NMU student wins Big Pitch competition

Northern Michigan University student Rachel Harvey is the winner of the live Big Pitch competition held on Thursday at NMU. Harvey won for her business titled “Superior K9 Aquatic Therapy.” (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — Starting a new business can be daunting, but Northern Michigan University student Rachel Harvey got a good start as the winner of the live Big Pitch competition on Thursday.

NMU’s College of Business hosted its annual New Business Venture Competition at NMU’s Forest Roberts Theatre. The event featured a trade show and Business After Hours event, followed by two “Shark Tank”-style competitions: the Big Pitch and the Mini Pitch.

The Big Pitch is designed for individual NMU students or groups to present their business ideas to a panel of judges for a chance to win cash prizes and consultation service packages to help get their ideas off the ground.

According to NMU, it encourages entrepreneurial activism by recognizing and rewarding students who present detailed plans on designing and creating new business enterprises, drawing on their own ideas and inventions or those of others.

For instance, they presented financial outlooks and ongoing goals with their businesses.

The competition provides a forum for students to present their new venture plans to investors, receive meaningful feedback, have the opportunity to start a new business and apply classroom learning to real-world projects. Plans were to propose ventures that will be financially profitable, create new jobs and be lawful.

In addition to winning the live Big Pitch competition, which came with a $2,500 prize, Harvey won the trade show and crowd favorite segments, each of which came with a $1,500 award.

Harvey credited Corinne Bodeman, a management instructor at NMU, with helping her achieve her victory.

“She gave me a lot of confidence,” Harvey said. “I didn’t have much and I wanted to do this in the future for sure, and I didn’t know how, and she was like, ‘You have no choice. I’m going to make you submit.'”

Harvey presented her business plan to the panel, which came with a video of a German shepherd dog walking in an underwater treadmill.

“What this does is you apply key water properties, such as buoyancy, resistance and thermodynamics, to the joints and to the muscles in a controlled way to help rehabilitate,” Harvey said.

These kinds of therapy, she noted, can save money in the long term, and help keep dogs from being euthanized.

Would walking dogs in Lake Superior help?

Not according to Harvey.

“We have winter almost all year around, so that’s not effective,” she said. “Lake Superior is very cold, and it can be dangerous.”

Instead, a hydrotherapy facility is the answer, Harvey said, and this includes personalized, water-based treatments.

Winning the business plan segment and $4,000 was Alex Broullire with his Cafe Luna idea.

That idea involves combining coffee and small breakfast foods, all in the company of cats.

“Cats, along with being awesome, provide many different benefits,” Broullire said, mentioning comfort and mental relief for college students — who might be undergoing stress in their college lives — as some of those benefits.

The other finalists were Austin Niemi for his G3 hydroponic business and Paige LaPoint, who pitched her New Life Candles idea that involves using recycling glass.

The Big Pitch is supported in part through an endowment created by 1971 NMU graduate Ervin Kranberg. Business consultation awards are provided by Kendricks, Bordeau, Keefe, Seavoy & Larsen, PC; and Tailored CPAs.

The College of Business partnered with Invent@NMU to host the Mini Pitch for a second year. Similar to the Big Pitch, but with a format that was more fast-paced and informal, the Mini Pitch allowed individual students or groups to present a business idea to a panel of judges. The top teams that advanced to the live event presented a five-minute business pitch. Four cash prizes valued at $500 each were awarded to the winning teams.

Winning the judges’ choice awards were Lauren Wilson with Spin Watt, Rickey Rietjens and Tyler Watson with Peninsula Produce, and Kyle Gustafson with WILDSTEPS. Rietjens and Watson also won the crowd favorite award.

Other Mini-Pitch finalists were Demetri Kaltsas, Upper Peninsula Regional Railway; Nicholas Denton with an algae business proposition; Trinity Valentin and Marisa Roth with Rainbow Shrimp; and Jack Garris with Green Mobiles.

The events began with a trade show for student competitors to showcase their business ideas and interact with the judges and audience.

Business After Hours, in partnership with Lake Superior Community Partnership, provided a casual networking opportunity for competitors, judges and attendees.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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