International competition for startup businesses selects Marquette students as finalists

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International competition for startup businesses selects Marquette students as finalists

Garbis and Bowerman will go to Denmark in October for the competition.

Garbis and Bowerman will go to Denmark in October for the competition.

Garbis and Bowerman will go to Denmark in October for the competition.

Garbis and Bowerman will go to Denmark in October for the competition.

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Two Marquette students will be traveling to Denmark this October as finalists in an international competition for startup businesses.

The University Startup World Cup selected Rheana Garbis, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, and Graham Bowerman, a junior in the College of Business Administration, as finalists. The two are equal partners in Urban Food Connection, their business which aims to connect people who enjoy eating locally with local farmers through an app and website.

“This thing seems crazy, I haven’t even picked my major,” Garbis said. “Something’s out of order.”

Bowerman said though their business is in an early stage, it could grow into something big with more funding.

Garbis is operations manager of Vida Coffee, a student run business in West Allis, and Graham is president of Revamp Property Management Company. While working her job at Vida, Garbis heard about University Startup World Cup and thought it would be cool to compete in.

She worked with the mentors of Blue and Gold Ventures, Marquette’s student run business program, and started to brainstorm different business startups.

Garbis said the competition is like an international version of Shark Tank. Participants pitch their business ideas to a jury, and the winning team receives funding to develop its business with a team of professional mentors, Bowerman said.

The pair is one of 40 teams attending from around the world and one of four from the United States. While there, professional mentors help competitors perfect their pitches. During the four-day competition, they will pitch their businesses, participate in networking events and sightsee, Garbis said.

Neither Garbis nor Bowerman have left the United States before, so they are most looking forward to traveling to Denmark, they both said.

Garbis said the application process consisted of regular application questions like year in school as well as recording a test pitch and creating a pitch deck, which is a PowerPoint that guides a pitch.

“As an engineering student, I didn’t know what a pitch deck was, so I had to google that and then put that together,” Garbis said.

On top of that, the pair had to complete questions about sustainable development goals. The competition has 17 total goals, and they each represent a different category that teams compete under. For example, their category is sustainable cities and communities.

They found out they were finalists this summer over an email.

“I was ecstatic. I just think it’s really crazy. I can’t even put it into words,” Garbis said. “It’s just exciting.” 

Both Garbis and Bowerman worked at Blue & Gold Ventures, Inc., prior to hearing about the competition. The program offers students the opportunity to work for different companies around Milwaukee, including Event 1881 Productions, Revamp Property Management, Vida Coffee, Marquette Blockchain Lab and Eagle Incubator.

Because the competition is not affiliated with the university, Garbis and Bowerman do not get any funding from Marquette for their trip. They created a GoFundMe page called Students for a Green Planet.

The pair has raised $1,200, and Garbis said they hope to raise $2,500.

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