10 'ideas' recognized during the first round of Marietta College's PioBiz competition

The entrepreneurial mindset that flows throughout the Marietta College student body was on full display on Friday, December 1st when students presented 21 different for- and non-profit business projects during the first round of this year’s PioBiz competition.

Competing students presented their business ideas to three judges and more than 50 members of the College and Mid-Ohio Valley community in Thomas 209. For this first round of competition, participants had two minutes to identify and describe a problem in the Mid-Ohio Valley and present their proposed solution.

The top 10 presenters were awarded $100 and in-kind support as they continue to develop their business proposal.

The winners of the first round were: Jake Duvall ’18 (Shadyside, Ohio), Courtney Knoch ’18 (Marietta, Ohio), Anni Kubala ’18 (Fleming, Ohio), Aaron Smith ’18 (Erie, Pennsylvania), Tianhui Cao ’19 (Shanghai, China), Drew Layton ’19 (Whipple, Ohio), Melvin Shuler ’19 (Westerville, Ohio), Josh Caldwell ’20 (Marietta, Ohio) and Emma Luciano ’21 (Milford, Ohio).

Knoch was selected for two distinct ideas — Food Truck Hub and Diverse MOV.

Depending on the nature of the business ideas, in-kind support will come from industry experts and entrepreneurial support organizations that can provide assistance to winning individuals and teams in developing prototypes, conducting proof of concept, conducting market research, protecting intellectual property, recruiting additional team members, and connecting with mentors.

The in-kind support that is being offered to winners is a new addition to the PioBiz competition that is meant to help students further refine and develop their ideas throughout the year.

“We realized that students could use more support, guidance, and encouragement throughout the process,” said Dr. Jacqueline Khorassani, Professor of Economics and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. “For that reason, we divided the competition into three rounds. Students receive guidance from faculty, mentors, and coaches as they develop their ideas step-by-step before and after each round of the competition.”

With more than 30 applications for presentation and 21 presentations made during the first round of the competition, Khorassani was thrilled at the diversity of students and ideas that were a part of the December round of PioBiz.

“I was excited to see students with a variety of academic backgrounds and interests presenting a wide range of problems and solutions,” she said.

One of those ideas was Duvall’s BarKart. Developed with his friend, classmate and fraternity brother Patrick Moran ’18 (Gahanna, Ohio), Duvall said that BarKart is a pretty self-explanatory business concept: a ride-hailing service that provides students a safe ride between campus and downtown on the weekends via a golf cart.

With the incentive of being able to receive support through funding and expert guidance, Duvall said he and Moran were easily motivated to finally pursue actualizing a business that they have talked about for years.

“We first tossed the idea around and joked with MCPD (Marietta College’s Police Department) during sophomore year,” Duvall said. “Pat and I both have more time on our hands this year, so we, at first jokingly, said we should do this and filled out the application to compete. We became confident that we could put together a pretty good business plan.”

Duvall and Moran’s confidence stemmed, in part,  from the informal research they had conducted that seemed to solidify the validity of their business project.

"There's really no Uber around, and after talking with a lot of students and asking them their thoughts about it, we came to the consensus that people really would pay for this service, that this would be a worthwhile service to have that would also be a safer option for students going out on the weekends," Duvall said.

The guys behind BarKart and other first-round winners are already working to refine their proposed solutions as they look ahead to the next round of competition, being held on Friday, February 2, which will focus on business solutions’ proof of concept.

For the next round of competition in February, students have up to 5 minutes to describe or show their solutions in more detail and convince the judges and the members of the audience that their proposed solutions are feasible or marketable and can potentially fill a gap and benefit many people.

Already beginning to develop their proposal further, Duvall and Moran are using the next two months to prepare for the next round of PioBiz by working on a pricing model, looking for a heated golf cart, analyzing the legal requirements involved in making the carts street legal, and make further progress on their business plan.

Open to all Marietta students, regardless of whether or not they competed or won in Round 1 of the competition, the deadline to compete in Round 2 is Friday, January 26. The Top 5 winners of Round 2 will receive $250 and in-kind support.

The judges for Round 1 were Bryan Shaw, Jeremy Turner and David Williams. Shaw is a former business coach with the West Virginia Small Business Development Center and is the founder of the web development and business startup consulting company, Scaleable Ventures Inc. Turner is the founder and managing director of EPIC Mission, a coaching and consulting firm for entrepreneurs, nonprofits and small businesses. Williams is the co-founder and vice president of Managers Resource Group Inc.

The PioBiz Competition was made possible because of a generous grant received from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations