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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Brewed ideas challenge awards $21,000 to student winners

Photo by Elena Fiegen
Olwapelumi Oguntade, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, won the first prize in the “social business track” for her Nigerian women’s clothing line Oluomo.

The Brewed Ideas Challenge awarded a total of $21,000 among six prizes Friday during the annual competition in the 707 Hub from 1- 5 p.m.

In the categories of social innovation track and traditional business track, first place winners were awarded $7,500. The second place prizes were $2,000 and $1,000 each went to the audience choice prize and the Brady Corporation Innovation Prize. This money came entirely from the Brady Corporation, Kelsey Otero, associate director of the 707 Hub’s Social Innovation Initiative, said. The Brady Corporation has been working with the 707 Hub for the past six years.

The Brady Corporation is “a manufacturer of products for identifying components used in workplaces,” and is based in Milwaukee. It manufactures signs, printers and other office technology, according to its website. 

“This is a longstanding partnership,” Otero said. “We matched the Brady mentor with the finalist based on area of expertise”

A total of five groups competed in each business track. The social innovation track included REVIVE; a company for upcycled products made from campus-collected plastics, Sol Flame, a company providing solar vendors with electric stoves to allow for smoke-free cooking, The Hub MKE, a used bike shop in the Near West Side; TEDxMarquette U, a student-led initiative to bring speaking events to campus and Oloumo, a company specializing in made-to-fit Nigerian women’s fashion.

The traditional business track included ConfIdence, a curated box service that delivers care packages of self-motivation and stress relief; Liv a Little Vegan Ice Cream, a  homemade vegan-friendly ice cream company; MU Clippers, a mobile barber service; Togs R&D Technologies, a company researching health-related impacts of hemp and finding future applications for the plant; and The Locker Room, a personalized sports website that allows users to get sports news about any combination of their favorite teams.

Olivia Menzia, a senior in the College of Communication, won the first-place prize in the traditional business track for her vegan ice cream company Liv A Little Vegan Ice Cream. She said she has big plans for her cash prize.

“I’m excited to expand my business even more,” Menzia said. “We’re hoping to buy more ice cream machines and start selling at vegan restaurants.”

Claire Heneghan, a senior in the College of Health Sciences, was Menzia’s roommate last year and said she came out to support Menzia’s business proposal, as well as hear the other business pitches.

“Outside of even supporting the people we knew who were doing it, I was really interested in some of the ideas,” Heneghan said. “They’re insane and it’s crazy that Marquette students are doing this type of thing so close to us.”

Oluwapelumi Oguntade, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, won the first-place prize in the social business track for her Nigerian women’s clothing line OLUOMO.

“I’m just so grateful for my family, my mom for helping and supporting me, and for everyone at the 707 Hub for helping my idea come to life,” Oguntade said. “We definitely need to hire more tailors now.”

Katherine Hovland, a freshman in the College of Arts & Science, said she is a friend of Oguntade and came to support her. She even had the opportunity to model some Oluomo clothing. But she said she found many other ideas presented interesting as well business.

The audience choice award was given to theConfIdence team for the self-motivation and stress relief box. It also won second place for the traditional business track award. The team consisted of Mae Haggerty, a senior in the College of Business Administration, Isaac Feil, a senior in the College of Business Administration, Jonathan Constantine, a senior in the College of Health Sciences and Pan Roumeliotis, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences.

There were four judges in the competition: Thomas Felmer, the president of Workplace Safety at the Brady Corporation; Katie Milbeck, the senior manager of the Innovation Incubator at Brady Corporation, Asim Khan, a 1998 Marquette alum and co-founder of ZYN Holistic Wellness; and Marianne Szymanski, a 1989 Marquette alum and Founder and President at Toy Tips Inc.

The judges evaluated the contestants by giving them a score out of five points in multiple categories, including whether they are solving a significant problem (in terms of money or social impact), if they have evidence that the solution is validated, whether they identify their target market, whether they understand their funding needs and the impact of Brewed Ideas Challenge seed funding and if the idea and team “stood out.”

The judges took an hour to deliberate the results after the presentations while a small reception with refreshments was provided to the audience. The winners were announced at 4:30 p.m.

Milbeck said this competition is “extremely important” for Marquette students.

“It gives people an idea of how to run a business, because when you look at the projects they’re like mini businesses within themselves,” Milbeck said. “It gives them the opportunity to present in front of a large audience, which is very nerve-wracking. It’s just great that it allows them to see all aspects of taking an idea from a thought to a business pitch.”

Otero said students have been working with mentors from the Brady Corporation for months perfecting their ideas. The mentors listened to the students ideas and met with them continuously to give advice and explain how to further improve their businesses.

“It’s great for students to have this opportunity to learn from people working in the field and learn how to start a viable business,” Otero said.

Megan Carver, associate director for the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship, said the Brewed Ideas Challenge has awarded more than $100,000 to students over the past six years.

“We’ve seen students go on to really grow their businesses with this grant,” Carver said. “It’s a really great opportunity we have here.”

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