STORY BY CLARE VANECHAUTE
On Saturday, students participated in the 2014 Project Bulldog, sponsored by Drake University’s Enactus.
This is Project Bulldog’s second year in operation. It was inspired by ABC’s “Shark Tank,” a television show where up-and-coming businesses and entrepreneurs can plug their ideas to a panel of judges for financial backing.
Open to students of all majors, individuals were invited to register in groups of two to four.
These groups were then asked to generate an idea for a business venture to present to a gathered group of Des Moines and Iowa entrepreneurs, CEOs and business professionals. A few judges sitting on the panel this year were Chris Draper, CEO of Meidh Corporation, Scott Hoekman, principal of Next Level Ventures and Naren Bhojwani, winner of the inaugural Project Bulldog.
“We want to see how they plan to take an idea to a business,” Draper said.
Eight teams competed this year, representing existing businesses and new ventures for the first place prize of $500. Second and third place winners received $250 and $150, respectively. An award was also offered to an “audience choice” winner who received $100.
The pitches ranged from an idea to link athletes to fitness coaches to an app that will help plan dates.
“There were eight very different, unique ideas, which were very cool to hear,” Bhojwani said.
These ideas were judged against the criteria of novelty and originality, whether the venture could be funded under $1 million and if it could be realistically implemented — locally and, ultimately, globally.
“It’s great for professionals to see Drake students passionate about business,” said Maryna Rath, president of Drake’s Enactus.
Elected for the 2014 fall semester, Rath feels that Enactus has an important mission.
“We work within the community,” Rath said. “It gets everyone involved.”
Each group had 10 minutes to pitch their ideas, after which, the judges talked with the group and gave criticisms.
“We all had very encouraging things to say, as well as holes to poke,” Bhojwani said.
This year’s winner was Kai Asberry, a junior law, politics and society and international relations double major, who pitched an idea he calls “Tailored.”
“It’s kind of like the ‘Uber’ of tailoring,” Asberry said.
Uber is an online service and mobile app that connects users to a taxi driver.
The idea came to Asberry after recently buying an ill-fitting suit that needed to be taken in to his specific measurements.
He searched for a good tailor but was left feeling disappointed.
“I realized it would be so much easier if a tailor came to me.”
Asberry’s idea centers around a website or mobile app that would drastically cut down on the amount of time it typically takes for a proper tailoring. Tailors usually keep clothes for 10-14 days, when the actual process of hemming and sewing takes much less time.
Both Draper and Bhojwani hope that this program did more than just expose students to product pitching. During the event, students received advice, suggestions and worked with successful business professionals.
“At the end of the day, it’s about people,” Draper said. “The venture itself is secondary.”