Island University Business Students Awarded at Entrepreneurial Competition at Texas A&M University College Station

Published: June 13, 2017

Island University Business Students Awarded at Entrepreneurial Competition at Texas A&M University College Station

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Like the TV show Shark Tank, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi business students dive into competition and finish like champs. Island University College of Business graduate students, Kristin-Sophie Strittmatter and Garrett Ransom, competed at the Texas A&M University Raymond Ideas Challenge in May 2017 with their business idea, U’ders. It is a ride service like Uber except with background-checked student drivers focused on serving student transportation needs. It is clear the team was able to “drive home” their idea as they achieved Honorable Mention in the competition.  The College Station based challenge selects 40 undergraduate and graduate students to pitch an idea intended to be the next great product or service.

Strittmatter’s and Ransom’s journey started with a Texas A&M-Corpus Christi wide video pitch contest. Out of more than 40 entries, three student groups were selected to compete in front of a live audience at the local Buc Days Ideas Challenge Showcase Dinner in March 2017. Community judges Mike Carrell, Larry Elizondo and Gloria Hicks selected U’ders by Strittmatter and Ransom as the winner which advanced them to the Raymond Ideas Challenge.

“The Buc Days Ideas Challenge was our first experience in the spotlight. We felt encouraged by the audience’s positive feedback,” Strittmatter said. “When we arrived at College Station, we knew we had to be on our toes as it was a much more intense atmosphere. It really felt like Shark Tank! The questions were tough.”

For Honorable Mention at the Raymond Ideas Challenge, the pair received $500. Through their top honors in the Buc Days Ideas Challenge, the pair received $3,000, which was matched by Laura Berry of Bay Ltd., bringing the total to $6,000.

The second-place winner in the Buc Days Ideas Challenge Showcase dinner was Samantha Gifford, a senior marketing major with her idea MatchMate, a web-based roommate matching system. She received $2,000.

A third-place prize of $1,000 went to Natasya Hennlich, a junior international business management student and Muriel Schmidt, a junior studying trade management. They presented Button Buddy, a bracelet with an emergency button that would be designed to alert personal contacts as well as the police when in danger.

All contestants received a one-year membership at the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center, which is part of A&M-Corpus Christi College of Business. The Innovation Center provides business support and office space for entrepreneurs.

Strittmatter says all the live pitching helped her overcome her fear of speaking in English to large groups, which was a nerve-wracking experience for her, as she came to the Island University from Germany. Weekly meetings through the spring semester with Dr. Kent Byus, she said, got the team well prepared.

“All the nervousness faded away,” she said. “I was so pumped to be on that stage, and suddenly answering the questions felt so easy. We did the research. We had the answers.”

The challenge also motivated her to keep achieving.

“Before I was a little scared, but now I know I can crush it,” she said.

Byus, an Island University Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship, said business classes and challenges like this teach students to create opportunities by solving problems. 

“The emphasis is on thinking, reasoning, and acting on ideas that produce value for the consumer and for themselves,” Byus said. “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.”

Dr. John Gamble, Dean of the College of Business at A&M-Corpus Christi also commented on the students’ success.

“We are very proud of our students advancing to the Raymond Ideas Challenge and earning Honorable Mention,” said Gamble. “Both the Raymond Ideas Challenge and the Buc Days Ideas Challenge provide our budding student entrepreneurs opportunities to engage with the community and test the viability of their ideas. These real-world experiences are invaluable.”