CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Like a scene out of the popular television show Shark Tank, budding student entrepreneurs from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi took to the stage at the Buc Days Ideas Challenge Showcase Dinner on March 23 at the Solomon Ortiz Center, in downtown Corpus Christi.
Community judges Mike Carrell, Larry Elizondo and Gloria Hicks joined hundreds in the audience as they listened to the pitches. First, the spotlight was on MatchMate, a web based roommate matching system created by Samantha Gifford, a senior marketing major. Gifford said she came up with the idea after witnessing roommate issues while working at a dorm. The solution was obvious to her, MatchMate - a web based communication tool which specifically addresses the needs and concerns of college students looking for a roommate.
Next, Natasya Hennlich, a junior international business management student and Muriel Schmidt, a junior studying trade management, pitched Button Buddy. They told the audience and judges that the bracelet they would create could solve a global problem and help women everywhere feel safe. On the bracelet is an emergency button that would be designed to alert personal contacts as well as the police when in danger.
And finally, Kristin-Sophie Strittmatter, a senior studying business administration with a major in marketing and minor in entrepreneurship, and Garrett Ransom, who is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration, delivered their pitch about their proposed company U’ders. U’ders is transportation system like Uber, but with background-checked student drivers. Strittmatter and Ransom explained their idea not only solves a transportation and parking problem that many students face, it also gives student drivers opportunity to earn money on a schedule that works around their classes.
After each pitch, judges held up hand written scores as the audience sent in their votes via a mobile application. The numbers were tallied and it was decided that U’ders was the most viable business idea, and came in first place, winning $3,000.
Laura Barry of Bay Ltd. was so impressed by the U’ders pitch that she announced to match the prize money, bringing the total to $6,000.
“I’m really pumped about the win, and want to keep going,” said Strittmatter. Ransom said they are ready to move forward with making their business plan a reality.
Coming in second place was MatchMate, winning $2,000.
Button Buddy came in third place, winning $1,000. They also won the best video competition with prize money of $500.
All the winners will receive a one-year membership at the Coastal Bend Innovation Center, which is part of A&M-Corpus Christi College of Business. The Innovation Center provides business support and office space for entrepreneurs.
The students said they were especially grateful to Dr. Kent Byus, Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship, and what they learned in his Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and Innovation class.
“We teach students to create opportunities by solving problems that exist in the market-place,” said Byus, after the competition. “The emphasis is on thinking, reasoning, and acting on ideas that produce value for the consumer and for themselves. This method of entrepreneurial thinking can be used to create any number of new products, new ventures, or even to enhance the student’s value to a potential employer.”
Byus said watching his students pitch their ideas at the Buc Days Ideas Challenge Showcase dinner made him feel like “a proud papa.”
“We are grateful to be able to partner with the Buccaneer Commission to give our students real-life experiences in launching new ventures,” said Dr. John Gamble, Dean of the College of Business at A&M-Corpus Christi. “The engagement with Corpus Christi business community has an important impact on our students’ overall business education.”If U’ders, MatchMate and Button Buddy continue their intended path, they may be able to build on that engagement by becoming successful businesses in Corpus Christi and beyond.