Two budding entrepreneurs share 2017 PioBiz prize

PioBiz competitors Nathan Maciag and Ashley Klopfenstein with President Bill Ruud

It was a competition between cupcakes and websites on Friday afternoon during the second annual PioBiz Business Plan Competition.

Nathaniel Maciag ’18 (Marietta, Ohio), a theatre and English double major, and Ashley Klopfenstein ’20 (Cicero, Indiana), a finance and public accounting double major, unveiled their business plans to the panel of three judges in the Timothy O. Cooper Auditorium in Thomas Hall. Dozens of students, staff, administrators and community members also attended the presentation.

Maciag’s business idea was for the Slice of Life bakery, which he will operate in downtown Marietta with his sister, Rebecca Hall, who currently works at a bakery in Georgia. Klopfenstein’s plan was for Prime Business Resources, which connects local businesses in need of social media, web design and web maintenance support with high school students looking to utilize their skills in those areas through paid, contracted work.

Both students delivered near-perfect pitches to the panel — consisting of Faith Knutsen, Associate Director of Operations of TechGROWTH Ohio at Ohio University's Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, Bryan Waller, local entrepreneur and owner of JaniSource, and Dr. Judy Ruud, an attorney and adjunct professor of Media Law and Ethics at Marietta College — which led to both budding entrepreneurs earning a share of the $10,000 prize. Maciag’s portion was $7,500 and Klopfenstein’s portion was $2,500.

“Rebecca and I were planning on opening a bakery anyway and this was an opportunity you’d have to be crazy to pass up,” Maciag said, referring to the PioBiz opportunity.

The bakery’s initial menu will be based on cookies, cupcakes, cake pops and specialty cakes. Maciag’s presentation included the type of environment — colorful, lively and urban — that his eatery would have, as well as a micro and macroeconomic look at its feasibility.

“The local economy supports small businesses, especially eateries very well. We have the ability to corner the market as a bakery locally … the idea of a bakery fits very well with the vision that downtown Marietta (has),” he said.

Klopfenstein’s business idea sprang from personal experience.

“I was in high school and I was developing all these skills that I wanted to use but none of the businesses wanted to give me the chance,” she said. “I researched this with local businesses in Marietta and I saw that there is a need, and that Prime (Business Resources) will be able to help local businesses and local high schoolers.”

After researching the needs of local businesses and what services the owners would be willing to pay for, she also examined what labor force would be available. From there, she created a business plan.

“I kept referring back to my three main goals for the business,” she said. “First, provide students with valuable work experience, which, I think allowing them to work with local businesses and on digital marketing definitely fulfilled one of my goals. Also, helping local businesses expand by providing them digital marketing services that they need to acquire new customers. And, finally, I’ll be able to stimulate the local economy by hiring local students and serving local businesses, I think it will keep the money locally and really help the economy in Marietta.”

After deliberating for about 10 minutes, the judges returned to the auditorium and gave each presenter feedback on their business plans, including some of the challenges that still need considered.

“Kudos to you, you did an excellent job presenting, “ Knutsen said to both Maciag and Klopfenstein just before the results were announced. “I saw a lot of vibrancy and the willingness to work all hours without pay — all of the kinds of things and the challenges that you are going to face.”

Waller provided specific feedback to each entrepreneur. For Klopfenstein, he explained that her contractors — high school students — would need vetted for skill and work ethic in order for her business to succeed.

“One of my real good friends owns a business in Columbus, Ohio, doing what you’re wanting to do. She’s extremely successful — she’s ‘printing money’ right now in this business — but her quality is world-class,” Waller said.

For Maciag, Waller gave some insight into the cost it would take to bring the location of the baker up to the city’s code.

“I have concerns or feedback on space and renovation costs,” Waller said. “I know that building very well — been in and out of it. I think you’re going to have huge costs. You’re going to have parking; you’re going to have all these issues. I’ve dealt with all these commissions since I was in diaper pins almost. So, I know they can be very challenging. And I think wholesale (selling baked goods in bulk to local businesses) would be a good potential pathway for you.”

Ruud praised both for their quality presentations and affirmed that both businesses would be welcomed additions to the Marietta area.

“I was very impressed by their presentations and their ideas,” she said after the ceremonial checks were dispersed. “The most exciting thing about this is that they are both just starting out and have these wonderful ideas already. They’re going to be hugely successful.”