JMU in the Community

Weekend entrepreneurship competition teaches valuable lessons


by Eric Gorton

 
image: /_images/news/2016/03/bizblitz.jpg
James Rollin, a junior ISAT major, discusses his business idea with Olga Gorlanova at the BizBlitz competition.

SUMMARY: The event, sponsored by the Shenandoah Valley Innovation Coalition, took place at the JMU Ice House and started with dinner and brainstorming on March 18. After narrowing down the ideas, the participants worked with coaches all day Saturday and Sunday to finalize their pitches.


Three JMU students present their idea for virtual reality gaming.
Patrick Haggerty, a senior public policy and administration major, along with Chris Katalinas and Caiti Wardlaw, senior graphic design majors, present their idea for virtual reality gaming at the BizBlitz competition.


Participating in an entrepreneurship contest may not be the most glamorous way to spend a weekend, but the experience was well worth it, said JMU students involved in BizBlitz from March 18-20.

"We gained practice, exposure and useful resources," said Caiti Wardlaw, a senior graphic design major.

Her team member, Patrick Haggerty, a senior public policy and administration major, said they came into the event asking, "What do we need going forward?" After hearing from professionals, they had a clearer direction of where they wanted to go.

Wardlaw and Haggerty, along with Chris Katalinas, a senior graphic design major, pitched "The Edge," a company focusing on virtual reality gaming.

"This was the first time we were comfortable enough to present this idea in virtual reality," Haggerty said. Their pitch came in second place behind Reflip, a pricing app for pawnshops and other stores.

"I didn't come with a pitch," said Jasmine Rountree, a graduate student working toward a master's of public administration and a Reflip team member. "The most important thing I learned is ‘ideas are cheap.' We had to find a niche."

The event, sponsored by the Shenandoah Valley Innovation Coalition, took place at the JMU Ice House and started with dinner and brainstorming on March 18. After narrowing down the ideas, the participants worked with coaches all day Saturday and Sunday to finalize their pitches.

James Rollin works on presenting his idea for Tiny Town Construction.
Rollin works on presenting his idea for Tiny Town Construction.

"BizBlitz provides a unique opportunity for individuals in the Shenandoah Valley to connect and engage in the startup experience," said Carol Hamilton, director of the JMU Center for Entrepreneurship. "Participants build confidence, courage and community, bolstering their future personal and professional endeavors." The Center for Entrepreneurship helped students pay the $75-per-person entry fee.

Another finalist was Chomp, an app focusing on flash deals for local restaurants and proposed by Connor Parsons, a freshman computer information systems and computer science double major. While originally pitching a machine that would track how much beer is left in a keg, Parsons, along with his teammates, adapted the idea to give it a broader application.The top four ideas were presented to a panel of judges comprised of Keith May, a broker and owner at Cottonwood Commercial Real Estate; Matt Von Schuch, an attorney at Wharton, Aldhizer & Weaver; and Kirsten Moore, an entrepreneur from The Hub Coworking.

The last team was Tiny Town Construction, a company focused on building green homes in Virginia between 500 and 600 square feet. The idea came from James Rollin, a junior integrated science and technology major.

"The idea stemmed from my senior thesis, where I am trying to design a tiny house," Rollin said. "This weekend was an experiment to see if I could potentially turn this into a business."

Nicky Swayne, CEO of the Shenandoah Valley Technology Council, said, "It's our goal to attract creative thinkers, tinkerers and makers of all ages, and we hope to continue to offer these kinds of events in the future. BizBlitz 2016 was successful and, in the end, what we're after is the creation and strengthening of an entrepreneurial and innovational ecosystem in the Shenandoah Valley."

The event awarded $1000 in cash and more than $20,000 in partnerships between the teams.


By Rachel Petty ('17), Communications & Marketing

Published: Monday, March 28, 2016

Last Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2016

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