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Shark Tank Event Supports Young Entrepreneurs

Have you watched ABC’s hit television show “Shark Tank” and thought, “I would buy into that deal” or “what a simple concept, why didn’t I think of that”? This past winter I had the opportunity to be a “Shark”, not on the TV show, but for the 3rd Annual Business Model Contest hosted by the Alta Resources Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Although, a multimillion dollar deal was not on the line, the winning contestant was awarded a grand prize of $15,000 along with mentoring support to help make their dream a reality.

The idea for this event was conceived by Colleen Merrill, Executive Director of the Alta Resources Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The center’s mission is, “to inspire, educate and develop entrepreneurial leaders through world-class education, cutting-edge research and applied preparation, mentorship and public recognition.” Colleen recognizes the need for an entrepreneurial support structure in Northeast Wisconsin. She sees young entrepreneur’s who have big dreams, the drive and motivation but don’t necessarily have the financial or mentorship resources needed to help launch their business. To create community engagement, she came up with the idea of a competition. With support from local companies and successful entrepreneurs, she created this Business Model Contest or “Shark Tank” event.

For the first time, I was fortunate to be a guest “Shark” at this event along with Craig Culver from Culvers Restaurants, Kim Peterson Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer from Alta Resources, David Troupe Founder/CEO from Xensr and John Bartz from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. During the event, ten participants had three minutes to present their product or service, outline the business plan and explain why they deserved the grand prize. In turn, the “Sharks” had two minutes to challenge their business plan and ask questions about why their product or service was a game-changer or innovative. The entrepreneurial passion and energy was electric as each group took the stage to present in front of a packed house of peers and business leaders. The presentations covered a wide range of products including a “smart” pillow called “PiPillows”, a boat anchor called “Anchor Shock”, a system for growing green vegetables and fish called “Aquaponics”, and a 3D printed shot glass that looks like a golf ball called “Golf Shot”.

In the end, the grand prize was awarded to Richard Roehrick, for his war veteran rehabilitation clinic named Rebuild. Richard is a Marine Corps Veteran who is focused on solving the nation’s veteran suicide rate, health issues and physical needs. His unique philosophy encompasses physical therapy and counseling, along with strength and conditioning modalities. His primary goals are to help vets increase strength and functionality while reducing pain and building psychologically clarity and holistic lifestyles.

It’s very exciting to see this grassroots level of entrepreneurship in Northeast Wisconsin. The innovative growth of new products and services is the fabric of business and economic growth. Though all of these business start-ups may not succeed or take off to become the next Apple or Tesla, they are laying the ground work and the experiences that these visionary’s need as they enter the business world. They are taking it upon themselves to solve problems and fill a need. This is innovation economics at its best!

If you are interested in investing in any of the companies listed or would like more information, please contact me. I’d be happy to make some introductions!