Students ready to square off in 2nd annual PioBiz competition

PioBiz competitors

Two Marietta College students will compete for the chance to receive up to $10,000 for startup expense reimbursements and in-kind services for their burgeoning business as part of the second annual PioBiz Business Plan Competition from 4:00-5:15 p.m., Friday, March 31st, in the Timothy O. Cooper Auditorium in Thomas Hall.

In just over an hour Friday, either Ashley Klopfenstein ’20 (Cicero, Indiana) of Prime Business Resources or Nathaniel Maciag ’18 (Marietta, Ohio) of Slice of Life Bakery will be provided with the resources to jumpstart their entrepreneurial ventures.

“Both of these students have made it through the first round of competition by submitting acceptable business plans,” said Dr. Jacqueline Khorassani, Chair of the Business & Economics Department, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs and Lead Organizer of the PioPitch and PioBiz programs. “On March 31, each competitor will be given about 10 minutes to present his/her plan in an open session and another 10 minutes to respond to questions asked by each of our three judges. The three judges will then take about 10 minutes to make a decision and announce the winner.”

The judges will review and evaluate Klopfenstein’s and Maciag’s plans based on their creativity and entrepreneurial vision, the degree of feasibility and sustainability of their proposed project, among other factors.

Klopfenstein’s Prime Business Resources utilizes high school students as contract employees to provide local businesses with digital marketing services.

“The business is designed to provide students with a way to gain relevant work experience while still in high school, while also providing local businesses with digital marketing services at a reasonable price so they can grow their business,” Klopfenstein said.

She said her motivation to start her business came from the lack of opportunities for high school students to get meaningful work experience in the business field.

“I was really motivated by my own frustration with finding a job while in high school,” she said. “Currently, students don’t have many employment options beyond food service and retail, yet they are learning business skills in school that could be utilized in the workforce. Students are missing out not being able to utilize their skills and further develop them, and businesses are missing out on their unique skill set and perspective.”

Though high school may be an early point in one’s life to be inspired to start a business, the inspiration for Maciag’s bakery can be traced all the way back to his childhood. 

“The catalyst for the bakery would have started with my sister and I making elaborate multi-tiered cakes out of Play-Doh as children,” he said. “Add a decade and mix in some careful planning, sibling rivalry, and a pinch of culinary school and you get Slice of Life Bakery.”

Both Klopfenstein and Maciag already have their sights set on what they would be able to acquire to progress their businesses if they were to win the competition.

While Klopfenstein said she would utilize the funding to pay for some basic contracts that she could utilize with clients to outline her services, Maciag hopes to be able to work on retrofitting the bakery’s future location with missing key accessories, appliances and décor, including an industrial grade oven, freezer and tables to go along with the seating.

The main ​impact of this business plan competition will be the development of a new business in the local economy. Aside from potentially creating new local jobs as the business expands, the competition also allows Marietta College to work collaboratively with local business leaders and contribute to the community's economic development.

Klopfenstein and Maciag both believe they will be able to uniquely contribute to the local community by bringing goods and services not yet offered to interested individuals.

“You can count on one hand the number of businesses owned and operated by people under the age of 30 in downtown Marietta,” Maciag said. “There are even fewer businesses owned or operated by Marietta College alumni in downtown. With that in mind we aim to inject a fresh dose of vitality in the area and act as a tether between the College and the community. We also plan to bring a more urban aesthetic that stands apart from the typical rustic concept that is so prevalent in the Mid-Ohio Valley.”

While Maciag wants to strengthen the connection between Marietta students and the local community, Klopfenstein hopes to bridge the divide between students wanting to work and businesses that could benefit from employing them.

“One reason I think my business sticks out is because I’m employing students that don’t have many other employment opportunities,” she said. “I think my business will really show that utilizing student’s talents is both beneficial for the students’ education but also the businesses’ profitability. I also think it stands out because it is part of a growing industry that is not very developed in the Marietta area. Nationally, the size of the digital marketing industry is growing, but many of the local businesses I met with expressed that they knew they weren’t doing enough of it.”

No matter who is declared the winner of the competition, a few things are already clear. Both Klopfenstein and Maciag have developed business plans that, based on personal experience, they are steadfastly invested in and hope to be able to develop and execute to benefit members of the local Marietta community.  

“Ashley and Nathaniel have worked hard on their business plans,” Khorassani said. “I wish them both the best.”

PioBiz presentations are free and open to the public.