Click here for the original publication by Cheryl V. Jackson in the Chicago Tribune
Leave it to a Midwestern entrepreneur to take seed capital literally: Iowa inventor Joshua Doering’s Seed Slide farm gadget took first place at a Future Founders pitch event in Chicago. Doering is co-founder and marketing director of Seed Slide and a junior at Sioux City’s Morningside College. He helped create the gadget that, with the help of a forklift, remotely opens 1.5-ton seed boxes. It spares farmers from having to climb ladders to empty seed into planters, he said.
“Growing up on a farm, I watched my dad and grandpa have to climb up on top of 10-feet-tall wagons to unload 3,000-pound seed boxes, risking falling and breaking bones,” he said during his pitch. Doering won $5,000 in the Future Founders second annual U.Pitch College Elevator Pitch Competition on Monday and said he and partner business partner John Platte, owner of manufacturer Central Iowa Powder Coating, would use the money for marketing. The pair sold 30 of the devices last year, he said. They sell for $850.
The competition, produced by youth entrepreneurship program Future Founders, had two rounds, one with 24 semifinalists and a final round with the top six pitches. An audience of 300 supporters also got advice from judge and “Shark Tank” co-star Daymond John, who stressed the importance of research. “It’s always going to be analytics,” he said. “It’s going to be your homework, because you’re never going to create anything new in the world. You’re just going to create another form of delivery, or you’re going to find a new market.”
The finalists presented 90-second pitches then answered questions from judges.
The semifinalists offered products and services such as Date in a Crate, a monthly subscription service that delivers a themed date night box to customers, and SpeechMasterPro, a device used to improve speech articulation.
Sheldon Barrett, a University of Florida student who created the Cocovana coconut opening tool won the $3,000 second-place prize Monday. Third place and $2,000 went to Sam Lukach, a University of Wisconsin at Whitewater student who founded Huk TV mounts.
Other finalists included Thomas Reese, a University of Illinois student and founder of FlipWord, a passive foreign language learning tool that replaces a few words on websites with those of a foreign language of the user’s choosing, and Aaron Brown, a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology, for solar charger company Lumia International.
The nonprofit Future Founders encourages students to pursue entrepreneurship. “All the work we do is about inspiring and empowering youth as early as elementary school all the way through college age to make sure they have people to talk to and places to go and have the tool kit with all the skills they’re going to need to be successful in this economy,” CEO Scott Issen said.
Cheryl V. Jackson is a freelance writer.
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