Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship
2010 Winners - Business Plan Competition
In April, the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship announced the winners of the eighth annual Marquette Business Plan Competition. Two Marquette student teams took top prizes in the competition.
Social Venture Track Winner: Teecycle
The winner of the Social Venture Track was Teecycle.org founded by Tim and Jess Cigelske, both 2004 graduates of Marquette’s Diederich College of Communication. Their venture, Teecycle.org, gives a second life to vintage t-shirts by putting them on the Teecycle website for resale. A dollar of each sale is donated to restore urban Milwaukee rivers.
One of the features of the Business Plan Competition is the individual attention participants receive from experienced mentors. Each team is paired up with a mentor who provides expert advice and guidance throughout the competition process. The Teecycle team was matched up with mentor Ted Uczen, start-up expert and president of FEI Behavioral Health, whose guidance gave Teecycle the confidence to take the next step with their venture. Tim Cigelske says that Uczen’s mentorship was one of the most valuable aspects of participating in the competition.
“His insight, expertise and guidance was invaluable, but most of all, his confidence in us and patience to answer all our questions was greatly appreciated. I don’t think we would have been able to take that next step without his help,” said Cigelske.
With their prize money, the Teecycle team is redesigning their website. They are also using the funds to execute a strategy created in their business plan for adding additional vintage t-shirt partners to their website.
Tim Cigelske is currently enrolled in the Graduate Certification Program in Entrepreneurship at Marquette.
The 2010 Business Plan Competition was the first to feature a social venture track. Judges included social entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who evaluated the plans based on their potential to become the basis of a viable new venture and focused on the idea, its potential for social value creation, and the likelihood of achieving that success based upon the team's plan.
Runner-Up for Best Business Plan: Intonation
The runner-up for best business plan at the 2010 Marquette Business Plan Competition was Dylan Conley, a current Electrical and Computer Engineering student at Marquette. His venture, Intonation, makes software that adjusts the tuning of a digital piano to produce pure harmony.
Conley calls the application the Dynamically Tunable Keyboard because it bends the notes while the musician is playing to make the sound more harmonious. The underlying algorithm is currently used in a standalone application, but will be more useful when prepackaged in a digital piano.
Lacking a business background, Conley had never considered starting a company. He thought that a good idea was enough to get people interested in a product.
“The competition made me realize that you need more than an idea. You need a clear direction, an understanding of your customer, a good foundation in reality, and an understanding of finance,” said Conley.
Conley was paired with mentor Tony Baker, who asked Conley the necessary tough questions to create a business plan. Conley also attributes the information he learned from the Business Plan Competition workshops as one of the most valuable aspects of the competition.
“The teachings of Tim Keane were the most valuable to me,” said Conley. “I thought I’d have this great software and people would flock to me. One day Keane had up a picture from the movie Field of Dreams with the words ‘If you build it, they will come’ underneath. He said something to the effect of, ‘It might work in Hollywood but not in business.’ That really stuck with me.”
Conley has a provisional patent on the Dynamically Tunable Keyboard algorithm, and finished prototype. His plan is to release the standalone application and a VST plug-in version before embedding the software for keyboard manufacturers.