Business Summit Provides Students the Opportunity to Pitch Ideas, Learn From Executives

Trey Closter and Clint Baldwin dream of opening a supplement business someday.

Nebraska Wesleyan University’s upcoming Business Summit Quick Pitch Contest gives them the perfect opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of professionals.

“Our service is to provide supplements in the customer’s desired quantity. We value our customer’s dollar and believe they should get the specific amount they want and pay for,” said Closter and Baldwin, both juniors.

The pair will have 90 seconds to pitch their idea to a panel of experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders, and then be questioned for a maximum of two minutes following their presentation, much like the format of ABC’s reality television show Shark Tank. The judges evaluate persuasion skills, the feasibility of the pitch, and its marketability potential.

This year the competition has been extended from two to three rounds. All pitches will be heard during the preliminary round on Thursday, March 6. The top ten will advance to the semi-final the next morning, and the final three will compete during the lunch on Friday.

Not only are first, second and third place winners awarded $1,000, $500, and $200 respectively; the first place winner will receive guidance from Lincoln’s Entrepreneurship Focus Program if he or she chooses to pursue their innovative idea.

“We are preparing for the competition by visiting local businesses and asking questions to find out how to model our business,” said Closter. “We’re learning a lot about how to start up a business, maintain a business and be successful.”

Other students’ innovative products, services and ideas include selling floor space for advertising in basketball arenas, and opening a gourmet ice cream shop in NWU’s student center. Senior Tyler Olson developed the idea for a wristband alarm clock that sends users an electric current to wake them.

“The pitch will be an extension of the work I’ve done on developing this product in my entrepreneurship class,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about the challenges of developing an idea completely from scratch.”

The Quick Pitch Contest is one piece of the university’s day-long Business Summit, now in its sixth year. Forty business executives from across the country will come to campus to discuss business success with small groups of students.

The experts range from business owners to chief financial officers to entrepreneurs representing a variety of fields, including accounting, banking, marketing, consulting, investment, and agriculture among several others.

James Perry, assistant professor of professional studies and founder of the Business Summit, organizes the annual event to inspire students to think about their future careers in business.

“This is a great opportunity for students because they have the chance to talk and discuss with highly successful individuals,” said Perry.

In addition to the Quick Pitch Contest and panel discussions, NWU will host keynote speaker David Newkirk, retired CEO-Executive Education at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, on Thursday, March 6.

Newkirk spent many years as a senior vice president of Booz Allen & Hamilton (now Booz & Co.), the leading technology and consulting firm. In earlier years, he held a series of senior management positions at American Express. He holds degrees in mathematics and philosophy from Carleton College and Oxford University where he was a Marshall Scholar.

His lecture on Thursday is titled, “Business As A Liberal Art.” The lecture is by invitation-only but will be webcast on the university’s website, beginning at 6 p.m.

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The Business Summit brings to campus over 40 business leaders from across the country to meet with students and share advice.
This year's Business Summit will be held Friday, March 7.
Students in the Quick Pitch Contest have 90 seconds to share their business idea before a panel of judges.
Successful businessman David Newkirk will discuss "Business As A Liberal Art" at the keynote address.