Friday, May 20, 2016

[500] Student entrepreneurs pitch ideas for cash at MTSU Biz Plan Competition

Student’s ‘jambourine’ invention wins top prize money

Marlowe was among students who made it to the Jennings A. Jones College of Business’ 2016 Business Plan Competition Finals, which wrapped up the spring semester by awarding a total of almost $20,000 in prizes to four finalists and other contest participants representing student entrepreneurs looking to turn their business ideas into reality.

Marlowe is off to a good head start. Called the “Jambourine by Marlowe,” the aspiring singer-songwriter’s invention is an accessory to acoustic and bass guitars that fits in the sound hole and, as he describes in marketing the product, “sits silent and out of the way under the strings until the player slaps the strings or strums across the jingles to the beat.”

See a video recap of the finals at

Dressed in a business suit and tie, Marlowe strapped on his guitar and provided the panel of six judges with a brief demonstration during the finals presentations held April 26 inside the Student Union Ballroom. He then sat the guitar aside and guided the judges through a PowerPoint that included an executive summary, timeline and sales projections as well as plans for distribution, operations and marketing.

It was enough to convince the panel that his idea was the most viable among the four finalists.

“This money is definitely going to help start up and every cent is going to go toward the business,” Marlowe said afterward, first place plaque in hand. He added that his next step was to order 1,000 units of the product from the manufacturer, a roughly $6,000 expense.

Bill McDowell, chair holder of the Wright Travel Chair of Entrepreneurship, which sponsors the event, said the competition gives students an intense hands-on learning experience while allowing them to gain feedback on their plans, develop networks and expose their ideas to potential investors.

The competition is open to students and alumni willing to put their business ideas on paper into a formal business plan and navigate a series of reviews — rounds of screenings, elevator pitches, trade show displays and the final presentations — in their quest for the top prizes.

The final presentations focused on the complete business plans where teams presented their plans to the group of judges and fielded questions. Presentations are open to investors, MTSU faculty, staff, alumni, students and MTSU friends. Teams were given a maximum 15-minute presentation followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers.

“Our students go through quite a process to get to this point,” McDowell said. “They utilize mentors, they utilize coaches to help them develop those plans fully, so that when they are finished they have a product and a completed plan that they can go and start their business if they have not already done so.”

The competition’s runner-up winner, which received $5,000, was Hükd (pronounced “hooked”), an on-demand roadside assistance application designed to connect technicians and stranded motorists in a more timely fashion. The third-place winner of a $1,500 prize was Music for Youth, a social enterprise benefiting children ages 6-16 by providing enriching lessons through music. Fourth place and a $500 prize went to ESPY Discovery Labs, a life-science company that would assist with antibiotic production.

Secondary and specialty awards were also presented, including two awards for creativity funded by a grant from the Clouse-Elrod Foundation. All of the secondary awards included $500 prizes.

The judges panel included: Jonathan Eby, vice president of operations for classical music label and distributor Naxos of America Inc.; Phil Gibbs, founding principal of The Disruption Lab; serial entrepreneurs Mark Cleveland and Pete Hendrix; Cindi Parmenter, vice president of operations for the Nashville Technology Council; and Peter Marcum, managing partner of Nashville software developer DevDigital LLC.

The business plan competition was started through the Wright Travel Chair to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit within the region, with ideas ranging from for-profit to not-for-profit businesses and corporate entrepreneurship to social enterprises.

For more information about MTSU’s entrepreneurship program, visit

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