

“I love mentoring these students because I can really help them build those fundamental skills and help narrow down their ideas. Additionally, they are so fun to work with and bring so much passion and really creative ideas to the table,” she said.

Jonathan Gerdes, senior civil engineering major from Lincoln, Nebraska, participated in the challenge to push his skills and create the most viable business within a limited timeframe. He worked with Street Eats, an event production company that strategically gathers food trucks in a centralized location to offer amenities from entertainment to food and beverages.

Stephanie Dinger, vice president of small business banking at Union Bank, mentored students.
Stephanie Dinger, vice president of small business banking at Union Bank, mentored students.

“A significant amount of time was dedicated to understanding our customers and their problems. This provided a greater likelihood of devising a viable and effective solution,” said Gerdes. “Our cohesive strength was rooted in respect for individual competencies, facilitating a collaborative evaluation of all aspects of our business. This approach enabled us to reach a consensus, effectively addressing challenges and contributing to our success.”

The 48-Hour Challenge helps students prepare for the next competition in the center's signature series: the 37th Annual New Venture Competition, held April 16 and 18. Open to all undergraduate and graduate students at the university, the New Venture Competition is where students pitch their business plans to win a total of $47,500 and have a chance to earn an additional investment of $25,000 from the Husker Venture Fund.

Fairclough and the team at the center invite all students to participate in the competitions and to come visit the center located on the third floor in the College of Business at Howard L. Hawks Hall.

“The New Venture Competition is a great way to get out of your comfort zone, connect with your peers and local innovators and entrepreneurs, and get feedback on an idea. We're here to help any student pursue something they are passionate about through connecting them with mentors and pre-competition workshops starting in March,” said Mallory Krenk, student engagement and recruitment coordinator for the Center for Entrepreneurship.

The Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship is a hub for students of all majors who want to pursue their ideas for a business, dream of owning a franchise or taking over their family business, or exploring their career options. Interested students should visit

48-Hour Challenge winners include:

First Place: Street Eats, a designated food truck park in Lincoln

  • Jonathan Gerdes, senior civil engineering major from Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Brennon Overbeek, senior computer science major from Lincoln
  • Paige Perrone, '23, advertising and public relations graduate from Papillion, Nebraska
  • Mohanendra Siddha, graduate student in computer science from Visakhapatnam, India
  • Kyran Thomas, senior accounting major from Lincoln
  • Andrew Wellman, senior accounting major from Waco, Nebraska

Second Place: FOODI, a platform that connects foodies to local restaurants

  • Micah Fullinfaw, junior emerging media arts major from Omaha, Nebraska
  • Shahd Khourshed, freshman computer science major from Lincoln
  • Eddie Sicilia, senior Clifton Builders management and marketing major from Cancún, Mexico
  • Braden Starck, junior Clifton Builders management and finance major from Edwardsville, Illinois
  • Divyn Williams, senior business administration major from Omaha
  • Maci Wilson, senior computer science major from Omaha

Third Place: BitVoyage, an interest-based travel booking website equipped with artificial intelligence

  • Alexah Fort, junior emerging media arts major from Sidney, Nebraska
  • Benjamin Frasier, sophomore computer science major from Omaha
  • Hannah Gish, sophomore emerging media arts major from Lincoln
Published: February 27, 2024