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swimming with sharks team on stage

Swimming with the Sharks – TU Hosts Third Annual Pitch Competition

Last Thursday (December 9), TU students enrolled in Dr. Kellie McGilvray’s Marketing 354 course (“Personal Selling”) did something a little unorthodox for their final project of the semester. Instead of taking an exam or writing a research paper, these brave souls strapped on some scuba gear and paid tribute to a certain hit television show on ABC. That’s right, just like countless other hopeful entrepreneurs before them, these students entered the infamous shark tank and pitched their business ideas to a group of hungry investors, competing with each other to convince these predators that their ideas are worth sinking teeth (and funding) into. 

The event was officially referred to as the “Tiffin University Third Annual Pitch Competition,” and while it may have been reminiscent of a television show, there was nothing staged about it. The pitches, investors and of course, the stakes were very real. Thursday’s competition acted as the culmination of an entire semester of hard work, wherein student teams identified the need for a product or service, came up with a business plan addressing said need, researched current industry trends, designed branded logos and slogans, calculated manufacturing costs, etc. Not to mention the ample time spent rehearsing pitches for a crowd of distinguished, business-oriented guests involved in the greater Tiffin community.

After an initial vetting / voting process, the sharks ultimately named six finalists whose’ business plans most intrigued them. The top six teams were given the privilege of presenting to an auditorium full of TU community members, townspeople and most importantly, sharks. The top six businesses were named, “TUnity,” “Community Connections,” “Graduation Gala,” “College Cares,” “KENA Nutrition” and “Dragon Mart.”

Cash prizes were awarded to each of the finalists, with the first place prize being $1,000, generously donated by Jeff Knedler, President of Hempy Water. In addition to this monetary incentive, the possibility of being approached by one of the sharks in the audience existed for each of the top six, only adding to the pressure. They knew these investors had the means to get their businesses off the ground, and recognized the value of having a seasoned industry professional to consult with.

The members of each group believed in the merit of their ideas, as many of their plans were specifically designed to benefit TU’s campus and surrounding areas. Their passion was tangible as they gave their presentations, and it was evident that this desire to succeed was rooted not in personal gain, but in sparking positive change. Each team’s business model was built upon the premise of helping others in some way – from crushing the stigma(s) surrounding mental health issues (College Cares) to aiding those seeking to live a healthier lifestyle (KENA).

After each presentation, the sharks voted once more, and ultimately, KENA Nutrition emerged victorious in the competition, with Dragon Mart as the runner-up. A group of Calvert High School students had initially approached TU’s Dr. McGilvray with their idea, and even though the competition has traditionally been reserved for Tiffin undergraduates, Dr. McGilvray was so impressed by their preparedness and the ingenuity of their idea, that she made an exception. KENA Nutrition (given its namesake by combining the first letter of each group members’ name to make an acronym) is a nutritional supplement company, producing powders designed to replace meals, provide essential nutrients and aid in weight loss endeavors.

The Dragon Family extends its sincerest gratitude to our own Dr. McGilvray for organizing this event on behalf of her students, for living up to the TU slogan of “challenging conventional wisdom.” By coming up with and organizing this annual event, she has created a unique (and fun) way to not only educate her students, but help them form real professional connections before their graduation days. To watch the entire event, click here.

For more information about TU’s undergraduate and graduate Marketing programs click here.