A record-breaking number of 108 University of Nebraska–Lincoln students showed their entrepreneurial, communication and presentation skills at the 15th annual 3-2-1 Quick Pitch competition, Nov. 9. Hosted by the Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship, the event gives students representing all colleges on campus a platform to deliver a three-minute business idea to volunteer judges for the chance to win cash prizes totaling $12,000.
Thirty-six entrepreneurs became Quick Pitch winners by giving one of three top pitches among 12 competition groups. In addition to cash prizes, they earned guaranteed spots in the center’s New Venture Competition in April and have the potential for further investment from the student-led Husker Venture Fund.
“After doing this for 15 years, I've seen the amazing things past competitors are now doing. A lot of them would say they got their start doing something like this — putting themselves out there in front of a row of successful business people serving as judges and sharing their ideas. It's a big thing for our students to do because they are used to only giving presentations in a classroom setting, and they get a great deal out of the experience,” said Samuel Nelson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management.
Nelson and the center’s faculty and staff purposefully pushed students outside their comfort zones by hosting the event’s 12 competition “rooms” in hallways around Howard L. Hawks Hall. Hosted for the first time in the home of the College of Business, repeat competitors felt how changing the venue impacted their experience.
Seth Wright, a junior agribusiness major from Petersburg, Nebraska, pitched for a third year in the competition with his business Scrappy Woodworks. As a student in the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, he often gets opportunities to advance his business but not in such a nontraditional setting.
“When I walked in and saw that the competition spaces were in hallways, I thought, ‘Oh boy, this is going to be odd!’” he said. “It’s a lot harder to do this than to talk to one person in a room, but it’s easier to pitch anywhere now that I work on this business on a day-to-day basis.”
Tyeisha Thompson, a senior entrepreneurship and innovation-management major from Lincoln, agreed that the new location tested her presentation skills.
“I’m grateful the Center for Entrepreneurship gets me out of my bubble. They really push you and get you out of your comfort zone, and they do it because they are pushing you to become the best version of yourself,” she said.
Thompson’s pitch highlighted her post-graduation plans of transforming foster care youth’s bedrooms into safe havens and helped her overcome a naysayer.
“I was telling someone how much I love interior design, and she said you can’t really do much with it that can change the world. I sat down and thought about how I could take this interest of mine and really impact people’s lives. I came up with this idea and will be able to do it while starting my full-time job at Jenda Family Services in December,” she said.
Like all of the center’s programming, the competition meets students where they are in their entrepreneurial journey. For example, Deva Pushkaran, a computer science and mathematics major from Lincoln, drew from his drone research in high school and, more recently, for Nimbus Labs to pitch a business idea.
“I pitched a drone delivery service for medications. It's not necessarily a business yet, but I based it around research I've done,” said Pushkaran, a member of the center’s inaugural Entrepreneurship Catalysts first-year scholarship program. “It was nerve-wracking as I'm not great at public speaking. However, it was worth it to get the judges' feedback. I had been coming at this idea from the academia side and am used to grant-related questions like, ‘How are you going to create an impact?’ Pitching it on the business side, I got many questions I may not have considered, like revenue and business models. It was valuable to see the contrast between the two.”
Receiving the judges' feedback presents a win-win for all competitors. If they win, they walk away with prize money, but even if they don’t, they still get valuable feedback from judges like Rod Roberts, ‘85.
“I loved the variety of ideas – some were way out there and others very practical. Our winners have a good chance of success if they take it further,” said Roberts, chief operating officer of Right at Home in-home care and assistance. “Nebraska is where I started my career. Taking a franchise studies class changed my career path, and I loved coming back to work with students starting their ventures.”
To learn more about the next Center for Entrepreneurship event – 48-Hour Challenge – or other upcoming competitions, stop by HLH 315 or visit: https://entrepreneurship.unl.edu.
Quick Pitch winners are listed below by hometown:
Ainsworth: Sam Wilkins, agricultural engineering major
Bennington: Zakaria Rab, software engineering major
Elkhorn: Gage Cammack, computer science major
Elwood: Alivia Knoerzer, management major
Firth: Hannah Hurt, marketing major
Fremont: Elise Estudillo, accounting major
Genoa: Samantha Weeder, agribusiness major
Gothenburg: Seth Daup, finance major
Grand Island: Kenny Morales, software engineering major
Grant: Danielle Burge, animal science major
Kearney: Logan Greeno, fisheries and wildlife major
Lincoln: Kyra Boesiger, Clifton Builders management and marketing major; Joseph Flodman, marketing major; Lena Lankas, computer science and mathematics major; Patrick McManigal, ph.d. student in computer engineering; Tyeisha Thompson, management major; Elijah Riley, agriculture and environmental sciences communication major
Louisville: Langdon Kohn, management major
Mead: Abby Miller, animal science major
Murdock: Nathan Lockman, professional golf management major
Omaha: Josie Golka, advertising and public relations major; Malaika Opiyo, business administration major; Joseph Seibel, computer science and mathematics major; Maci Wilson, computer science major
Ord: Victoria Ference, agricultural education major
Papillion: Lane Rainforth, business administration major
Petersburg: Seth Wright, agribusiness major
Rising City: Alexa Carter, agricultural education major
Stapleton: Lance Jones, agribusiness major
Syracuse: Madison Kreifels, agricultural and environmental sciences communication major
Unadilla: Sydney Wellsandt, animal science major
Lyons, Colorado: Mia VanLeeuwen, communications major
Wheaton, Illinois: Clara Delzell, data science and economics major
Pierz, Minnesota: Matthias Algarin, management major
Wuxi, China: Liya Mo, ph.d. student in food science and technology
Cancún, Mexico: Eddie Sicilia, management and marketing major
Published: November 14, 2023