Fowler Business Concept Challenge Awards $39,000 in Scholarships

University of St. Thomas students entered more than 60 business concepts that were judged in the fourth annual Fowler Business Concept Challenge held Oct. 19 at the university’s Schulze School of Entrepreneurship.

The concepts were submitted by teams of one to three students. The top four teams in the undergraduate and graduate divisions were awarded St. Thomas scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per person.

A total of $39,000 in scholarships was awarded this year. Over the past four years, 559 students have participated and $182,000 in scholarships has been awarded.

The Fowler Business Concept Challenge is named for 1966 St. Thomas graduate Ron Fowler, chairman and CEO of Liquid Investments Inc. Gifts to the university from Fowler and Alan Bignall  have made the annual competitions possible.

“Entrepreneurship has been what my life is all about, and we want to encourage people to do that,” Fowler said. “This country is going to grow by small business people coming up with new ideas and taking them to market. That’s what this is all about.”

Students who participate in the challenge develop and submit a business concept that has the potential to become a viable, high-growth business. Entries are judged on their originality, clear and compelling value proposition, competitive advantage, market opportunity and feasibility.

In addition to Fowler, this year’s judges were Ben Anderson, founder and CEO of Cinemotion; Ann Winblad of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners; Dennis McFadden of Ativa Medical; Jeff Liebl of TST Media; and other leading entrepreneurs.

This year’s winners are:

Graduate Division

  • Aaron Engler - first place ($10,000 scholarship) plus “best presenter award” ($1,000 scholarship) for his concept, “Coach” (a restaurant manager data consolidation dashboard).
  • David Berglund - second place ($5,000 scholarship) for his concept, “SmartPark.”
  • Kasey Grams and Jennifer Victor-Larsen - third place ($2,500 scholarship) for their concept, “Art Space.”
  • Matt Joyce - fourth place ($1,000 scholarship) for his concept, “Crowd Digs.”

Undergraduate Division

  • Keona Tranby - first place ($10,000 scholarship) for her concept, “Pink Bow City Fashion Truck” (a fashion truck featuring handmade, vintage-inspired clothing).
  • Jesse Stone and Mariann Kukielka - second place ($5,000 scholarship) plus “best presenter awards” ($1,000 scholarship) for their concept, “Superhero Simulation Service.”
  • Joe Famalette - third place ($2,500 scholarship) for his concept, “One Music Portal.”
  • Dennis Gisch, Jacob Rocheford, Benjamin Bloomquist - fourth place ($1,000 scholarship) for their concept, “ConnecTherapy.”